Help! I’m Slipping Into the Twilight Zone!

I was reading Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City, and he was going on and on about Guns ‘n’ Roses (yes I resent having to type those apostrophes) and so I went on youtube to watch some of their videos* and when I was done with that I thought, well, what should I view now? I thought Journey, who Gnr always reminded me of – career arc, pretensions, consideredness – but they’re awful to watch.**

So then I thought of the song mentioned in the title of this post, and typed it in, and hmm. We clearly really WANTED to see videos back then, to have put up with the shit production values and zero artistic worth in those early videos. I know we were desperate to see any combination of TV and Music, because we actually watched Casey Kasem on Saturday mornings, and half the time he just stood there next to the record cover while the music played. We didn’t care if it was any good. We stayed up late for ANY videos they’d show us. We watched a lot of crappy videos.

That being said, this video for Twilight Zone (by Golden Earring) is a great crappy video – there are a few really excellent bits. First, on the line (naturally) “when the bullet hits the bone!”, the actor does a great mime of being shot in the head – first, snapping his neck back and then rocketing forward. It’s so excellent they show it every time the line occurs. The guy must be a dancer.

The second great bit is just funny – the hitman main character has a half a playing card, a Jack; a very “early 80s attractive” woman drives up holding the other side of his card, so he gets in. Next scene, when they’re about to have sex, do me a favour and think “Richard Simmons.” You’ll see! After that he gets caught and tortured and then all these Nazi chicks start dancing towards him – classic video silliness.

In the last part of the song, at the return to the chorus after the solo – around 3 minutes 30 seconds – things get really beautiful for a ten second moment. The hitman’s singing on stage in a white jacket, all David Byrney, and the scary dancers show up behind him – it’s great. Go look at that. And dig this wicked song, which has never made me bored in 25 years. Listen to that drive, try not to listen to the words (they’re awful), and dig this crappy great video.


Everything below that line is rambling. Save yourself some time and go read something else.

* I didn’t listen to GNR when they were big. I had peevishly turned down the new wave of metal when Motley Crue and Ratt showed up, having been previously loyal to the Ugly Bands – Dio and Maiden and Priest – that preceded them. So I missed a couple of great moments, especially Welcome to the Jungle, which I’d place high on a desert island list of rock songs now; but it also gave me a little perspective on them, so the Journey comparison wasn’t hard to notice. They were stadium rock, posing and preening like any big 70s stadium act, with Big Dramatic Songs that even teenage boys could feel Emotional about***. It became crystal clear when they went into the Illusion period, when they were whittled down to a few members with larger and larger numbers of session players. For example:

** Journey were my own Big Favourite Band. I collected and saved their appearances in Hit Parader and Circus and the newspaper. My first ten records were all by them. I saved up and bought a big flag of that unremarkable Frontiers cover. I looooved them. But I never saw them. In our smallish city, one needed a car or a ride to see a concert in Detroit, and the money for the ticket, and I had none of those. And Journey were not a video band, although they made some; like their peers Foreigner and Kansas and Styx, they were of that generation that wound up making a few videos but never figured out how to look good in them. (It’s not a coincidence, of course, that image-heavy bands took the lead in the MTV era.) When I got to see a Journey video, on The Beat or Good Rockin Tonight, it was a rapturous sort of moment in which I held my breath and stared. No, we didn’t have a VCR yet.

So imagine my disappointment when youtube appeared and I got to see the videos I’d never seen, and re-see the few I had. Journey … well … see for yourself. This may be one of the worst videos ever. And check out the “early 80s attractive” woman they’re bothering. Makes you wonder about beauty and fashion, dunnit? (All of the unintro’d videos are unable to be embedded – is that shame?)

Journey, in their Use Your Illusion phase, swore off videos. Good call. (Trivia nerds: they did release at least one “concert video” before they faded away – with hired-hand bass player Randy Jackson. That guy from American Idol.)

*** I’m not sure you’re allowed to use an asterisk in an asterisk, but wtf: I need to make clear that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with these big stadium monsters, nothing wrong with their obvious button pushing nor the simple emotions teenage boys can tap into in their songs. There may be a point where a grown up music fan might want to get past that, but that’s their business. Their business to put on youtube:


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