Saturday, April 4, 2009

Video Concert Hall - the big influence

Video Concert Hall. No other thing, save maybe “URGH! A Music War,” and the rise of the video arcade, had more of an affect on my delicious formative years. Dad may have owned a record shop but VCH is where I first got turned on to so many of the records that ended up in my collection.
It came on at weird times of the day. Late at night, after Midnight Special, it would pop up. In the middle of the afternoon I could switch over to USA Network and hear “Carouselambra” by Led Zeppelin, VCH's theme song, and be fixed in the seat. I could see something on Video Concert Hall and run upstairs with a list to make sure that I had the records I wanted on order the next day. Spider (go Anton Fig, go!), The Sports, PhD, The Shoes, The Buggles, Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass, Devo, Gary Numan, Iggy Pop, Bowie’s Scary Monsters, The Cramps, and most importantly Tom Petty, The Motors, The Pretenders, Squeeze, Split Enz, and The Police.

Where else would I have discovered Split Enz in 1978 if it weren’t for VCH? It’s not like I would have heard them on the radio in The Queen City. “I Got You” was a monster song. “One Step Ahead” was even better. Seeing “Tattooed Love Boys” by The Pretenders was sick. The Police? Forget about it. Those videos just had me hooked. And whenever I saw Squeeze pushing the piano down the street in the video for “Another Nail in My Heart” I couldn’t wait to go put the record on and play it all day. Some songs just stuck with me. In particular I think “Love and Loneliness” by The Motors was my first introduction to a really BIG pop song. Even to this day, whenever I play Tenement Steps, from which that song comes, I feel this huge, wonderful sea change in my well being. I fucking love that song. Even some one offs, like Nazareth’s “Holiday,” and Tim Curry’s “I Do the Rock,” still thrill me like they did in the late 70s and I really think that “We Can Get Together” by Icehouse is one of the best pop songs there is.

Video Concert Hall passed on in 1981 and gave rise to Night Flight and my temporary crush on Lisa Robinson which was then replaced by my undying love for Martha Quinn. Night Flight turned me onto Urgh!, Fantastic Planet, and New Wave Theater, and kept me in that swirling see of analog video – you know how all those videos seemed to look before MTV. Video Concert Hall was the key, the surrogate parent, which solidified the music geek in me and made me want to be James Honeyman Scott.

ap - 2009


Leah said...

That Icehouse track is great -- I'd completely forgotten about it.

Anyway, when MTV debuted in 1981(?), I was in 7th grade in boring, suburban San Jose, CA, where it seemed as though the only choices on the radio were oldies AM and dirthead Seventies rock FM stations. (If there was a local college radio station, I wasn't aware of it at the time.) MTV was a complete revelation -- and being a shy latchkey kid, I was transfixed in front of it for hours every day after school. Say what you will about MTV, but it turned me on to so much stuff I might never have heard otherwise (those freaky David Bowie videos, Adam Ant, Split Enz, Squeeze, early Pretenders, Devo, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Art of Noise, Bow Wow Wow, etc. etc. etc.) and really sparked a passion for music that remains to this day.

It's funny that today, every obscure band and genre of music is so easy to find via the internet, and yet kids all seem to listen to the same boring crap. When we were growing up, there were so few channels for anything outside the mainstream, and you really had to make an effort to track stuff down. In a weird way, I think it made those of us who cared about music all that much more dedicated to it.

David said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I'm always a bit shocked that almost none of my friends remember Video Concert Hall. My younger brother and I watched it religiously, and still refer to every now and then. Like you, I probably never would have heard of a lot of bands that later became staples of my collection.
Also, in an odd bit of Google fate, it happens that I'm originally from Springfield (though currently in Denver). I just sort of internet-stumbled onto your blog. And if your name is Alan, we went to high school together. My name is Dave Gavisk.
Very sorry to hear of the demise of Kaleidoscope. It had a big influence on my youth in a variety of ways.

paddy said...

Hah! I am somewhat amazed to see someone else who not only liked the stuff on VCH, but actually bought the records. I was also wild about the Motors, Numan, "Empty Glass" Squeeze and the like. In my old age, I have to nick some of these songs from various web sites (try going to Best Buy to get Hermann Brood). I do agree with Leah in that 25 years ago, MTV was somewhat cutting edge. That, of course, went to shit. What I find interesting now is that radio will play things like Modern English, Split Enz, Psychedelic Furs, Squeeze and the like - as if they had been hip to them all along.

And yeah, that guy up there is my brother, with whom I spent countless hours watching Video Concert Hall.