[Editor's note: I am about to tear into a recent oral history of MTV, and I have been remembering how central music videos once were to my life. Growing up in rural Nebraska, MTV was one of my few conduits to a more daring world, and I cherished it. For kicks and to motivate my writing, I will be posting an analysis of a memorable video each week.]
I did not see music videos on MTV first, because my family didn't get cable until I was in the fourth grade. My first exposure came via a show (syndicated, I presume) called "Friday Night Videos." I loved the Top 40 music of the time (the mid-1980s), and was blown away at how my favorite songs could be given a visual component. Every now and then, I saw something so completely off the wall that it has stuck with me long enough for me to be able to look it up on YouTube and relive my childhood encounter with the unreal.
Case in point is the Cold War inspired video for Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes," anchored by a surreal sumo wrestling match between Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Konstantin Chernenko. The make-up is horrible and the production values middle of the road, but it does bring the viewer back to that edgy moment in the first half of the 80s when Reagan's overheated "evil empire" rhetoric made a nuclear war feel imminent. And who knew Frankie, a band best known for their epochal (and divinely dirty) pop-trash classic "Relax" were full of such political consciousness?