I decided I wanted some goth boots recently (read: became obsessed with buying black Dr Martens to go with my cherry reds). By way of tenuously connected research, I took to YouTube to watch a lot of old Marilyn Manson videos. Starting with my favourites from 1998’s Mechanical Animals album, which I bought in the week of its release in Bristol’s Virgin Megastore, and which was one of my first album loves. It remains one of my greatest loves frankly, it’s a glorious album and still sounds new, even almost 20 years (gosh) later. The eternal teenager in me still thinks the Dope Show video is the coolest thing ever. Twiggy’s gold catsuit, I guess…
(A couple of weeks ago the BBC screened The Man Who Fell to Earth as part of their Bowie-programming. I’d seen the film before many years ago, but never clicked until now that the opening of the Dope Show video was a homage to the opening of that film.)
From Mechanical Animals I drifted further back, back into the real raw-goth Manson days of the mid-1990s. I watched the videos for Lunchbox and Dope Hat and realised I’d actually never seen them before. This often happens when I’m scratching around on YouTube at music I first got into as a teenager. Music videos are so everywhere now, it’s easy to forget that 15-20 years ago if you didn’t have MTV (i.e if your parents didn’t pay for cable) there wasn’t really any way to see them. Even if you had internet access, it took like 9 hours to download a 4 minute mp3 off Napster, there was no way you were going to be watching videos. Sometimes, by the late 90s, CD singles included the video, which would play when you put the disc in your computer (the Dope Show CD single actually had this function), but it wasn’t very common. Occasionally, a TV show (Top of the Pops, or one of the Saturday morning magazine shows) would screen a video in lieu of a live performance, but usually only the big chart singles. And that was really it. Lots of music-fannish people my age seem to have a story of finding a rare source through which they could briefly watch MTV, on holiday in a hotel for example, and this being astonishingly mind-expanding.
I was often vaguely aware of what the videos were like. Fans who had seen them would post descriptions in online forums, sometimes someone would post some stills. This in particular made the Dope Hat video seem familiar. But I had never seen it in full. Often these days, when listening to new music, I am as familiar with a video as I am with a song (thanks, YouTube), but in those days it was just the music itself that crept into your head. By the time YouTube and its ilk came along, I’d forgotten a video would have even existed. Incredibly, this actually happened with the video for Nancy Boy by Placebo: despite this being one of my favourite songs for the best part of two decades, I only watched the video for the first time last year. So I often have these little revelations. And I love it. It’s like experiencing the joy of the discovery all over again, with an extra dimension.