Tuesday Tune Two-Fer: To Be On a Green Screen In The Summertime With My Love

The Art of Getting the Band Back Together For the Purposes of Selling Out to Hollywood

It’s always seemed weird to me that Art of Noise weren’t more of a video band. It seems like they’d be all about making experimental, genre-defining videos, and Close (To The Edit) is up there with “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and “Billie Jean” as defining the music video era.

But I guess it’s not all that surprising that not many videos followed, since they didn’t really make hit songs. There was probably little money in trying to promote them. What is surprising to me, though, is just how corny their other videos are. Such a gap between the wryly comic avant garde artists I picture when listening to the albums, and the almost-“Superbowl Shuffle” levels of awkwardness in the videos.

Which culminated in the video to their cash-grabby theme for the movie Dragnet. This movie was forgettable even by late 80s standards, but it feels like Dan Aykroyd was still riding off Ghostbusters‘s surprising popularity, so Hollywood was eager to throw tons of money at it to force it to become A Thing. And while I don’t know it for sure, it seems apparent that Art of Noise were still riding off their version of the Peter Gunn theme with Duane Eddy, and someone involved with the movie asked them, “could you give us another one of those, please?”

What’s remarkable to me about the video is just how it’s such a pure example of its species; it’s like the platonic ideal of a Hollywood sell-out musicvideomercial. A random (no doubt studio-mandated) assortment of video clips from the movie, with a track containing dialogue samples from the movie, here mixed with callbacks to the band’s most well-known video.

It’s so brazen that I wonder if AoN at the time thought of it as satire. Whether it was or wasn’t, they still got the last laugh. I would’ve completely forgotten that Dragnet the movie existed — it’s so non-essential that even now, as I’m writing about it, my brain is trying to erase any memory of it — if Art of Noise hadn’t included the theme song as the first track of their second-best album, which I’ve listened to hundreds of times.

Update 5/29/2021: Okay, over the past few days, I’ve been rethinking my surprisingly hostile reaction to the “Dragnet” video, which now seems pretty dense. I mean, of course they’re in on the joke; “The Art of Noise has gone Hollywood” is the entire joke. It’s not particularly subtle.

Also, I found out that Zbigniew Rybczynski, director of the “Close (To The Edit)” video, directed this one as well, so it’s more like an artist playing off his own work than a studio capitalizing on an artist’s work. I’m not sure why I thought that a movie studio making a purely crass piece of marketing would go to the trouble of getting the original performers in a semi-obscure art-pop video to goof off with green screen effects.

Regardless, my over-thinking the whole thing was pretty dumb, which annoys me, because it’s exactly the kind of simple-minded “Stick it to The Man! Only I can see how the exploitative system really works!” nonsense I spend so much time complaining about.