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 YouTube.com, 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.)
In this promotional short film for a recent Linus Pauling Quartet gig, a trio of stuffed bunnies meets the Horned One in a dark wood. Satan lays claim to all of their souls, but they each get to say a few words in their defense. Two of them are cast into hell -- they had terrible taste in music, so don't weep for them. The last presents the devil with an offer he can't refuse. (Films like this could put concert-poster artists out of business, or at least force them to become directors.)
Whataburger White Boys
Melanin-challenged rappers Lil' Skittle and Big Yeast , a.k.a. Iced Out Eskimoz, know just how they like it: Whataburger-style, baby, and this video shows just how much. The two debate which location to hit up -- "Katy Freeway or San Felipe," and warn you away from the southwest side's Gessner location, where they say you'll "probably get shot." They also debate exact prices down to the penny (including the Whatasized permutations), and hell, these guys even have their favorite employees: "Thinkin' bout plain-n-dry, Fanta with some Sprite," Big Yeast raps. "Namdar's servin' so you know it's all right."
Los Skarnales en Vivo
Is there a better bar band out there right now than Los Skarnales? Is a better bar band than Los Skarnales even possible? This low-budget but perfectly crafted video of the surf/ska/dancehall song "Salud" -- filmed on location at Las Llardas, Fitzgerald's and outside Reliant Stadium, among other local locales -- argues strongly in the negative. You can practically smell the beer, perfume, weed and sweat of your wildest Saturday nights. Levanten sus cervezas, muthafuckas -- Skarnales singer Felipe Galvan shows you how it's done in the video.
A posse of local Asian kids remake the video of Slim Shady's "Just Lose It," complete with a pimped-out Michael Jackson impersonator, decent choreography, great costumes, hilarious kung fu movie special effects and a spot-on Vietnamese doppelganger to D12's hefty rapper Bizarre. All of this is shot against a shifting backdrop of southwest Houston locations including a Wal-Mart, the Galleria water wall, Hong Kong City Mall and a playground. And while it cost a tiny fraction of Em's budget, it's just as fun to watch.
Livin' on Tulsa Time No More
Here's one for all you unabashed sentimentalists. Guitarist and dulcimer player Quintin Stephens recently moved here with his wife and three kids from Tulsa. He did it for the same reason millions of us or our families did -- namely, because there's a lot of money here and there wasn't much in the places we left behind. Often those places were far prettier than Houston, and they were certainly more familiar and full of friends. As traumatic as this move can be for adults, it's often even worse for kids, and so Stephens wrote "OK in Houston" for his eight-year-old son, who was evidently missing his buddies and the trees and creeks back in Oklahoma. In the boom years of the '50s and '60s, dozens of blues and country songs were written in this vein, and "OK in Houston" is as good as any of them -- it has a nice vocal melody and a pretty guitar part, and the very fact that it exists is a testament to good fathers everywhere.
Jedi Mind Playing Tricks on Me
If you ever loved Star Wars action figures or the Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," you will fall in love with this hilarious and masterful short film. Simply put, the entire original video is remade shot-for-shot with Star Wars figures portraying 'Face, Willie D, Bushwick and all the other roles -- Scarface's girlfriend, the sinister old man, etc. While we have some quibbles with the casting (Lando, who would have made a great Willie D, is miscast as Bushwick, who, in turn, probably should have been portrayed by a Jawa, Ewok or R2-D2), it's hard to complain about the overall result. If you're "having fatal thoughts of suicide," this will cheer you right up. (Runner-up in the Geto Boys video remake stakes -- but a classic piece of work in its own right -- is Damn It Feels Good to be Sonic the Hedgehog, which you can see here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7wDoLKAIKk.)
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