120 Reasons To Live: The Smiths

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#120: The Smiths “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”

There’s a fine line between nostalgia trip and beating a dead horse, so the final installment in this series of digging up old music videos goes to the band with the most appropriate song title for the occasion. The Smiths were the most furiously creative band of the 1980s; from 1983 to 1987, Morrissey and Johnny Marr redefined the aesthetics of popular music in an astonishingly conservative, classical way. The Smiths wore normal clothes and hardly ever wore makeup or used keyboards. That’s the idea the video for “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” purports—everybody’s a Smith. Of course, that’s untrue. Morrissey and Marr were extraordinary. This writer interviewed Johnny Marr some years back and came away with the feeling that the Smiths were a pathological entity:

“The thing that brought us really close together is the essence of why Morrissey lives his life and why I live my life,” said Marr. “Without the art of pop music and pop culture, life doesn’t make any sense. It was a pretty serious, deep need. It wasn’t just the need to escape our social situation, because underneath it all, one of the things that makes us the same is that we’re both incredibly sensitive. There was this burden with serious mental problems that were taken care of by records.”

Thank god for mental illness.

120 Reasons To Live: Bomb The Bass

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#119: Bomb The Bass “Beat Dis”

You know how the introductory paragraph above suggests that this series of 120 posts would include “industrial, electronica and more in between”? Yeah, that hasn’t really happened for the most part. With one post remaining, it’s apparent that 120 Minutes was not as musically varied as memory served; still, stylistic breakthroughs such as “Beat Dis”—the 1988 megasingle by U.K. act Bomb The Bass—regularly found a home on the program. Helmed by producer Tim Simenon, Bomb The Bass didn’t invent sampling, but it sure did pioneer how to pile it on. As for MTV’s further adventures in electronic-music/DJ programming, Amp (1997-2001) became a far more subversive vehicle for arty, creative videos.

120 Reasons To Live: Sparks

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#118: Sparks “So Important”

Is it possible this was the only Sparks video to appear on 120 Minutes? Sparks, the L.A.-based duo of brothers Ron and Russell Mael, went on vacation in the late ’80s and didn’t really return until the early ’00s. “So Important” is from 1988’s Interior Design, and it’s symptomatic of some issues that may be preventing the full-on Sparktacular rediscovery: dated style and production that’s like a wall or tall shrubbery, inhibiting access to a deep reservoir of songs. Oh, but when Sparks returned with 2002’s Li’l Beethoven and 2006’s Hello Young Lovers, it began a renaissance in which the Maels’ annoying musical traits (mixing classical with rock, extreme repetition of lyrics and melody, bad puns) became unique assets. Below is the masterpiece from the modern Sparks songbook, “Dick Around”:

120 Reasons To Live: Aztec Camera

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#117: Aztec Camera “The Crying Scene”

Hailing from East Kilbride, Scotland (the same town that birthed the Jesus And Mary Chain), Aztec Camera gained early notoriety for 1983 single “Oblivious,” whose video features boyish frontman Roddy Frame as new wave’s own Peter Pan. (In a now-familiar theme, that clip would have been the obvious choice here but is not available online.) By the time of 1990’s Stray, Aztec Camera was no longer relying on eyeliner and strummy, lightweight songs. Stray wasn’t pure gold, but first single “The Crying Scene” represents a respectable toughening-up of Frame’s songwriting with a peculiarly American touch. Frame was Aztec Camera’s sole constant—the band cycled through approximately 25 members over its lifespan, including former “fifth Smith” Craig Gannon for a spell—until he began recording under his own name in 1995.

120 Reasons To Live: Robyn Hitchcock

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#116: Robyn Hitchcock Owns This Channel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UzmtXKxJnA

If the price was reasonable, we’d buy a full-length recording of Robyn Hitchcock simply talking. It’s possible that no human has strung together more original sentences than him. It must be exhausting being Robyn Hitchcock. In an earlier post we bemoaned the lack of his videos on YouTube (though “Balloon Man” sneakily appears here in crap-o-vision), but this series of between-clip banter might be even better—even Dave Kendall seems impressed. “I didn’t want to worship the devil,” Hitchcock tells him, “so I came to Manhattan.” The context here is funny, too; just think of the sad beauty of a song such as “She Doesn’t Exist,” from Hitchcock’s 1991 album Perspex Island, having to rub up against the silver body paint of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away” on the record-store shelves and college-radio airwaves. There oughta be a law.