The Game

In every circle of friends there is a game that is so wrapped up in the habits and rhythms of the group that it doesn’t have a name. Perhaps you have tried to name it, but nothing would stick. You did not know that by doing so you would have tried to grasp something unsayable about the ties that hold your group together, that by naming it you would have had to pull the thing down to hard reality, where it would have ceased to be special.

This game is not one of those games. We just play it sometimes when we happen to be sitting around watching something together (Wrestlemania maybe, or hockey) and that thing has ended but we’re not quite ready to get up. It is very fun though and I’m going to tell you about it.

To play the game you have to change your channels so that you have Much Retro. (If I may make a suggestion, why not get rid of TLC? That channel is just making you a worse person. You know I’m right.) Much Retro is a Much Music affiliate, a delightful channel that essentially plays the history of the music video, at random, non-stop, and commercial free. It is basically what MTV and Much Music were in the 1980s and 90s.

Music videos as we know them date back to the 1980s, where the first-ever music video played on MTV was, ironically Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles. As you begin to watch Much Retro you will see that the Buggles were right. It is hard to pin down the exact moment when people who made music started to be pretty first and musicians as a bonus, but it did happen.

I didn’t know that the first music video played on MTV was Video Killed the Radio Star but Tim and Sarah did. Whenever we play this game with our friends we end up demonstrating our differing ages and tastes through the musical eras and styles that we are each most knowledgeable about.

Here are the rules of the game:

When a new music video comes on, you have the four or so seconds before the information comes up on screen to yell out what video we are about to watch.

If you get the name of the song: 1 Point

If you get the name of the artist: 1 Point

If you get both song and artist: 3 points

Bonus points:

If you get song, artist, and album : 17 points

If you get song, artist, album and label: It’s like you’ve caught the snitch in that you will likely win with your added 150 points – but not like it in that it does not end the game.

The game is over when Cock Robin Plays.

Easy right? It’s super hard actually, you have very few seconds with which to work here, and then you have three to five minutes of just watching the video together before the next round.

What do you do between rounds? I’m glad you asked! I mean, it’s really up to you, but we like to talk. We talk about the music, whether it has held up, how great or bad it is, we talk about how the songs or videos affected us when they were popular or when we first heard them, and we talk about the artists, we tell our stories and the myths that we have heard about these strange creatures writhing and singing and selling their art before our world-weary eyes. These are the stories we tell:

Tim Rabnett got full points for Eric Clapton’s Layla and he explained to me, because everyone else in the room already knew, that Layla, something, and wonderful tonight, had all been written about the same woman. Three monster hits, all written for Pattie Boyd, who at the writing of Layla was Clapton’s friend George Harrison’s wife, and who was later to become Eric Clapton’s wife. Just think about all the slow dancing that has been done at all the weddings and all the office parties between all the lovers to those three hopelessly romantic songs! Talk about a face launching a thousand ships!

“How do you chose between Beatle George Harison and Eric Clapton? As Chris Connelly reports, that’s the kind of tough call many women dream about.”

My win came with Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty, I asked my friends if they remembered what a stir this video made when it came out for it’s out-of-control sexiness. I was like “Watch this, it’s too sexy!” But none of us could understand what made it so crazy sexy at all. That was because what Aguilera did with the Dirrty video would revolutionize how music videos were made. Today everybody is doing Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty bump, so to us it now seems common place, but she was actually the first.

Sarah always dominates on boy bands,  apparently too many summers waitressing on crappy patios in Niagara in the late 90s will leave you with an encyclopedic knowledge of the first 30 seconds of every big pop hit from that decade.

When the video for I Want You Back by In Sync came on, Sarah pointed out what should have been obvious but somehow wasn’t: the fact that by this point in the band’s career the producers were having trouble pointing the camera at anyone but Justin Timberlake. Close-up after close-up, it’s nothing but JT, with the rest of the boys relegated to the soft-focus background. It’s just more Justin, Justin again, another close-up on Justin, and then a closer close-up, right up the nose. I wonder if after the video was made the producers asked themselves “Do you think we got enough shots of Justin Timberlake in there?”

Andrew Johnston and Mike Paterson both somehow got Black Velvet by Alannah Myles, an important video in the history of our friendship and of the game. It changed our friendship because watching the video led to our rediscovery of that excellent summer beverage, the black velvet (Guinness and cider, layered) which we, of course, immediately renamed “little boy smiles,”

Everyone in this band has the same haircut.

It changed the game because middling Canadian musicians such as  Alannah Myles were returning with such regularity that we were eventually forced to introduce the term “You’ve been Can-Conned!” As in “Ah ha! Moist again? You’ve been can-conned!”  For times when the channel is clearly fulfilling the Canadian  content requirements, and viewers from any other country would have no idea what they were seeing.

Speaking of Canadian, nobody got Shania Twain on time, which burned us all because every one of us felt like we should have gotten it. Whenever Shania Twain comes on – often enough, as per my previous point – Mike and Andrew usually talk about how sexy her videos are, Mike saying that the first time he ever saw Shania Twain was her video “Any Man of Mine” and that he immediately dropped his pants and started jerking off. Within 45 seconds, a fan was born.

Tim Rabnett had an entirely more interesting story about Shania Twain, he told us a tale ripped straight out of exactly the kind of romance books I like to furtively read. As Mike reminds me every damn time we hear a Shania Twain song, we all know that she married legendary record producer Mutt Lange, who also produced the inimitable Def Leppard, but did we know what happened next?

As Shania Twain eventually revealed to (who else?) Oprah, she found out that her husband Mutt Lange was having an affair with her best friend (and assistant!) Not only that, but that the pain of this betrayal caused her to lose her voice! Shania Twain was no longer able to sing. But don’t worry folks, this story, just like my crappy romance novels, has a happy ending. Shania Twain overcame, she had to take voice lessons and claw her way back, but she did it. Not only that, but she fell in love again, and of course it was with none other than her ex-best friend’s ex-husband. Mutt Lange had an affair Marie Ann Thiebaud, and Shania Twain married Frederick Thiebaud, they essentially switched spouses!

So we’ve finally found a name for our other favorite game,  we call it “Twaining.”

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