Garageland “Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?”

This video didn’t used to be online, but there’d been enough written about it that I could kind of review it from memory. But now that it’s been uploaded, well, there’s even more to write about.

But first, this video features nudity. Totally NSFW. Also, I’m not 100% sure if this video eventually had NZ On Air funding as it’s only in one of the three lists I use. But nonetheless, this vid is still worthy of a few paragraphs.

In their early days, Garageland made fun, colourful pop videos, but they sometimes got a little edgier with their later releases. Still, their previous video, “Gone” was a funny low-budget vid that imagined a world where Garageland were big in Asia. But things changed with “Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?”

It was directed by Myles Van Urk, the man behind “The Trip” compilation albums of “alternative grunge” from the early ’90s, and his own foray into the world of pop with the 1994 track “Sanctuary”. This time Myles was taking Garageland into the world of live nude girls.

The video is a slick extravaganza, filmed in black and white and set in a strip club. The video even started with opening titles, crediting the band and the video’s director. And then came the strippers. Crotches thrust at the camera in an erotic fashion. And the boobs – the troublesome boobs.

The nudity meant it didn’t get to screen much in its unedited form. I remember seeing it screened on a late-night music video show, given all truckload of promotion because boobs. The nippless version was still restricted to after the 9.30pm watershed. But the world’s cruel reaction to his artwork seemed to take Myles by surprise. He had, after all, just wanted to create a video that was “beautiful, simple, hedonistic, ironic, potent and most importantly rock’n’roll”. Yes, ironic strippers.

As Myles explained in a 2001 statement, “It was never a question of ‘eek, let’s put some tits in here and make the video really edgy and controversial'”. No, the video just happened to end up like that.

Funnily enough, in a TVNZ article on the matter, all the producers of music video shows quoted were sympathetic to Garageland. They liked the video, they wanted to play it, it’s just that it was inappropriate for their audiences and time slots.

Myles mused, “Perhaps it’s naive to consider the music video one of the last free mediums where art and commerce don’t collide.” Lolz! Music videos are precisely all about the sticky collision of art and commerce. As the NZ Herald commented at the time, “We here thought music videos were exactly the point where art and commerce not only collide, but end up lap dancing with each other.”

So how did the “Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?” video affect Garageland’s career? Well, it created a largely bemused reaction in the media. The single didn’t chart and the album it was taken from was to be their last. But, you know, Garageland were still cool.

The lesson: you want boobies in your vid? You must pay the price.

Director: Myles Van Urk
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Neil’s day off.

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