Rock G.P.A.: The Blow Monkeys [part 15]

I made certain to get one of these in the Record Cell…like, pronto!
blow monkeys - digging your video cvoer aty VHS

When “Animal Magic” was a hit in 1986, the thing that labels did at that time was to create a home video to sell for more than the cost of the album. After all, those videos cost money that should be recouped. I can’t recall if I bought the ßetamax® tape of that or not right now, but it contained all four clips from the album’s singles. When the next album was released, I never saw the first video from “She Was Only A Grocer’s Daughter.” Even MTV only played “Wicked Ways” a few times. So seeing any Blow Monkeys videos at the time when I was actively collecting music videos as a visual adjunct to my music collecting was something of an affront.

It was in 1988 when I first bought a laserdisc player to have the best home video playback experience possible in that time. Though I liked building up a collection of letterboxed films with CD quality soundtracks, the real excitement for me was buying music videos on the LD format. In America, this was not really a thing. Most of the music titles on LD format as released by US companies, tended towards Classic Rock® and that was definitely not my cup of meat!

However, in Japan, things were very different. Japan routinely issued music videos that were available from around the world on the format. Even things that were on tape only in America could often be found on LD in the Japanese market. And the Japanese market was very important because Japan shared the NTSC system that was used in America. Most often countries used the PAL system, which was geared towards 50 Hz Ac power that was more common around the world. This made any Japanese videos compatible with North American equipment.

I had bought Japanese ßeta videos through my friend Ron’s company, but he advised me once I made the leap to laserdisc, to get the “LD Quarterly” catalog from his supplier, and to order directly from them. The digest sized catalog had a cover image and catalog number [along with all Japanese text] of every laserdisc currently in print in Japan as of that printing. I would send a list to the distributor of the catalog [which cost me around $20/issue] with the titles and catalog numbers of every LD I wanted to buy that quarter and they would get them for me.

Laserdiscs were typically not cheap anywhere. They were $25-$40 in America at a time when tapes would cost $10-$20. But VHS was 220 lines of resolution. LDs were 425! And they didn’t wear out like tape. The Japanese discs were costing me roughly $40-$80 each. The cover price would usually have a 20% premium added for the service. I didn’t complain. I was very, very happy to have access to this material at any price in the quality delivered.

It was in a 1989 LD Quarterly that I saw the “Choices” laserdisc and I immediately ordered a copy. The ¥3800 disc probably cost me $45-50. I was thrilled to have all of those videos that I had never seen before. The disc contained:

Opening Music: Lonely Funky Flute
Atomic Lullaby
Forbidden Fruit
Digging Your Scene
Wicked Ways
Don’t Be Scared Of Me
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
Out With Her
Celebrate (The Day After You)
Some Kind Of Wonderful
This Is Your Life: Version I
It Pays To Belong
This Is Your Life: Version II

Some of the clips were better than others. While the one for their biggest hit, “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way,” looked cheap and nasty, the Julian Temple-directed clip for “It Pays To Belong” was as dynamic as the song. It played like a more concise edit of his “Absolute Beginners” film with Dr. Robert on the Bowie role. Better still, the video allowed multiple levels of political meaning entering into the song with its references to joining the EU being a particularly lump-in-throat moment today. At the end of the video, Dr. Robert accepted a British passport from all of the dancers, shredded them, then issued them each a new EU passport. Heady stuff then, and it really stings now.

I really need to make a DVD of that LD one day. Perhaps when I make the Blow Monkeys BSOG of rarities, it will come with that as bonus material. So this deep dive into the Blow Monkeys music videos was another side to the “Choices” campaign, but there wqs one more song that the band would issue before moving on to album number five.

various - The Last Temptation of Elvis cover art
New Musical Express | UK | 2xCD | 1990 | NME CD 038/039

The NME had a line in star-studded charity albums in the late 80s. These would have been tapes in the early 80s, but by 1990, a 2xCD was the brief. “The Last Temptation Of Elvis” featured 26 bands covering songs from Elvis Presley’s movies [which could be very ropey goods in all candor]. Everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Lemmy Kilmister lent their tonsils to the effort, which benefited England’s Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre. Charity was one thing but the acts contained here sprawled all over the map, and included these bands which I collected at this point:

  • Jesus + Mary Chain
  • The Primitives
  • Fuzzbox
  • The Blow Monkeys
  • The Cramps
  • Pop Will Eat Itself

And the bands I didn’t collect but still liked accounted for at least half of the program. The Blow Monkeys proffered “Follow That Dream” and it showed that the band were moving away from the House music they’d been interested in of late. Instead, this was a slow tempo cooker with acoustic guitar, simmering, sustained strings and a solid, chunky rhythm that gave Mick Anker the license to inject some Funk into the least likely of places; an Elvis Presley song from the early 60s!

The vibe was minimal Psychedelic Soul! The beat was down to brushed snare, a dusting of bongos, and claves. Dr. Robert utterly transformed the song from Elvis’ bombastic show tune ditty into Soul Music here and the vibe was miles away from the House Music that they were now known for. Would this be a harbinger of things to come for The Blow Monkeys?

Next: …Springtime For The World

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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6 Responses to Rock G.P.A.: The Blow Monkeys [part 15]

  1. Tim says:

    Those NME comps were really good. There was never enough on the Elvis one to lure me but the Ruby Trax one is a goldmine.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – At the time of “Elvis,” I was making a music ‘zine with my friend Jayne, who had an air mail subscription to the NME. She was ordering one, so it was an easy matter to say “get two, please” and give her the cash. When “Ruby Trax” rolled around I must have been out of touch with her then. At least a third of it are bands I liked at the time. I thought the hit to miss ratio was stronger on “Elvis.” I actually enjoy about half of it, though it does mean that [insert 10 sec. orchestral stab] Bruce Springsteen is given representation in my Record Cell!!


      • Tim says:

        I can’t find The Blow Monkeys’ Elvis cover on YouTube. I know it boggles you but I am an Elvis fan (Presley & Costello) and as his pre-Elvis in Memphis 60’s output goes that is one of the better tracks that they cover. Wouldn’t mind hearing it.


        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – The Elvis track is pretty good as it’s from an early film when the quality was better! But The Blow Monkeys cover is radically different… and over twice as long! Stunned that it’s not out there, but due to the NME album being in copyright limbo in the modern age, I’ll bet it slipped through the legal cracks.


  2. What the world needs now is a “Best of” all the NME compilations! They could finally use that “NME Peephole” pun I’ve been keeping warm for them for the last (ulp!) three decades!


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