Monday, 22 June 2009

Video Jukebox Omnibus

It was general election night in May 1986, and while the main channels scrambled for coverage, BBC2 decided to roll with a documentary on the history of rock video. It was an Omnibus special called ‘Video Jukebox’, and was presented by two gentlemen sadly no longer with us – John Peel and John Walters. It was excellent.

My memories of it on the actual night are a little sparse, mainly because it started late (after 10pm) and I wasn’t allowed to stay up. So I made my older brother promise to tape all the bits with Madonna in it (my new idol and the reason I unfortunately wore lace in my hair) and was sent to bed, presumably in a slight grump. My brother meanwhile stayed up until the early morning hours with his finger on the record and stop button of the remote control, ever mindful that he only had two VHS tapes and that he might run out of tape before the long documentary ran off air.

So I actually got to see it the next day, which was thankfully a Saturday, and that meant I had control of the TV before dad took over with Grandstand. So after watching various mad people roller-skate around children’s morning TV show Number 73, I no doubt eagerly put on Video Jukebox.

This was the first real chance I had to see the videos to the music I loved at the time. TotP occasionally played videos when the artists couldn’t make the studio, but it was really hit or miss if you would see the actual video. And this documentary charted the time when video had begun – the musicals and jazz sound films of the 1940s, the rock 'n' roll films of the 50s, the television pop programmes of the 60s and finally to the first true pop videos of the 1970s and the 1980s. It covered The Beatles and The Stones, had lengthy interviews with David Bowie and Madness, and charted the rise of MTV. You can look at the running order of the show here.

But the main thing I remember was my brother doing a dive Ronaldo would be proud of in order to grab the remote when the ‘banned’ video of ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood started playing. This of course meant that I watched it as soon as no-one else was in the house in order to see what all the fuss was about – ooo… it was rude! Fab.

Video Jukebox remains one of my favourite music documentaries of all time. I still have the two VHS tapes although I am scared to play them too often as I fear the day the tape snaps. They are on my list to upgrade to DVD just as soon as I have the spare cash for such things, but ever so occasionally I will put them on and enjoy these young-faced pop bands and directors talking about the wonderful new world of pop video.

Edit: It was the second transmission of Video Jukebox that was shown on Election night - the original transmission had aired a year earlier.


musicobsessive said...

I seem to remember this and must've watched it at the time but the memory is a little hazy. Anything with John Peel was a must-watch with me. Such a sad loss.

Not sure what I think about music videos. The cons are:
1. They replaced Pan's People/Legs & Co for which they will never be forgiven.
2. They gave rise to the MTV generation and Image became the God of all - see my post (California Dreamin').
3. They showed that evrybody had too much money or was spending too much money (Rio!)

On the plus side:
1. They have a timeless value. The backlog of video now provides a wonderful glimpse into the past and gives us a view of bands in their prime. We have little of those artists who performed before video and that's a shame.

The answer seems to be to continue making videos but not to actually show them. Instead, they should be sent direct to the music archive for future generations to marvel at the piss-poor hairstyles and crap clothes. Sorted.

Jayne said...

Hi Martin! I love your answer to music videos - sending them straight to the vault. Perfect! Although I would have a 24 hour pass to the vault, and spent a good deal of time down there re-running 'classics'.

I miss John Peel's voice. He was nice to listen to, like other presenters or TV personalities from my childhood that went too soon, and I love rediscovering clips on youtube with these people on it and hearing their voices again.

Phil Torpey said...

I had this (also on two VHS tapes) that my mum taped at the time. I think she taped it for Michael Jackson whose Thriller had been one of her favourite albums.

The tapes are long gone now much to my annoyance but would love to get this on DVD. I wonder if the BBC has any plans to reissue this or whether much like all the BBC footage has been recorded over.

Also found this if you're interested in the content in more detail:

Thanks for this - a trip down memory lane.


Jayne said...

Hello Phil! Glad to have stirred some memories - I remember the Michael Jackson videos on the documentry were one of the highlights, especially as I don't think many people had seen 'Thriller' in all its full glory. It would be lovely if the BBC showed this documentry again someday.

And thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

Hi I have this on two video’s in full and I’m just about to put them on dvd probably avi of divx to try and get them on one disc one of my favourite video’s I did at the time. the documentary actually started in the 1920s with Oscar Fischingers COMPOSITION IN BLUE. From the merry wives of Windsor and has probably every important vid made to that date. I couldn’t believe that they showed us the Oscar fischinger at school (Edmonton of all places) when I was about 6 years old and didn’t really mean that much to me then (not understanding that it was one of the first music video’s ever made).
Keep an eye out on youtube over the next few weeks as I plan to add some video jukebox

Jayne said...

Hello Andy, thanks for your comment. I'll certainly keep an eye on youtube!

Anonymous said...

Incidentally the young lady performing the loco-motion was Jackie lee, who also did the theme tune to white horses Rupert the bear amongst others. Which I have just found on youtube

Jackie Lee & The Raindrops - The loco-motion (1963)
Hope this helps

floydnz said...

Hi Jayne, I have recently found 4 avi video files containing the full 6 hours in great condition. Thanks to the power of the almighty Google I was pointed to your blog.
Thanks for the link to the song list, it will be invaluable when authoring the files to DVD. Have you found a digital copy of the documentary yet? If not, I would love to send you a copy of the DVDs once I am finished doing them :-)
Keep in touch!

Sandra Smith said...

I taped this as well but sadly the tapes are long gone. I've e-mailed the BBC many times to ask if I could buy or at least see again, this fabulous documentary, but sadly, no one ever replied. Can anyone help me out?

Sandra Smith said...

Hi floydnz. I just spotted your blog and wondered if you had finished your DVDs of the Omnibus Video Jukebox 1986? I've e-mailed the BBC many times asking if I could buy a copy of the documentary, but as yet no one has replied! My husband lived in Singapore when it was shown and has never seen it!! Please, can you help me in any way. Thanks. Xx

The international Chef said...

I do anything to see that again