Now here’s a really interesting video. One which tells a story, complements an already great song and was quite ahead of its time. As is often the case, the great songs and videos often get discovered by accident. I first heard Donald Fagen’s ‘New Frontier’ whilst listening to BBC Radio Lincolnshire, which was (and still is) my local radio station. I didn’t care for most of the music that was played on there, since its target audience seemed to be the over-50s but there was always the odd AOR/MOR gem like Prefab Sprout’s ‘Nightingales’, ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ by The Korgis and this little pop/jazz fusion treasure. I think they call these songs “guilty pleasures” nowadays.
It was a while before I saw the actual promo which accompanied ‘New Frontier’ but I remember it very clearly. My sister and I decided to video record (this being the mid 80s) a BBC2 six-hour special called ‘The Video Jukebox’ which focussed on the power of the video and how it had changed over the years. One part of this great programme centred around animated promos and ‘New Frontier’ was one of the videos featured as well as the similarly fantastic ‘Genius Of Love’ by Tom Tom Club. I really like the idea of this secret bunker where the two protagonists in the video would have a fantastic, yet sweetly innocent time and there’s a nice contrast between this and the threat of war. The animated sections are really bizarre and clever and the 1950′s themes of course were beautifully nostalgic even then.
In my typical ignorance as a young child, I had no idea then that Fagen was a member of 1970′s duo Steely Dan and certainly wouldn’t have suspected that their name came from a dildo in a William Burroughs’ novel. So in later years I eventually sought out the album from which ‘New Frontier’ came, 1982′s ‘The Nightfly’ (now reissued again as part of a new Fagen boxset) and wasn’t disappointed. I then checked out Steely Dan’s back catalogue and discovered they were not only one of the smartest groups in rock but also their songs had a timeless warmth and the kind of killer key changes which can be heard in the aforementioned Prefab Sprout and another of my favourite 80′s bands, China Crisis.
Prefab Sprout, China Crisis, The Burning Effigies, Drayton Michaels