Analysis 2: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” ~ Bob Dylan

29 08 2007

The classic Bob Dylan track is one of the earliest modern music videos. It’s also very easy to analyse because it contains no editing at all. It’s funny, because I bet if he’d been doing a media studies course and he’d submitted it to the exam board they’d have rejected it (philistines!) but it’s one of the most iconic music videos of all time, so the minimalist approach clearly has something going for it.

1. The video opens with a slow zoom out to reveal Bob Dylan standing outside the Savoy Hotel with a set of cue cards, the one on top reading “BASEMENT”. The camera is totally stationary throughout. Incidentally, the video was shot only in black and white, because it predates the time when colour TV became popular (it was filmed in 1965, and colour didn’t really catch on in the USA until the start of the ’70s).

2. As the word “basement” is spoken, he tosses the card aside to reveal the next, which reads “MEDICINE”. He then proceeds to do the same with each card in turn – “PAVEMENT”, “GOVERNMENT”, “TRENCH COAT”, “LAID OFF” and so on. In the background, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Neuwirth can be seen conversing for no apparent reason.

3. Sometimes deliberate mistakes creep in, so that as the track sings “eleven dollar bills” Dylan holds up a sign reading “20 DOLLAR BILLS”. Similarly, he later picks up and discards “IT’S HARD” and “WRITE BRAILLE” too early, and there are some rather bizarre misspellings (such as “MAN WHOLE” for “manhole” and “PAWKING METAWS” for parking meters). This gives the video a clumsy, humorous tone, reminiscent of silent comedy films such as the early Charlie Chaplin comedies. Additionally, sometimes other messages not present in the lyrics are displayed, such as “WATCH IT HERE THEY COME”.

4. He holds up the last card (“WHAT??”, which is not present in the lyrics and seems to indicate defensiveness or puzzlement) and walks off screen, seemingly oblivious to Ginsberg and Neuwirth exiting in the background.

The only online versions I could find were rips from a countdown of songs, which is why this YouTube video features pink writing that pops up in the corners of the screen, but this was the best I could find for now.


Analysis 1: “Canon Rock” ~ funtwo

24 08 2007

I thought I’d start with something easy, so I’ve chosen a rather atypical (although very popular) music video. It is atypical for two reasons. Firstly, it contains hardly any editing (that’s what makes it easy), and secondly it was never released for any commercial purpose, and became famous on YouTube. I am, of course, referring to funtwo’s cover of Jerry Chang’s “Canon Rock”.

1. The video opens with credits: “Canon. Composed by Johann Pachelbel, arranged by JerryC, plyd by funtwo”. The white writing stands out against the black background, whilst the names are in colour to make them more visible. This then fades dramatically to…

2. Throughout the video, funtwo is sat on his bed, holding an ESP guitar. His computer is just visible to the right of the screen, playing the backing track. The audience never gets a good look at funtwo’s face, as he looks downwards, his eyes obscured by a baseball cap, with bright light flooding in from the window behind him. This creates a mysterious aura about him, and also serves to direct the audience’s vision at the guitar.

3. At roughly 03:11, the pace slows, and the picture fades to show a still of a traffic light displaying a green man against a night sky. This obviously has implications of ‘go’. It remains for just over a second.

4. The picture fades back to show funtwo playing a slow, melodic segment before crashing back into maximum gear for a frantic virtuoso performance of the later variations.

5. As he plays the final notes, the picture fades to a black screen displaying the message “Thank You!!” in white lettering, as though acknowledging the viewer’s applause. This message is as much a part of funtwo videos as his trademark hats.

You can watch the original video of this on YouTube. I know it only says “guitar”, but this is the video that made it all happen…

A New Year’s Resolution

20 08 2007

I’m determined to get a good grade next year (i.e. ‘C’ or above) so I’ll be updating this blog from time to time with some studies of existing, popular or iconic music videos.  Where possible, I’ll provide links to said videos on YouTube (I’m not sure about the legality of that, as some but not all record companies have given YouTube the rights to display the videos) but I can’t guarantee anything.  To anyone else who is making a music video: I’d be honoured if you used any of my studies for your own research, just don’t claim them as your own work, obviously.  Thanks.