Geek Rock of the 80s, Part 3

A little later than I wanted to be on this post, but it’s Back To School season and that involves a lot of prep when you have three kids. The theme for this week is the Undead, so let’s dig in and fire up the DeLorean.

“Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol

Rocking out in a post apocalyptic world. A lot of very fashionable 80s zombies are looking for a little flesh to munch in this video and seem happy for a chance at Billy Idol who, with the aid of some strange electrical device, knocks them off his rooftop patio. When they come back, it’s time for a zombie dance party. Does it make sense? Not even remotely, but it’s fun and more entertaining than most of the zombie movies produced in the thirty years since.

I’ve read that the ultimate root of the song came from Billy watching Japanese night club patrons dancing by themselves in front of mirrors, taking themselves out of the crowd in the same room, which he found dehumanizing. I’ve also read other things with a much higher level of innuendo. Read into it what you like, but it’s still a great song.

What makes it Geek Rock? Aside from the zombies, to me, at its heart, it’s a song about not being noticed by the opposite sex, and learning to deal with it, something definitely familiar to the geeks of the 80s.

“Everlasting Love” by Howard Jones

Mummies on the streets of London? Well sure, why not. The video is a little surreal as no one except Howard notices the mummies walking the dog, taking a taxi to work, or having lunch in the window seat of a restaurant. They’re not scary, there’s no curse, and nothing bad is going to happen; just a couple of ancient Egyptians raised from the dead and trying living a normal life in the late 20th century.

What makes it Geek Rock? Looking for an enduring love in a world of casual and disposable relationships. You often hear about the 80s being the ‘me’ decade. Everything was all about status and attention. I don’t buy it, not that you have to take my word for things, but I was a teenager in the 80s so maybe my view is a bit coloured by youth, or maybe coloured by my early middle age in the early 21st. When I look around, this is a lot more of a ‘me’ decade than the 80s ever were.

The Cold War (about to end) notwithstanding, we felt like there was a pretty bright outlook for the future. A lot of things were on the way and you could almost taste them on the wind. We knew it. We were young and felt everything very intensely and relationships were hard. Which made it more important that they were real. Everlasting love may have been written for everyone, but we took it to heart. I know a surprising number of geeks in long term relationships. Married for 17 years and with that same amazing person for more than 20, I’m one of them.

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson

That’s the link to the super-extended, miniature movie video. Thirteen and three-quarters minutes of classic MJ wrapped in a faux horror movie. The zombie shuffle from which all other zombie shuffles were spawned and a little bit of narration from the man himself, Vincent Price.

What makes it Geek Rock? What doesn’t? Subject matter and visuals. Sure, Horror has always had a rep for being cooler than Science Fiction or Fantasy, but it’s all cut from the same cloth of dreams. And for the time period, MJ’s production crew went all out. This video is all kinds of awesome and has stood as a pop culture reference point for more than a generation now. I remember several truncated forms from video shows and Much Music (Canada’s version of MTV), but the full video didn’t get played very often so it’s a beautiful thing that you can have it on demand in the Internet Age. Michael Jackson may have been a strange one—I think that level of fame can really mess with your mind—but somewhere, someone on his team recognized early the vast, almost untapped geek market. And so, Thriller.

I think we’ll leave monsters behind with this post. Next week, it’s all about image.

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