Tag: MTV

Peaches en Regalia: The Music Video

Zappa was not a fan of MTV. He hated the way it deemphasized music in favor of superficiality. In that Spin interview I linked (the thing that started off this whole Zappa-a-day thing I've been doing), here's what he had to say:

Guccione: Do you think much music came out of the '80s that was valid, as music or as social criticism?

Zappa: Well, I kept doing it. I'm sure there were a few people in America who did it, but you never heard it, because the bulk of what you heard is what you saw. The beginning of the '80s gave us MTV, and music changed and switched from an audio to a video medium.

Guccione: For better or worse?

Zappa: For worse, because I believe that the way music is to be consumed is through your ears, and it shouldn't be too important whether the person performing it looks like a model. The record companies thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to them because it was a way for them to get cheap commercials. And so the tail started wagging the dog. The record companies stopped signing groups that could play in favor of groups that looked good in pictures because they figured we could always get a producer to sing their songs and do their stuff for them, and that happened plenty of times. So you get a bunch of models to make the video and forget about the music. So that part of that worked. A young audience who never experienced any music to speak of started watching MTV the same way they watched Saturday morning cartoons. And it caught on. There was no competition. Before MTV if you wanted to have a hit record, there were probably 10,000 stations in America where you could break something regionally and have it spread. Now there is one MTV with a short playlist, and because of that the record companies put their own balls into the bear trap and sprung it on themselves, now they can't make a move without calling MTV and getting permission, they call up in advance to say we are getting ready to make a video, we are going to have such and such pictures in it, what do you think, and MTV is a total censorship organization and it has all the major record companies at its mercy. I started getting really weary of MTV when they started inventing rock n' wrestling, where we're seeing videos of Hulk Hogan urging kids to take their vitamins, urging kids to grow up big and strong like him, and be an American. It really was on the level of a Saturday morning cartoon.

But of course music videos are distinct from MTV. (That is, of course, quite a lot more obvious 20 years later, now that MTV doesn't actually show music videos anymore, and the vapid superficiality of the American music industry has moved on to American Idol and its myriad imitators.) Music videos themselves? The idea of fitting a visual to a song? Yeah, Zappa got how that could be pretty cool.

I am sure it is not coincidental that this looks absolutely nothing like anything you'd see on MTV. (Also, it made me dizzy.)