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A Very Special Video Playlist

Editor’s Note: Justin wrote this post before he left OUP and we held it until the book was available. The folks at Soho Press are very lucky to have my former colleague working with them.

Justin Hargett, Former OUP Publicist

I’ll be honest, when I started reading Chris Smith’s new book 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music, the first thing that came to mind were the omissions (Where’s Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain? Radiohead’s Kid A?). But then I took a step back and realized, for any music loving geek like myself, there are bound to be hundreds of unheralded albums that I may have personally fallen in love with, but ultimately didn’t change the course of popular music (Or those albums just exist somewhere between numbers 102-200).

So, instead of starting the discussion where Smith left off (I’ll leave that one to you) I wanted to take it up in a different, albeit tangentially related, direction . . . I present to you a video playlist of the 6 Best Music Videos from the 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music (Plus a live video of R.E.M., cause I like R.E.M!). Ok, so now that we’ve gotten my clearly biased agenda out of the way, let the video watching begin! (If you are at work, do not fret, just plug in your headphones and if your boss catches you tell him I said it was okay . . .)

[Adopting his best Matt Pinfield VJ voice]

Let’s kick it off with a video from the infancy of MTV, Herbie Hancock’s stop-motion, animatronic masterpiece “Rockit,” from his 1982 album Future Shock. The album’s most daring feat, Smith says, “was the incorporation of turntable scratching, a hip hop technique that had not reached mainstream audiences yet.” Check it:


Paul Simon’s 1986 classic, Graceland, which is best known for Simon’s collaboration with South African musicians, also features a totally rad Chevy Chase video for “You Can Call Me Al.” I love the disdain on Simon’s face when Chevy interrupts him and starts singing the lyrics.

Don’t be mad, but I skipped the videos from Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction (Youtube ’em yourself). Instead, check out the BEST Nirvana video, “In Bloom,” from 1992’s Nevermind. It’s hard to beat Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” in the nostalgia department, but Nirvana’s take on the black and white variety show format does just that, and then subverts it by putting Kurt, Krist, and Dave in dresses and destroying the set.

From the slums of Shaolin, “The RZA, the GZA, Ol Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Ghost Face Killer, the Method Man, Raekwon the Chef, the Master Killer,” better known as the Wu-Tang Clan, with “C.R.E.A.M.” From their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).


Okay, so I was going to embed Beck’s “New Pollution,” but they won’t let me. Instead, we’ll go with . . . the Beastie Boys “No Sleep Til Brooklyn,” from Licensed to Ill (But you know my heart is really with Paul’s Boutique). My granddad and I used to rock this on the way to the school bus stop.

You might know Michel Gondry as the director of such cinema marvels as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, but he’s also directed four videos for the White Stripes: “Fell in Love with a Girl,” “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground,” “The Denial Twist,” and this, from their 2003 album Elephant, “The Hardest Button to Button.”

Consider this one a bonus track . . . R.E.M. performing “Radio Free Europe” on Late Night with David Letterman (You know, that guy that was before that guy that was before Jimmy Fallon! OMG!) in their first ever national TV appearance. I’ll let Dave explain Murmur . . .

Recent Comments

  1. Chris Smith

    What a terrific post, Justin — thanks so much. I don’t think i’ve seen “Rockit” since it was first on MTV, many lifetimes ago.

    For an early taste of Herbie, check out his song “Watermelon Man” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jo5GcYeh7XA (there is no video, just the album cover, but it’s a great listen). For bonus points, try to identify the opening instrument.

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