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Thursday, July 02, 2015

If only you could un-see 80s videos like Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire"

"At night I woke up with the sheets soaking wet/And a freight train running through the middle of my head."
I was thinking of that line yesterday, on the hottest July day in London since records began.

It came into my mind the way lots of pop lyrics do. Detached from the song, Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire", which came out thirty years ago this year, ready to mean whatever I wanted it to mean, which is the way I like it.

Keen to hear it, I looked on You Tube and found myself watching the promo video in which Springsteen plays a mechanic flirting with a dame with an expensive car. Like almost all videos, it's kitsch and absurd, demeaning the song by making everything explicit. 

I interviewed him around this time. In those days videos were still novel and you always asked artists about them. I rememember he said that he struggled with them because you either had to illustrate the story of the lyrics, which seemed a bit obvious, or impose an entirely different narrative on that song, which seemed unsatisfactory.

Of course, nobody really minded because they were a way you could reach audiences. They were adverts. Thirty years later I wonder if that's the reason why so much music from the 80s gets no respect. Once you see these videos again, even after a gap of thirty years, you can't un-see them.

Old pop music gains something over time. Old videos just sit there and look ridiculous.

If you must, it's here.