How Video Rentals Helped Me Enjoy Music.

Odd title, isn’t it?  Don’t worry, all will be made clear soon.

Remember forever ago but also not that long ago when we would all rent videos? See kids we would rent videos. A video is… A VHS is… A VCR is… A store is… I can’t explain all of it, if you’re reading this and under 30 ask someone older to explain.

In the glory days of grocery store VHS rental areas and mom and pop corner video stores there were curated sections. A good shop took some time and care in placing each movie in the correct section. Silence of the Lambs could be in horror, drama, or thriller depending on your local clientele. Cartoons are for kids and lets place them all under a bright sign with balloons, but maybe Fritz the Cat goes under adult comedy.  Either way, there were sections and the forbidden fruit was the horror movies. Mom and Dad are going to say no to renting, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t look at the box art and imagine gore far worse than the low budget splatter inside. It was scary but also fun and safe. There is no slasher killer and after the initial terrified viewing the strings start to show and keen eyed children spotted the make up, the switchero, the proof that this is all just a story. Because movies are always a story.  Screenwriter credits, actor credits, rows and rows of credits for every hand that helped create the movie.  It’s known even at a young age that this is fantasy.  Same with television, same with books.  Yet somehow music is left out and perceived as truth.

Yes, music can be inspired by true events. Much like Titanic was inspired, but we all know that Jack and Rose didn’t exist. I’m sure Taylor Swift has had her heart broken, but the truth of what happened does not necessarily make for a good song.  So embellishments are made, this story is merged with that story.  Another writer adds to it.  A hit single is born.  The telephone game from original event to your FM station demands and causes change.  And that’s great.  That’s how good stories and entertainment are born, cultivated, and released to the world. I’m sure John and Paul wanted to hold someone’s hand. Cyndi Lauper and her friends did just want to have fun. But music is not a documentary. Michael Jackson did not fight gangs, deny fathering a child, then turn into a zombie but damn if Thriller is not a great album.

Thinking of music not as “pop”. “rock”, “metal” and all subgenres within but instead thinking of it as “romance”, “drama”, “fantasy” and other sections from the video stores allowed me to open my mind to more music.  Especially in the rock and metal worlds.

One example from this past year led to me opening my ears to music that’s been around for decades. From the moment I heard “Cirice” from Ghost a few years ago I was hooked.  What a great sound, what a hook, what a look. Then I turned introspective. The band’s dark/black mass look/gimmick was playing havoc with my deep rooted Catholic beliefs. Am I supporting something I’m against by listening to this?  Then this new mindset came over me and I realized how ridiculous I was to think otherwise.  The Exorcist did not lead people to the devil or demons. Nor Amityville, nor the Omen, and on and on.  To make music that is horror or thriller or anything else inspired is no more real than any falling in love or break up song.  It’s a song, it’s a story, it’s entertainment.

I’m simplifying the following example, but stand by the point.  Take a child of Jewish immigrants and bring him to America. Sit him down and hand him rock n roll, comic books, and the black and white Universal monster movies.  What else do you think you’re going to get out of that but KISS? Gene Simmons isn’t a demon, the name does not stand for Knights in Satan’s Service.  It’s about putting on a costume to feel like you’re a star (or the Star Child) and entertaining the masses.

Ronnie James Dio originated the “devil horns” adopted by the metal community. Thus he becomes a scapegoat.  With such offensive songs as Rainbow in the Dark.  Terrible things.  Or.  Or the devil horns was his grandmother’s superstitious move to keep away bad juju and “Rainbow” is about himself (the former singer of Rainbow) not getting along with the rest of Black Sabbath (the Dark) when he was a member.  To go back, a real event inspired and was then adjusted to make for an interesting song. But in the end, fiction and entertainment.

Accepting this as entertainment allowed me to enjoy the new singles from Ghost in 2018 and my wife bought be the latest CD, Prequelle.  Its a prequel alright, what if Ghost was around in the 1980’s.  Everything from the Cold War, the Satanic Panic, dance numbers in videos, and the over abundance of synthesizers.   Its more about a throwback to the things we loved in the 1980’s like Stranger Things and less to not at all about creepy monsters lurking like, um, Stranger Things.

If I said, oh remember that guy in the 1980’s who would tell a creepy story and he looked like a monster, had a weird voice, but once you got used to the voice you loved the morality tales he was telling?  Am I talking about the Crypt Keeper or King Diamond?

To go back to the 1983 example from yesterday’s post, King Diamond as lead singer of Mercyful Fate’s Melissa album sings about all sorts of creepy things like one could find in Adventure Time, or a Raven focused episode of Teen Titans.  But those are cartoons on television and he looks creepy and music is “real”.  Or it’s all fiction and storytelling and should be enjoyed as such.

For those of you who got this far and still have no interest in any music like this, that’s also the point! We can walk into the video store together, leave together, maybe even have the same account. But while we’re inside I’ll go to the sections I’m drawn to and you’ll go to yours, but both of us are more than aware “its only a movie”.


It’s only a song.

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