A Love Story
VH1 Classic is reason enough to shell out the money for digital cable. For those of you who don’t have it, or are scared to venture into the triple digits on your TV dial, let me fill you in on what you are missing. VH1 Classic is a channel that lives in a little sector somewhere above the TV Guide Channel, and a bit below the Arabic Channel, and it plays vintage videos from the ’70s and ’80s all day, everyday.
Remember what MTV was like when it was good? The era before TRL, Cribs, and The Osbournes, when videos were played instead of programs exploring such hot button issues as the real lives of sorority girls and extreme snowboarders?
Good news, that old school MTV era is back in full effect. VH1 Classic is a breath of fresh air in a world where the videos that make it on to MTV and VH1 cost millions of dollars to make and have absolutely no musical appeal. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting to watch J.Lo shake her ass for a second, but it got old quickly, and if I see one more generic bad boy rapper slapping a ho’s booty while drinking Cristal, I’m gonna kill myself.
I discovered VH1 Classic one rainy Sunday afternoon, not long after I took the plunge and went digital. I was channel surfing when I caught a glimpse of what looked like an old Joan Jett video. I immediately doubled back, only to find that it was indeed–and not the standard “I Love Rock N’ Roll” but the more obscure “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” I was ecstatic — what anomaly would have allowed for this video to be played on a television channel in the year 2002? There was a little logo at the bottom of the screen that gave me the answer — VH1 Classic: The Cure for My Twenty-something blues.
After making the initial discovery, I continued to tune in on a regular basis, finding the ritual of switching between the morning news and vintage videos an addictive one. The format is straightforward: half hour and hour-long blocks of videos from various musical genres, with only brief intermissions where veejays make an appearance. My personal favorite is the “We Are The ’80s” show, which encompasses the crème de la crème of ’80s schlock pop. Long lost pop darlings such as The Motels, The Plimsouls, King Creole and the Coconuts and Haircut 100 are intermixed with the likes of Madonna, Men at Work, The Cars and INXS.
The programming geniuses at the channel also offer up an “All Request Hour” that allows viewers to request classic clips in anonymity, but those with no shame are allowed to place requests completely out of the closet. It’s mind-scrambling at times to ponder why a 43 year-old housewife from Duluth is requesting a Talk Talk video, but that’s also what makes it so entertaining.
Another block that never disappoints (or is programmed to disappoint, depending on your point of view) is “Metal Mania”. I know for a fact that hair metal is still alive and well, a point that was made apparent to me while attending a Dokken, Ratt and Warrant tripleheader concert this past summer. Heads were banging like it was 1983, and while I was not a mullet-sporting fan of heavy metal music in the 1980s, it holds a sacred place in my heart today. The most ingenious part of the “Metal Mania” show is that at one moment you are watching a Pretty Boy Floyd video and the next you’re watching a vintage Aerosmith clip. Metal has many facets, and the folks at VH1 Classic have the musical depth to realize this and give the viewers what they want: diversity.
It has become blatantly obvious that the music industry no longer caters to people over the age of 18, at least not when it come to television entertainment. I suppose horny 40-year-old businessmen could argue that Britney Spears “Live in Vegas” was a visual extravaganza, but for most of us it simply had no relevance. We live in a time when decent new music must be searched for and hunted down in the clubs and venues that haunt the less savory parts of town. It’s nice to know that on a lazy evening at home, a more mature music lover can still get their jollies watching music television.
I remember listening to Erasure, Depeche Mode and The Smiths as an adolescent girl, thinking “God, this is the coolest music ever.” And while my tastes may have grown up a bit since I was a 14-year-old girl with magenta hair, a clove cigarette hanging out of my mouth, and a bad attitude, I still love that music (but don’t tell anyone). Even in the heyday of The Smiths, I rarely recall seeing their videos played on MTV, and that was when MTV was still cool. Once, on a trip to France, I remember being in a record store where MTV Europe was being aired. It was the first time I had ever seen Morrissey on TV — it was like an epiphany to a maladjusted teen such as myself. Now I can switch on Channel 136 and take a trip down memory lane whenever my heart desires.
The other day during a commercial break from 60 Minutes, I ventured up the dial only to find “Blue Savannah” by Erasure being played. One of Erasure’s more obscure songs, I didn’t think a video for it even existed. I was fixated on the television as the effeminate chanteuse of the band painted himself in blue body paint to the point where he resembled a new wave Smurf. It is visual art like this that needs to be exposed; there is an audience out there dying for it. I know I’m not alone in my love new wave kitsch and hair metal idolatry. VH1 Classic is the voice of a new, no wait, an old(er) generation that is screaming to be heard.