Ten of the Bayou City's best short music films

Did you hear that two out of every three macroeconomists have predicted that the American gross national product will steadily nose-dive 20 percent each year? Apparently a study has revealed that every working American now spends 45 percent of his or her workday sending each other clips from, while all those under 27 spend the remainder of their day on MySpace.

Not really -- we just made those factoids up. But we, in fact, did recently spend 100 percent of two or so days ransacking YouTube's formidable archives, all so we could bring you ten of the best Houston-related music clips in existence.

In most cases, we selected stuff that goes beyond mere music videos or concert footage. You've probably seen most of the videos before, and the mere fact that, say, some vintage Queen or Zep footage was shot at the Summit or the Sam Houston Coliseum does not make it "Houston" enough for our purposes.

What we sought were things like weird and rare archival footage; videos by bands like Los Skarnales and Provision that rarely if ever make it on the air; stuff that was filmed in and around the city; and local parodies of more famous stuff by national artists. Oh, and, in one case, a national parody of the video to an infamous Houston hit.

Dino Does H-Town
Ah, yes, the '60s variety show: perpetually smiling hosts, cornball sets, cornballier humor and relentless trafficking in every form of stereotype known to Middle America. Dean Martin was the master of this format, and he was certainly in his element here -- cantering down a flight of stairs designed as piano keys in the familiar Gunsmoke/spaghetti western cowboy duds (complete with skintight orange pants) that remains the uniform of all true Houstonians to this day. He lip-croons the words to his vaguely bluesy 1965 pop hit "Houston," does a very relaxed dance, cracks wise with the band and is laughably inept when miming the song's harmonica part. (He fakes the solo well enough but makes the mistake of tucking his harp back in his shirt pocket before the instrument recurs near the end, an error he most charmingly acknowledges with a subtle mug at the camera.) The studio audience eats out of his hand throughout...

Provision is a Houstonian n-wave group with a bland band name and a synth-heavy sound akin to early Human League and Depeche Mode. While I cannot wholeheartedly endorse Provision's music, this clip for the song "Intruder" is a perfect facsimile of a real '80s British new-wave video, albeit one shot in, on and around the battleship Texas. The gothic innards of that rusty, perpetually-in-need-of-rehab old tub -- all those gangways, ducts, rivets and hatches -- provide an industrial look that suits this type of music well. Breye 7x, the spiky-haired singer in the German navy coat, is joined by various multiracial and androgynous Numbers-dwelling bit players, each done up in clothes that would do A Flock of Seagulls proud. When the dreadlocked black guy appears swiveling the anti-aircraft gun, you'll have to rub your eyes to convince yourself it's not the Thompson Twins or something. Hell, even the weather looks dreary enough to pass for London in November. All in all, this is as convincing a re-enactment of the '80s as Sha Na Na's resurrection of the '50s was in the '70s. Or something like that...

We Gotta Have that Funk
Pure fire and funk from the Grambling drumline and brass, along with pure sass and grace from the majorettes, all of it guaranteed to pin your ears to the back of your head. I once read an interview with jazzman Olu Dara (father of Nas), who recalled his Mississippi youth and the time his school marching band traveled to New Orleans for a competition. The Mississippians were unpacking the bus when Dara's band director got an earful of the Louisiana kids warming up, turned on his heels, telling his kids to put their horns back in their cases and get back on the bus. You can see why right here -- if anybody ever wants to know the very definition of crunk, show them this clip.

The King of Dowling Street
In this beautiful black-and-white film dating from the mid- to late '60s, Lightnin' Hopkins sits on a beat-up chair on a sidewalk deep in the heart of the Third Ward. The camera captures a minute or two of one of his mesmerizing slow guitar blues, before moving inside to a nearby juke joint where a quartet of men are slamming dominos down on a chalkboard-topped table, on which they are also keeping score. And despite the fact that this was shot some 40 years ago, you can still see scenes like it in that very same neighborhood, most days of the week. Sadly, sans Lightnin', of course. (There are several Lightnin' clips on YouTube; this one, in my view, is the best.)

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