MTV Part III BLASHFIELD BRILLIANCE
Many now prominent directors created initial buzz within the burgeoning form of the MTV video. David Fincher and Spike Jonze come to mind. In the mid 80s, Jim Blashfield created a look in his videos that garnered him many awards and made him much in demand by many members of rock and pop royalty. His videos were undertaken in pastiche mode--snippets of photos and art woven together, transmogrification in stop motion. A typical visual trope would be the emergence of a singer right from his photo on a newspaper page. The song lyric comes literally to life. "I read the news today, Oh boy." Below is Blashfield's breakthrough clip-"And She Was" by Talking Heads, voted by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 videos of all time. David Byrne and his bandmates were always seeking alternative forms, and Blashfield's multi-layered, 3D effects suited them fine. The video was nominated for Best Group Video and Best Concept Video in 1986.
The following year, Blashfield again received a slew of nominations for Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" from Simon's Graceland album. My favorite of his efforts is the little seen "Good Friends" from Joni Mitchell's 1985 release Dog Eat Dog. Joni, of course, was always concerned with visuals, often painting her own cover art. She is a bohemian presence in the video. The master of blue-eyed soul, Michael McDonald, sings harmony. First the Simon link:
Blashfield was born in 1944 and developed a career as a conceptual artist in the late 70s, specializing in the short film form. He has worked with Tears for Fears, Weird Al Yankovic, Marc Cohn, and NuShooz, among others. He even managed to cop a Grammy for Michael Jackson's "Leave Me Alone" in 1990. Below was that work--Best Music Video Short Form--but the rights police have forbidden the transfer so just click on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crbFmpezO4A
The extended video above,"Suspicious Circumstances", reportedly inspired David Byrne initially, and soon Blashfield's venture into the new music form took off. "I feel objects and environments can function as metaphors for ideas we've been constructing in our heads that we can't put our finger on," says Blashfield. Paul Simon employed Blashfield's skillful use of three-dimensional imagery for his Graceland ode, "The Boy in the Bubble". The pairing of Blashfield and Simon was serendipitous, as the singer/songwriter's metaphors about quotidian change found correlatives in Blashfield's images.
At the end of the decade, Peter Gabriel hired Blashfield to create an alternate video for his big hit "Don't Give Up" from the vaunted So album. There is the conventional live video, but Blashfield's better captures the sense of passing time, though nothing much seems to happen. It is the constantly moving camera that picks up moments in a lifetime of struggle for the protagonist (played by Gabriel himself). The words of encouragement from Kate Bush, in an ethereal call-and-response, is most inspirational. See it below and decide for yourself. I think you'll agree that Jim Blashfield left his imprint on the short-form music video.