Saturday, May 28, 2011

Videos that honor/parody the Beatles (Nirvana, The Doors, OutKast, Foo Fighters)

The February 9th 1964 appearance by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show was one of the defining moments in the history of the modern music industry. It is the event that triggered the so-called "Beatlemania" where the band transformed from just a band into a legend that changed the entire music industry- and it happened almost overnight.

The Beatles also went on to be one of the pioneers that laid the groundwork for the music video craze that started in the 1980s. They recorded early music videos to help promote their albums - a practice that would become an industry unto itself a few decades later. It should be no surprise that this landmark event would later become both an honored, and parodied, subject in music videos and films.

In 1991, another band that had a profound effect on the music industry was Nirvana. The Seattle underground  Grunge band became an overnight sensation - mostly through the impact made by the music video for their first single "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Like the Beatles, they went from obscurity to the pinnacle of fame in almost the blink of an eye.

It was only natural that, while they were very different in style, the massive effect that Nirvana had would be compared to the Beatles sooner or later. Nirvana ran with this idea in their video for "In Bloom" which alternates between scenes of the band, dressed in suits and acting like "good boys" on stage with a vicious parody of them running around the same set wearing dresses and destroying everything.

If you look around the web a bit, you can also find the "All suits" version of the video containing the unused portion of the "good" performance that were cut out to make room for the "bad" performance. Arguably, this version is just as entertaining- you can really see how much trouble Kurt Cobain was having keeping a straight face.

The Doors also made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967 where they performed their up-and-coming hit "Light My Fire." Supposedly, right before The Doors went on, a producer confronted them and told the to change the lyric "girl we couldn't get much higher" because they did not want the obvious drug reference on the air- but Jim Morrison refused, and sang the line as written. The Doors were banned from ever appearing on the show again- despite the fact that plans were already being made for as many as six additional appearances. Regardless, the damage was done- the appearance helped cement The Doors fame, and prompted thte Ed Sullivan Show's producers to take a larger interest in grittier musical acts.

The incident inspired a scene in the 1991 Olive Stone film about the band in this clip from the movie.

Below is a video of the actual Ed Sullivan Show broadcast of The Doors.

The effect of the Beatles was not just limited to rock bands. Here we have an example of a Hip Hop artist OutKast using the Beatle's as inspiration for their 2003 video "Hey Ya!." The song itself is more of a pop song with hip-hop elements rather than an outright hip-hop song. There are two interesting things about this video- the fictional band in the video- called "The Love Below" has eight members- all of which are portrayed by OutKast's Andre 3000, and composited toghether. The other interesting detail is that the bassist "Possum Jenkins" (played by Andre 3000), is seen playing a Rickenbacker 4001 bass- John Lennon was known for favoring Rickenbacker guitars- both instruments have a similar distinctive black and white headpiece.

In 2011, the Foo Fighters (lead by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl), planned a promotional appearance for their new album "Wasting Light." The Foo Fighters were long-time friends of talk show host David Letterman - who famously had the band appear on his show to perform his favorite song "Everlong" to celebrate his recovery from heart surgery several years back, so ti was only natural that the Foo Fighters would turn to him to help promote their new album. Since David Letterman's show is shot in the very same theater that the old Ed Sullivan Show resided in, and considering the band's pervasive sense of humor, it was only natural that this would happen:

In the full performance, Dave Grohl points out that they tweaked a few details of their look to help drive home the Beatles reference- including cinching up their guitar straps so their instruments rode high- as was the fashion in the 1960s. The band even imitated the lettering used by the Beatles on Taylor Hawkins' drum set, and filmed the entire first set, where they performed their new album end-to-end, in black and white.

Below is a video of the full performance, including the second set where they recounted some of their most famous hits after reverting to a color broadcast. It was broadcast under the "Live on Letterman" banner and billed as the band's album release party. The complete video is long, but worth watching.

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