Did you know that Billy Squier blames the end of his career on our favorite drunkle (drunk-uncle) and So You Think You Can Dance-Dance-Dance choreographer Kenny Ortega? Squier was riding high, with three platinum albums, when Ortega directed his Rock Me Tonite video. It is, to be generous, a short film about a man in a pink tank top prancing around a bedroom set. Literal prancing. Billy Squier used to do this thing with his legs like he was goose-step dancing. Add in the satin sheets and smoke machine and it was pretty bad. I wouldn’t have thought it was bad enough to end his career – I mean, I’ve seen Prince’s “Bat Dance” video – but Squier is convinced that it destroyed him almost overnight.
I’m in the middle of two oral histories right now – I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution and R.E.M. : Talk About the Passion : An Oral History. I Want My MTV is HUGE, so I’m keeping it at home and reading it at night while I drag smaller books around with me. The MTV was one I was looking so forward to, and it’s good, but I find myself slowing down to hit the red lights and get a chance to read a page or two from the R.E.M. book. I’m not learning anything groundbreaking about the band, but it’s making me think a lot about what it feels like when your band becomes everybody’s band.
I’m old enough now that if I’ve heard of a band, there’s a certain level of popularity assumed, but it used to feel like a record was a present. There were the bands that were on the radio all the time and everyone owned them, but the bands you had to find on your own belonged to you and you didn’t really want them to get to stadium level popularity. I saw R.E.M. move from Bronco Bowl to stadiums, but I never saw them in a tiny club, so, while I had the early albums and loved them dearly, I wasn’t part of the first wave. I do remember the audience switch when “The One I Love” hit big and I do remember getting really frustrated at the sorority girls linking arms and singing lustily to “Eat for Two” by 10,000 Maniacs because they thought it was a love song. That still bugs me, actually, now that I think about it. Idiots.
I’m still reading both the books, but I’ll let you know if I get to anything earthshaking (And your feet are shaking ‘cause the earth is shaking). I’ll give them both a preliminary thumbs up for now.