1980s music videos a hit at Noodles & More | SteamboatToday.com

1980s music videos a hit at Noodles & More

Margaret Hair

— As the 25th edition of the MTV Video Music Awards peers over the brink of irrelevancy, there is a place where George Michael’s Wham!, Rick Astley, Big Country and other legends of filmed music artistry live on.

On a big-screen TV in the lower-level location of Noodles & More Saigon Cafe, these men play on loop, dominating the room with their Day-Glo shorts and reminding diners of a time they hadn’t realized they’d forgotten.

“Normally, we just try to put on some sort of music; we don’t know if it’s going to get any reaction or not,” said Tu Nguyen, a waiter at the Vietnamese-family-owned restaurant that specializes in pan-Asian cuisine.

Noodles & More keeps an entire book of music DVDs on a ledge below the bar’s flat-screen, but there are two or three that have emerged as favorites: bold-colored discs of pink and blue that came from Vietnam with the restaurant’s owners, stamped with dancing girls and printed with the words, “20 Hit Disco Collection.”

These are the discs Noodles regulars seem to prefer. And since the restaurant’s owners started showing the “20 Hit Disco Collection” in summer 2007, it’s been on the screen for most of the eatery’s busiest nights. Special occasions – such as a big football game or a presidential debate – can take away the spotlight, but Nguyen said retro music videos are the most universal crowd-pleaser.

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“The great thing about these videos is that it’s not just the young or the old. Everybody likes it,” Nguyen said. “Like sometimes we’ll have the news or we’ll have football (and some people might not want to watch). But when we have these, nobody ever says anything. They just ask us to turn it louder and louder.”

1980s: When anything went

Music videos from the 1980s dished out a palpable we-can-do-anything charm that endears them to a variety of viewers. With the launch of MTV in 1981, videos came mostly from Britain, in a flow that was more an uninhibitedly creative trickle than a mainstream media onslaught, said music video director and producer Nigel Dick.

He is the creative force behind a slew of 1980s videos for British and American acts, including Guns N’ Roses (“Sweet Child ‘O Mine,” “Paradise City” and “Welcome to the Jungle”), Tears for Fears (“Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”) and The Boomtown Rats (“Drag Me Down” and “Dave”). Dick has kept a name going through this decade by directing videos for Nickelback, the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Cher and Ricky Martin. He said the novelty of music videos as a marketing and artistic tool gave the output a fresh touch.

“I think that for most of us, it was pretty much sort of an experimental period. I suppose we were all trying to find out what it was. We were all just doing what we did,” Dick said about the kind of videos that play at the Noodles bar. “There was lots of excitement about it, and there wasn’t this sort of jaded cynicism. : And in many ways, sort of anything went.”

Some directors made videos with narrative and character – such as the video for Men at Work’s “Land Down Under” – posing their musicians as the stars of small movies. Others drew from a variety of elements – such as the video for Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” – piecing together iconic images with popular songs to create a music video language, Dick said. Each method has the potential to strike a chord with music fans and restaurant patrons alike.

The allure of the retro

Dick attributes some of the recent hunger for sugary pop songs from two decades ago to a 20-year cycle of trends. He said he sees a similar re-embrace of 1980s music today as he saw of hits from the 1970s a few years before the turn of the century.

“I think the other thing – one reason why it’s particularly entertaining maybe now – is because there was a whole group of people who grew up watching that on television that are in their 30s or early 40s now,” he said. “For them, that was the youthful time that they look back to, so there’s a very powerful resonance.”

That resonance sometimes results in patrons putting tables to the side in Noodles’ small dining room so they’ll have more room to dance. Even if the cycle of brightly colored, synthesizer-heavy music videos isn’t a constant favorite for all the restaurant’s servers, Nguyen said the end result is worth having “Karma Chameleon” stuck on subconscious repeat.

“We’re very pleased about it, because when they’re happy, we’re happy, too,” Nguyen said.

  • To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204

or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com

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