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Thread: The worst video of all time... And the story behind it... | Forums

  1. #1
    Senior Member CrazedRacer's Avatar
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    The worst video of all time... And the story behind it...




    Heard about this the other day on the '80's channel on Sirius and had to look up the rest of the story...

    From Wikipedia:
    The video for the track was directed and choreographed by Kenny Ortega, who later directed the High School Musical films. It shows Squier waking up in a bed with satiny, pastel-colored sheets, then dancing and kicking up his heels around the bed as he gets dressed, ultimately putting on a pink tank top. At the conclusion he leaves the room with a pink guitar to join his band in performing the song.

    It frequently appears on "worst music video ever" lists. For I Want My MTV, their 2011 oral history of the network's early years, authors Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks interviewed over 400 people, primarily artists, managers, filmmakers, record company executives and MTV employees. They said that none could agree on the best video, but all agreed that "Rock Me Tonite" was the worst. They devoted an entire chapter of the book to it.

    Squier himself, and many other observers, believe its blatant homoeroticism alienated a significant portion of his fan base (predominantly teenaged boys at the time) and ruined his career. "I liked [him] very much," says Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, "but then I saw him doing this video in a very terrible way. I couldn't take the music serious anymore."

    History
    The concept for the video was Squier's. "[It] was based on the ritual of going to a concert," Squier recalled in 2011. "If we admit it, when we're getting ready to go out, we're checking our clothes and our hair." His idea was to show him doing that, paralleled by younger fans doing the same and then sneaking out to the show. He took it to Bob Giraldi, a director at the time much sought after in the wake of his highly successful video for Michael Jackson's "Beat It".

    According to Squier, he played the song for Giraldi and shared the concept with him. The director was initially enthusiastic, but then a week later changed his mind, saying it wasn't "something he'd want his kids to see." Mick Kleber, an executive at Squier's label, Capitol Records, clarifies that Giraldi was interested but wanted a bigger budget to work with. However, Capitol was not as open as other labels at the time to spending large amounts of money on videos, so he declined because he did not expect the label to be forthcoming (the final video was still the most expensive Capitol had put out at the time). Giraldi has said that Squier's original intuitions were right and that the video would have worked out had he directed it.

    Squier and his management then approached David Mallet, another popular music-video director of the time, whose work included Billy Idol's "White Wedding." Mallet put together some storyboards, but they were quickly rejected. "The first thing he showed me was a scene of me riding into a diner on a white horse," says Squier. "I was like, 'Get rid of him.'" Kleber thinks that Mallet may not have believed the song would be a hit, especially compared with some of the other videos he had done for Capitol at the time, and was just being courteous.

    By this point, a date had already been set for the video's world premiere on MTV. "We're running out of time," Squier recalls. Capitol and his management said they had talked to MTV about pushing the date back, but the cable channel couldn't guarantee a later date (Arnold Stiefel, Rod Stewart's manager, suggests that had Squier's management been firmer on this point, they could have held MTV to its commitment no matter what date was ultimately set).

    At that point, Ortega, a friend of Squier's girlfriend, called up Squier's managers and offered to direct the video. He had done choreography in some of Mallet's videos, and directed the clip for The Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited." Neither manager was particularly enthusiastic about him, and pressured Squier to get rid of him. Capitol was disturbed that Squier had talked directly to Ortega, in contravention of their preferred practice, but deferred to him. "By going around the label, he had thrown down the gauntlet," Kleber says.

    Ortega suggested to him that he do some of the same moves he did during his show, without his guitar. Squier's idea was that the resulting footage should be grainy and in darker, subdued colors, evoking the 1980 film American Gigolo. He rejected a suggestion by Ortega that it look instead like Tom Cruise's air guitar scene near the beginning of the 1982 film Risky Business.

    A video screenshot showing a man standing on bed with shiny sheets. He is wearing white pants and a pink tank top over a white shirt.
    Squier in the pink tank top, on the satin bedsheets
    The shoot was held in Los Angeles within two weeks of the world premiere date. Squier showed up on the soundstage and saw the decorated set. It was not what he had envisioned, and he expressed his misgivings. Ortega reassured him that the finished version would look as he had wanted it to. "I didn't like the sheets but I trusted the guy." Tom Mohler, one of Squier's managers, asked Ortega to make sure there was footage of the band performing the entire song to use as coverage; he says Ortega promised to do so but did not.

    Other artists and managers have wondered why Squier and his management did not stop the video. "I don't care if the director was lying dead on the floor," says Pete Angelus, manager of Van Halen, "you shouldn't have put on a ****ing pink T-shirt and danced around like that." Stiefel says friends who see the clip for the first time on YouTube are still incredulous that it ever aired. "Did Billy not notice the pastel satin sheets?" Stiefel asks. "I don't know that Barry Manilow ever did such a gay video ... This is the great Kenny Ortega. How could he have allowed such a thing?"

    At Capitol and MTV, there were similar questions. A joke had it that the video should have been called "**** Me Tonite". The label continued to defer to Squier, giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming he might have intended the video as a joke. Mohler pleaded with Capitol president Jim Mazza to just cancel the video, but the label stood firm. "I wish I had had the balls to say to [them]: 'We're not putting it out'," Mohler laments.

