120 Reasons To Live: Kraftwerk

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.

#6: Kraftwerk “Pocket Calculator”

One regular feature of 120 Minutes was the “Cult Classic” video, an occasional airing of mostly pre-MTV videos by seminal bands (often Joy Division or, in the ’90s, the from-the-vault video in question could just as well be a mid-’80s Smiths clip). Well-intentioned and educational as the Cult Classic videos may have been, in the case of Kraftwerk, it was actually somewhat of a disservice: “Pocket Calculator” is kitsch-value krautrock and surely the inspiration for Saturday Night Live‘s “Sprockets” skit. It took years—and several Stereolab albums—to convince many of us that krautrock had value beyond the bloopy electronics of “Pocket Calculator.” But maybe Neu! and Can just didn’t have Kraftwerk’s dance moves. Whatever impression “Pocket Calculator” made on the average Jesus And Mary Chain fan at the time, it was indelible.

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