Pure '80s: The Ultimate DVD Box

Various Artists

Unless you’re living in stuffy, closed quarters without access to mass communications, you’re probably aware that this year marks the 25th anniversary of MTV. Certainly, music purists from the 60s and 70s scowl at the idea of music as a visual medium, but for hundreds of late-blooming, post-baby boomers, MTV and its outpouring of music videos revolutionized the way music would be seen and heard for years to come. Driving this point home is Universal’s Pure '80s - The Ultimate DVD Box, a three DVD set brimming over with 45 music videos, many of which dominated the airwaves during the Reagan years with a mixed chopped salad of panache, camp, and a few decent tunes.

Each 15-video DVD carries a distinctive theme. The Totally New Wave disc opens up appropriately enough with the very first music video to air on MTV on August 1, 1981: The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star.” Although members of the Buggles would find greener pastures with Yes and Asia, among others, the song itself was prophetic on many levels, launching an unparalleled phenomenon that’s managed to survive for better or worse. Elsewhere on the disc, music videos from Devo (“Whip It”), Blondie (“Rapture”), Duran Duran (Hungry Like A Wolf”), along with one-hitters like Men Without Hats (“Safety Dance”), Big Country (“In A Big Country”), and A-ha (Take On Me”), each underscore the creativity and innovation up-and-coming directors and artists of the period were putting into mini movies that essentially amounted to long-form commercials. In other words, some of this stuff hasn’t aged as badly as one may assume.

The Video Idols disc shows how stalwarts such as J. Geils (“Centerfold”), Olivia Newton-John (“Physical”) and Tina Turner (“What’s Love Got To With It”) embraced the new form, while competing with the likes of shopping mall queen Tiffany (“I Think We’re Alone Now”) and Fine Young Cannibals (“She Drives Me Crazy”). Perhaps, the disc could have been more roundly representative if it included, say…Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” or Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’Roll.” Still, the inclusion of other MTV staples like Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” and Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield” reveal the lengths musicians were going to to stay valid and relevant in a world competing for eyeballs and mucho revenue.

The muscle of the set comes through on the Headbangers Rule! disc, a fairly self-explanatory history lesson in testosterone and eye shadow that continues to moderately appeal to young and old alike. Despite glaring omissions from 80s superstars Guns N’ Roses and Poison, strong entries from Rainbow (“Street Of Dreams”), Dio (“Holy Diver”) Scorpions (“Rock You Like A Hurricane”), and Queensrÿche (“I Don’t Believe In Love”) give the disc a much needed edge. Flash in the pans like Tora Tora (“Walkin’ Shoes”) and Bang Tango (“Someone Like You”) add little value; in fact, videos from these and others illustrate why metal has, with all its posturing and pouting, failed in becoming anything more than mindless party music. Nevertheless, the babes sashaying their booties in Cinderella’s “Shake Me” and Great White’s “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” more than make up for any of the genre’s shortcomings.

Pure '80s - The Ultimate DVD Box features several videos that have yet to make it to DVD. That along with the 5.1 Surround mix, as well as stereo, makes this set a must-have for any 80s/MTV aficionado salivating for the days of candy-colored spandex and wind-tunnel-tested, mile-high hairdos. As MTV unabashedly carries on espousing the youthful trends and trials of the day, one can take a step back 25 years and see how it all started out so innocently before snowballing into an unstoppable force that’s ingrained itself into pop culture.

~ Shawn Perry

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