Somewhat coincidentally, the same day I happened upon James Chance in the almost heroically appropriate location of Courtlandt Alley, being interviewed on the steps of the former Mudd Club, a reader named GH weighed in on an unanswered question posed in this post about James Chance from eight months back, a tip-off that opened up a new discovery.
Regarding a selection of live videos of Chance and his band, in the guise of James White & the Blacks, I mentioned in passing that I was uncertain of the identity of his featured female co-vocalist (she above of the big hair, signature distressed Anya Phillips dress and tireless gyrations). Reader GH suggested that said vocalist was none other than fellow downtown iconoclast and No Wave scenester, Lizzy Mercier Descloux.
Now, I know about Descloux, but I couldn’t seem to reconcile that it was the same individual. I mean, for a start, her hair looks entirely different (not that that necessarily proves or discounts anything, given the adventurous tonsorial experimentations of the time). I also don’t believe she ever officially played in a band alongside Chance, let alone as his accompaniment. More to the point, though, the facial features of the woman in the Chance videos don’t seem to match up with Descloux’s. That all said, when I came upon this video of Descloux performing a skewed cover of “Fire” by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown on French television and saw her dance, I started to reconsider. They are kinda similar moves, no?
Now, unfortunately, the takeaway from all this is that I still don’t know if GH is right that the woman captured singing with Chance in those Hurrah videos is Lizzy Mercier Descloux. I’m dead sure at least ONE OF YOU OUT THERE knows for certain, so join the discussion, won’t you?
Like I said, however, this puzzle did deliver a new discovery that I felt was worth sharing here, and that is the video library of one director Charles Libin, whose last name tenuously explains my weak, Judas-Priest-alluding pun of a headline (although, to be fair, Judas Priest played the Mudd Club, too!)
Together with co-director Paul Cameron, Mr. Libin is evidently one of the first “veejays,” having helped blaze a trail into that artistic frontier in the early 80’s in cahoots with Hurrah’s. As a result, Libin and Cameron shot and posted a great selection of period-specific videos from the early 1980s and, as it turns out, those early videos of Chance at Hurrah’s were theirs. They also shot this amazing clip of Lizzy Mercier Descloux and band playing an implausibly cool rendition of the already-awesome theme from “Mission: Impossible.” It’s a trivial point, but it should also be noted how awesome Descloux’s hair is in this video.
Anyway, in addition to videos like this one above and amazing live clips by some of my favorites like Gang of Four, Suicide and The Cure, Libin and Cameron also shot some conceptual videos, and those ones speak directly to the thematic heart of my stupid blog.
Formed in the wake of the dissolution of the Japanese band, Plastics, Melon featured Toshio Nakanishi and Chica Sato, who played a more nuanced brand of pop than their previous ensemble. That’s not a knock on Plastics, by the way – whose frenetic brand of high-energy New Wave was in perfect step with the times – sorta comparable to bands like The B-52s and the Rezillos (whom they may have actually predated, for all I know). But Melon’s music dialed down the silly in favor of more expansive, conceptual fare.
A prime example of this is their cinematic clip – directed, again, by Libin & Cameron – for “Final News.” Unspooling a somewhat tangled narrative about impending apocalypse (and filmed around NYC), this 1982 video also features cameos by Arto Lindsay of DNA and the Lounge Lizards and model Anna Schroeder, both of whom also appeared in Glen O’Brien’s “Downtown 81.” Towards the climax of the clip, meanwhile, the protagonists (Toshio and Chica) seem to escape the city and head off, “Blade Runner”-style, to greener environs, amidst a montage of suitably barren and unpopulated city scenes not unlike those in the beginning of "The World, The Flesh and the Devil."
Another curious Libin video was this one for a combo called 2 Yous. Shot in 1980, this clip centers around the old TWA terminal at LaGuardia airport, with a few seeming nods to cinematic touchstones like “Alphaville” and Amos Poe’s “The Foreigner.” Brian Eno also makes a quick cameo at 02:49. It also struck me as the possible precursor of the video for “Naked Eye” by Luscious Jackson (which featured a similar retro-airport/spy-movie motif), but that might just be me projecting. See what you think.
The last Libin video I wanted to share here is just a selection of still photographs he took in the 1970s that are truly striking. Enjoy.