Copyright 1997 Orange County Register
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
June 13, 1997 Friday MORNING EDITION
SECTION: SHOW; Pg. F03
LENGTH: 766 words
HEADLINE: A new life for old music videos;
TELEVISION: A VH1 marathon features 'Pop-Up Video,' which dishes on musicians and production through subtitle trivia.
BYLINE: STEPHEN LYNCH, The Orange County Register
The next time one of those '80s nostalgia shows surfaces on music
television, look closely at the Beastie Boys' classic, "You've Got
to Fight for Your Right to Party. " In the back, wearing a platinum
wig, is future MTV News anchor Tabitha Soren.
"Most music videos are like a Where's Waldo puzzle," says Tad
Low, who as a reporter for MTV learned of Soren's early brush with
fame. "There are all these great stories behind them. "
Obsessed with such trivia _ and bored with watching music videos
_ Low and partner Woody Thompson brainstormed ways to combine the
two. The result is "Pop-Up Video," a VH1 show where tiny balloons
of text appearduring the music, informing you, for instance, that
Meat Loaf is a vegetarian.
"We modeled it after the windows everyone sees on a computer,"
Low says. Or, he adds, like "Beavis and Butt-Head," if Beavis were
a music-industry insider, and neither had an annoying laugh.
Thompson and Low, both 30, head a New York production company
called Spin the Bottle. They pitched the concept to VH1 because the
station's videos tend to be less frenetic than its older brother
MTV's, "and images actually stay on the screen for five to 10
seconds," Thompson says.
And even as MTV drifts away from music videos with more original
programming, "Pop-Up" makes them fresh again for VH1. The station
has been so pleased that it ordered a dozen more half-hour
episodes, and plans to air the first 22 shows in a marathon Monday.
One new segment during the marathon will focus on the Jacksons,
featuring pop-ups from La Toya, Jermaine, Michael and Janet.
Anecdotes include: "When Michael Jackson was in that pool hall in
'Beat It,' " Thompson says, "he felt something drip on his sleeve.
It was blood _ there was a dead body in the fire escape above him. "
"Janet had to have her coat lengthened in 'Nasty,' " Low adds.
"To cover certain portions of her body. " Of course, that problem
was solved, rather dramatically, later.
The "Pop-Up" research staff gets most of its tidbits from limo
drivers, makeup artists and crew members, "the lowest people on the
production totem pole," Thompson says. "They see it all and aren't
afraid to tell us cool stories. "
That includes some gossipy notices with which artists and record
companies are less than thrilled. "Adam Duritz of the Counting
Crows comes off as a little pretentious," Low says as
understatement. "One of my favorites is when he's playing the piano
in 'Long December,' we popped up a picture of Rolf the dog from
'The Muppet Show. ' He looked just like him.
"Artists get a free ride on the station 22 1/2 hours of the
day," he adds. "So what's so bad about an hour and a half ("Pop-Up"
airs three times a day) of fun? "
There's a particular science to each "Pop-Up" show, with one
modern video, one less recent video (a year old, perhaps), a
"golden" or breakthrough video (The Cars' "You Might Think," for
instance) and a campy'80s closer. Within the videos, messages
appear about every 20 seconds, with one-third being biographical
notes, one-third behind-the-scenes trivia and one-third "reference
train ride," Low says.
In Aerosmith's "Crazy" video, for example: "Alicia Silverstone
was 17 in this video. " Pop. "Liv Tyler was 16. " Pop. "The five
members of Aerosmith were 219 years old combined. "
The show has prompted some directors to take notes during
production and contact VH1, asking them to pop their videos. But
Low and Thompson are less interested in today's clips, which they
say lack artistic flair. "You look at older videos, they were
little Broadway plays," Thompson says. "Today they're simply
promotional videos, beauty shots. "
Lucky for them, some older artists are coming forward with
stories from older, cinematic shots. "We got a call from the
drummer of Til Tuesday a couple weeks ago," Low says with a laugh.
"He says he has some great stuff from 'Voices Carry. ' "
And fans may finally figure out what was up with Aimee Mann's
'Pop-Up Video' marathon
When: 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday and 9 p.m. Monday-3 a.m. Tuesday
What to look for: A half-hour all-Jacksons block, with videos from
La Toya, Michael, Janet and Jermaine. Also, one episode has local
sensation No Doubt's video "Don't Speak. " In it, lead singer Gwen
Stefani volunteered to cry, but when she became hysterical they cut
most of the footage.
Regular showings: "Pop-Up Video" is on Mondays-Fridays at 4 and
7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., and Sundays at 6
GRAPHIC: BLACK & WHITE PHOTO; FACTOIDS; Typical bits of 'Pop-Up Video' artist- and production-related trivia show up in clips by Alanis Morrisette, left, and Phil Collins.; BY THE NUMBERS; Aerosmith gets an uncomplimentary age-related treatment added to its 'Crazy' video.