Music and smut from Jefferson, providing a soundtrack to One Life, Take Two.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bastards of the Young

The Replacements

The finest example of a we’re-not-making-a-video video is the Replacement’s “Bastards of the Young.” The needle drops on vinyl, the speaker trembles and music plays. Nothing else happens.

The camera pulls back, which, in retrospect, strikes me as gratuitous action.

This video reflects the anxiety faced by good bands in the early days of MTV. The deadliest claim against a band was the assertion that it had “sold out.” No band was really safe from this kiss of death. Even the Clash was said to have sold out when “Rock the Casbah” had a danceable beat. Yes, rockers, if you could dance, then the Clash was shilling for the man.

The Replacements were particularly vulnerable to the possibility of selling out. They were the darlings of critics who saw them as “saving” rock and roll. This made them the kind of band that you wanted to be successful, but not too successful—you wanted them to be your friends’ favorite band, but you didn’t want to hear their tunes in a car commercial.

For a while, good bands could keep their distance from MTV. The channel was mostly geared to music for kids, like David Lee Roth, or one-hit haircut bands, like Flock of Seagulls. But that changed when Bruce Springsteen released a video for “Dancing in the Dark.” Were bands supposed to imagine they had more integrity than the Boss?

The Replacements broke the ice by creating a video about nothing. Perfect.

They would go on to preserve earnestness with black-and-white moodiness. Color was too commercial.

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