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MTV 1980s Part II (Pool Boys)

Here's Part II of my retrospective of classic 1980s MTV videos. First up is George Thorogood and his band the Delaware Destroyers. In Year Two of MTV, "Bad to the Bone" proved to be one of the most spirited videos in this new format. Many of the directors of music videos were content to show the band in a static environment or create a montage of images and quick edits to catch the eye. Most of them today look pretty lame. Not "Bad to the Bone," the title cut from Thorogood's '82 release. With great panache, the director captures the spirit of films depicting young upstarts who challenge aging legends a la The Hustler or The Cincinnati Kid. The song, itself, was the bastard child of songs by Muddy Waters or Bo Diddley, and as an homage, it is the legendary Diddley who portrays the established pool hall icon who is challenged by the surly and charismatic Thorogood, beloved by women and children. One of the nice touches is the pool hall presence of Willie Mosconi, who casts his jaundiced eye over the proceedings. Another is the moment when Diddley can't quite stifle a smile when Mosconi gives him the "hairy eyeball." The combatants at the pool table are identified by their guitars as much as by their pool cues. Thorogood, of course, carries around a picture of the young Diddley as inspiration, and his guitar riffs do Diddley proud. The montage during the song's bridge is exquisite, as the wooden bead score counters get a workout with Thorogood going through rack after rack, often with trick shots that amaze his young fans. With a flick of guitar ash, Thorogood sinks the eight ball for a victory, and a triumph for blues lovers everywhere.

The video above can, at this time, be seen only on YouTube directly, so please click on this link:

The pool hall is the setting for another 80s classic video, "Rough Boys," less popular than Thorogood's, but equally compelling. In 1980, Pete Townshend, now free from The Who, released his first solo album, Empty Glass. The album was a critical and commercial triumph, featuring a most successful single, "Let My Love Open the Door." The album belongs to the genre of confessional music as much as any album by Joni Mitchell or Adele. "Rough Boys", the video, created a controversy given its phallic imagery and homoerotic subtext. Townshend acknowledged his attraction to the leather-wearing Punks, and lines like "Tough boys/Come over here/ I wanna bite and kiss you" served to solidify people's opinions that Pete was gay or at least bi. "We can't be seen together," he sings, presumably about his forbidden love for "Rough toys under the sheets." Pete was married for many years and involved in a long term relationship with a woman following his divorce, but twenty years ago he acknowledged some "experimentation" with men back in his drug-fueled Sixties escapades. In some ways, "Rough Boys" seems a paean to secret desires that were largely suppressed. The video is just wonderful, as Pete is battered back and forth, pinball style, by all the tough boys around the pool tables. From the opening strains, when Pete flips the bird at the cameraman, he sets a restless, anxious tone. The aimless boys of the title, in from the rough streets, seek an outlet in the blue haze of the pool hall. They wield cigarettes and pool cues with an urgency that bespeaks their sexual magnetism. They ignore pirouetting Pete as he attempts to lay down his licks. He seems receptive to their constant touching, hungry for it. The song's conclusion finds Pete building the chord changes to a crescendo that can only be seen as orgasmic. A twitching, vibrating Pete breaks into his "windmill" for his final, dynamic notes. He thrusts the guitar neck at the camera for the coda. Wow! Time for a cigarette! Enjoy both videos.

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