Travel back in time with us to the pre-cable and VCR days when rock bands could only ever be briefly glimpsed on TV on Friday nights, and if you were lucky, you might get to see a full show by a great band. Every week, I will be posting the kind of show that would have made me excited to stay up past 11, at some time between 1976 and 1984. So have a cup of coffee, eat some sugar, connect the audio output of your TV to your hi-fi system and play this Youtube video LOUD!
For this week’s edition, here’s something that would not likely have been broadcast on ANY television network in its day, apart from the public access channel in San Francisco that gave a platform to Target Video. By the early eighties when VCRs started to become common, Target was kind of the Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert for underground music, giving you a chance to see all these bands that weren’t allowed on MTV. The tapes weren’t cheap but they could be found, and copied, if you were industrious enough to seek them out.
This seems an appropriate way to experience the Screamers, a band that released no records because they thought they were going to make films instead, perhaps too forward-thinking and uncompromising for their own good. Or perhaps, they were simply unwilling to have a conventional existence like every other stupid band. They did play live though, and this 30 minute Target clip from 1978 captures them at the height of their powers. Keep an eye out for a young Jello Biafra hopping across the stage, not as a special guest but just getting out of the way.
Target also captured the final performance of Throbbing Gristle in 1981, the final report before the band disintegrated. If you make it to 52:40, you will see one the most remarkable moments of rock and roll ecstasy ever captured on film, as a young man emerges from the crowd to kiss Genesis P-Orridge square on the mouth, and then seems to float above the crowd in state of orgasmic bliss. It’s real Beatlemania wet-seat stuff. Some people listen to TG and hear a bunch of noise while others are driven to climaxes over it. I’d say in the spirit of this column – if you’re up late on a Friday night, and there’s nothing else on, you might as well give in to the circumstances and watch this. There’s lots of ways to persuade you. For now, I’ll use words.