    Squier was aghast when he saw the video. Capitol told him not to worry since the single was so successful, but his girlfriend told him it would ruin him. He was touring at the time, and recalls that as soon as the video came out, he stopped selling out shows, in some cases playing to half-empty arenas. "I couldn't figure out why Capitol didn't pull that video and make another one," said Warren DeMartini of Ratt, who were opening for Squier at the time. Squier learned later that he could have done so himself, as Bruce Springsteen had been able to do with a video he disliked. "Everything I'd worked for my whole life was crumbling, and I couldn't stop it."

    As a result, he fired both his managers within a month. While they understood why, it was painful for Mohler in particular, since Squier had been best man at his wedding earlier in the year. He hired Stiefel to replace them, finished his tour and then took two years to release his next album, Enough Is Enough. He has never matched his early chart success since then.

    In 2011, Squier talked about the experience as "an MBA course in how a video can go totally wrong."

    The video misrepresents who I am as an artist. I was a good-looking, sexy guy. That certainly didn't hurt in selling records. But in this video I'm sort of pretty boy. And I'm preening around a room. People said "He's gay." Or "He's on drugs." It was traumatizing to me. I mean, I had nothing against gays. I have a lot of gay friends. But like it or not, it was more of a sticky point then.

    While he is still angry at Ortega, who he believes purposely misled and exploited him, he is philosophical about the video. "The scars aren't that deep ... It's a bad part of a good life."

    Ortega has refused to accept blame for the video, saying it was filmed as Squier had conceived. "If anything, I tried to toughen the image he was projecting," he told the author of a 1986 book about the record industry. He claims he and the video's editor had their names taken out of the credits when they got frustrated over their lack of creative input. "Let there be no doubt, 'Rock Me Tonite' was a Billy Squier video in every sense. If it has damaged his career he has no one to blame but himself."
     

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kynlore's Avatar
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    Interesting. I don't ever remember seeing that video on MTV. It is pretty bad. Ultimately I think he's responsible. He could have danced around like that for 10 seconds and said "you know what, I'm not doing this ".

    You can shoot the 80's standard "concert" performance video in a day. That would have been better.
     1 people found this helpful
     

  3. #3
    Senior Member CrazedRacer's Avatar
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    I thought the same thing... That was standard operation for Bon Jovi. I saw an interview with Jon once and he basically said - Why record some acted video? Give them a live vid and make it fun. Then you don't ruin the various meanings people have found in the song.
     

  4. #4
    Senior Member The_Working_Man's Avatar
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    Saw the thread title, immediately guessed the video. There are certainly more ridiculous "bad" videos out there, but none had such a devastating effect on the artists career as this one.
     

  5. #5
    Senior Member The_Working_Man's Avatar
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    You can blame the concept, lighting, sheets, etc. but I really think Billy's dancing itself contributes the most. As the comedian Gallagher one pointed out, cowboys and ladies going to a party both wear big, fancy hats and pointy high-heeled shoes, but the main difference is the position of their elbows relative to their hands. Elbows out / hands in = cowboy. Elbows in / hands out = lady going to a party.

    I looked for a video of his routine, but couldn't find one.
     

  6. #6
    Senior Member flynlion's Avatar
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    I remember Billy Squier being all over the radio when I was in High School, I kinda liked his music at the time. I also vaguely remember seeing this video once or twice on the MTV and thinking it was terrible LoL. Then all of a sudden both the video and the radio play were gone, liked he'd fallen off a cliff or something. I just figured Billy as another one hit wonder and never made the connection.
     

  7. #7
    Senior Member Gold_Jim's Avatar
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    Billy forgot who his target audience was. This was a time when people in the spotlight literally started acting metro to get attention from the people who were following bands like Soft Cell, Boy George, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Squier was a bit of a guitar hero at the time. I can remember listening to his first two albums in High School (I was 20 when Rock Me Tonite hit the airwaves). His guitar style was relatively accessible and his songs fun to play. I can't help but wonder what he was thinking when it came to this video. He said he wanted to represent what it would have been like to be a fan getting ready for a show, meeting with his friends, and then being at his show. The theme would have been breaking the "4th wall" and Billy would have been a fan as well as the guy on stage. Think Juke Box Hero from Foreigner or Detroit Rock City from Kiss. Problem is that the lyric doesn't really give that vibe. They read more like he wrote it for a woman to sing. A simple change from "Take me in your arms/rock me tonight" to "I'll take you in my arms/Rock you tonight" would have given it a more masculine vibe. Had the colors been a little less pastel, I think people could have over looked the air guitar (I had several models as a teen ). Singing into a hairbrush was more of a teen girl thing in pop culture at that point.

    I find it hard to believe that even his sycophants or Kenny Ortega didn't say "CUT!!"

    Even 33 years later, this video is hard to watch, and you can hear the toilet flushing Squier's career the second he rips his tank top.
     

  8. #8
    Senior Member Gold_Jim's Avatar
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    Poor Billy, even mentioned in this interview (fast forward to twenty-five minutes)

     

  9. #9
    Senior Member rsratnip's Avatar
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    The book "I want my MTV" is an awesome read for everyone who grew up in the 80s.
    Last edited by rsratnip; 03-20-2017 at 10:03 PM.
     

  10. #10
    I don't know, it isn't a whole lot worse than Rush's Time Stands Still.
     

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