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Pop Will Shoot Itself - The Guardian, 13th November 1992

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Title: Pop Will Shoot Itself
Publication: The Guardian
Date: Friday 13th November 1992
Writer: Steven Wells


I WOKE up Monday morning and decided to become a pop video director. The Manic Street Preachers, those over-educated punky Welsh working-class homoerotic situationists with a death wish and a mega-yen recording contract were about to release a single, so I hammered out a treatment with my friend, Nick Small and arranged to meet the record company.

"Basically," says Nick, "the song Little Baby Nothing is about women's oppression, so we start with a little girl getting her head jumped on by a horrible old man and end with a woman committing suicide by shooting herself between the legs, having gained her revenge in the meantime by killing all the men."

"Um," said the man from Sony Records. "I'm a bit worried about the graffiti." So we dropped the graffiti and the little girl getting her head stomped on and the woman shooting herself and the scene where the little girl with the flame thrower roasts all the Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine fans and we got our feet under the table with ace production company Visionbridge. And The Man from Sony, he say - well, all right then. We were staggered, could it really be this easy?

By this stage we were already nervous wrecks, we'd each lost almost a stone in weight, our hairy facial skins seethed with bulbous zits, our nicotine consumption reaching levels that would kill the strongest beagle.

"Why a pop video?" asked all our middle-class media chums, who are all working on dead boring first "serious" novels. Because, apart from the the TV ad, the pop promo is the only genuinely late 20th century art form and you've got to be either a total doofus or a Nazi to work in advertising. Anyway, seen any brilliant TV ads recently? Plus, if you work in advertising they make you dress like a cross between Cab Calloway and Janet Street-Porter. No thanks.

The video industry is chocka with chancers, pseuds, maniacs, genius inadequates and socially dysfunctional sexheads whose only real ambition in life is to go to Hollywood and make the modern equivalent of grand opera - a gratuitously violent million-dollar special FX monster movie based on a thirties American comic book. They are our kind of people.

The set for Little Baby Nothing is a wall of slogans along the lines of White Men Are Sexually Inferior and All Rock And Roll Is Homosexual. With a large pink triangle in the middle. With a hammer and sickle in the middle of the triangle made from ripped up Union Jacks. We spent the rest of the money on hiring the female punk band The Dead End Dolls and 20 little girls from drama school dressed in Ejaculate Your Desires, Carpet Bomb The Rich and I Laughed When Lennon Got Shot T-shirts.

We vetted the models, a strange and unnerving procedure. Nick wanted to use a 16-year-old female friend from Halifax but her dad, the prat, said no.

The fun bit was walking up to hard rock women at Manics' gigs and saying "Hey babe, want to be in a video?" and getting beer thrown in our faces. Through this process we found Jackie and Carrie - two evil-looking 16-year-old fanzine editors and wannabe pop stars with Kylie haircuts, fluffy angora coats and stares so dumb and insolent that they freeze your blood.

The song was originally co-sung by ex-porno star Traci Lords. For the video we got Cindy Crawford lookalike Blanche to sit on a piano with Read My Lips scrawled on her leg in lipstick and peel and crush a banana, while handsome James, the singer, lip-synched in the background, "You are pure, pure as snow/ We are the useless sluts that they mould".

"Very average," said the man from the record company. And he was right. So we went back and stuck right at the beginning the bit with the black karate woman in Doc Marten boots kicking the camera and we juiced up the He-man doll in the liquidiser/splatter shot, the Stalinist hero peasant woman shot, the porn-storm shot, the zombie-children shot, the samurai-geisha girl shot, the little girl playing with the hand grenade shot and the bit where Blanche is washing LPs in the T-shirt with a woman clutching a tommy-gun and saying "This is the only answer to rape."

"Brilliant!" said the man from the record company. Huzzah! Nick, a martial arts expert, ex-bouncer and antiques dealer from Middlesbrough, has made videos before. His greatest claim to fame is the thumbs-up-for-Fonz doll enjoying oral sex with a Barbie doll in the Warholish Super 8 Rules And Regulations video for the pro-feminist, all-female hardcore punk band We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Going To Use It.

Them were the days, of course, when we didn't need to worry about getting the promo on kid's TV. Things you apparently can't show on kids' TV: flame throwers, chainsaws, decapitations, torture, homosexual intercourse, heterosexual intercourse, Tory cabinet ministers being dipped slowly into vats of bubbling battery acid, Ed the Duck and Gordon the Gopher applying the leads from a car battery to Phillip Schofield's genitals, little girls getting their heads stomped, women shooting themselves and graffiti. And you thought making pop videos was easy.

Nicholas and I sat and drank and discussed our favourite videos. The Beautiful South's Need A Little Time where a scowly ginger woman singer screams defiance in the face of the beefy male singer and stalks out after smashing everything in the house, covering the kitchen with flour and feathers and sticking his teddy bear's head on the end of a kitchen knife; Robert Palmer's classic Addicted To Love, made for pounds 895 billion, featuring racehorse-like models with identi-kit slap 'n' mini skirts just looking brain-dead gorgeous and pretending to be musicians while a decrepit Palmer decomposed in the foreground;

Sonic Youth's $12 cover versh of Addicted To Love shot in a cheapo walk-in New York Video Booth; Betty Boo's Where Are You Baby? Where spunky Bess danced like a white person with rickets in front of a space age set costing thruppence;

Lionel Ritchie's latest where intimidatingly muscular black female dancers in micro-mini skirts do their stuff while Lionel does something in the foreground.

It is time, we decided, to call ourselves Gob Video and punk rock the world of the pop promo while the art form is still hackish, unpretentious, unloved, prostituted, untrainspotted and stupid enough to be fun. All art under capitalism has a tendency to degenerate into either pretentious trash or mind-destroying dross. The pop promo biz will eventually go one way or the other. But for now there are only four rules:

1. Resist at all costs the temptation to censor yourself; 2. Don't go to film school; 3. Don't come cheap, and 4. Live fast, die old and leave a cute looking showreel.

We start shooting Homophobic Asshole for The Senseless Things next week. Any internationally known celebrities who want an unpaid cameo role in the greatest pop video ever made should contact us now.