More on ‘The Odyssey Network’

Some time ago while posting the series “Favorite Music Videos” I mentioned a UHF-type overnight music video station broadcasting out of Cocoa Beach, Florida called “ODYSSEY” or “The Odyssey Network.” Before writing that post I had searched online for hours–unsuccessfully–looking for some information about the music service, both to give more insight about it and also to provide a link for more information.

I’ve had several readers since weigh in with their recollections of Odyssey. While I’ve enabled their comments here, I wanted to share the contents of a Billboard magazine article dated March 16, 1985 about the channel. (My thanks to “cj” for sending me a Comment with the link. I apologize for the delay in acknowledging it.)

Here is the article, reproduced in its entirety:

Odyssey Surviving Without Advertising
(New Music Video Service Claims Eight Million Viewers)

By Faye Zuckerman

LOS ANGELES With a viewership claimed at nearly eight million, the fledgling Odyssey Network 24-hour video music service still reports losses at $250,000 monthly, has incurred startup costs nearing $2.5 million, and has yet to secure any advertising revenue.

In fact, admits Tom Shaw, director of programming for the Cocoa Beach, Fla. based network, ‘We have received zero revenue from advertising.’ He adds. however, ‘When we went on the air Jan. 5, we had zero affiliates, and expected to pick up 400,000 viewers in 35 days.’

By Jan. 6, Odyssey had reached the 400,000 subscriber mark, airing on selected cable services and VHF and UHF tv stations. Three days later, Shaw says, the network saw its viewership jump to three million. ‘We projected reaching that figure in two years,’ he notes.

When will the supposedly advertising-supported music service break even, and can it stay afloat until then? Shaw contends the parent company, Nova Communications Network, is committed to keeping the channel alive for at least two years. ‘We have enough money to stay broadcasting for two years with selling a single ad,’ he claims.

Odyssey’s Shaw expresses confidence about securing advertising dollars for the two-month-old network, which he notes is just now approaching Madison Ave. with market research on its operations. Its programming primarily features urban contemporary music, with some pop mixed in, according to Shaw.

He admits that getting a foothold in the advertising arena might not be as easy as securing affiliates, especially when the programming is free. ‘It’s a step-by-step process. First we needed subscribers. Now it’s time to get the advertisers by making them aware of us and who we are reaching,’ Shaw observes.

‘We are the first national 24-hour music service on-line and broadcasting to areas not yet wired for cable. Many of our viewers are getting exposure to clips on a constant basis for the first time.’

Odyssey’s only other competitor to date is Discovery Music Network, which will go on-line June 1. A spokesperson for the channel says that company officials are not ready to say how many tv stations or cable services it has secured.

Odyssey Network currently boasts of having already signed broadcast contracts with 93 cable services and 24 television stations, nine of which are network affiliates. Participating stations include WRBV in Philadelphia, Tulsa’s WGTV, Salt Lake City’s KUTB and KTNV in Las Vegas.

The television stations generally air the channel six hours daily. Shaw says certain ABC and NBC affiliates broadcast the music channel as late night programming. ‘CBS provides after-hours tv shows for its stations, so they didn’t sign on with us,’ he explains.

Thus far, Odyssey’s programming hasn’t attempted to match the programming style of MTV, the premier 24-hour music video service. There are no VJs, no contests, few voiceovers and only one special segment, a top 12 video countdown.

Odyssey airs clips back-to-back, with designated unsold advertising spots. By early fall, Shaw plans to start featuring a VJ. ‘We have already started a nationwide search for one,’ he adds.

‘We are getting negative reactions to VJs,’ Shaw contends. ‘Only the record companies seem to like them because they promote their artists.’

As for MTV’s exclusivity pacts with several major record labels, Shaw asserts that Odyssey feels little if any impact. ‘Many of the artists we feature are not included in the agreements. We don’t care about waiting out a grace period. Most of our viewers are not cable households anyway.

‘Besides, maybe a 24-hour music service will come along and offer record companies a better price for videos.’ Meanwhile, Odyssey prides itself on airing a combination of urban and suburban video fare not generally shown on MTV or its sister service VH-1.”

While this article is certainly a big help in understanding how Odyssey began, it tells only part of the story. What happened to it? Did it merge with another service, or did it just fade away?

If anyone knows of, or has any more knowledge about the Odyssey Network, please send it along in the Comments section. Thanks in advance.

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My Favorite Music Videos, Part Twenty-Two: David Lee Roth’s ‘Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody’

A video that’s probably best known for poking fun at other videos makes up today’s “Favorite Music Videos” offering.

David Lee Roth gained prominence as Van Halen‘s lead singer in the mid to late 1970s. His crazy stage and video antics–as well as his great talent for not taking anything too seriously, including himself–provided a great comic persona that music video really needed in its early days. Many video artists took themselves quite seriously…it was a pleasure to watch a clown who could also sing and had a certain sex appeal.

Unfortunately, Roth’s ego and personality evidently did not sit well with the rest of the band, and he left in 1985, eventually replaced by Sammy Hagar. While many liked the new lineup, most of the band’s fans still longed for Roth’s return.

From Roth’s Wikipedia entry:

In early 1985, while still a member of Van Halen, Roth released “Crazy From the Heat”, a popular solo EPof off-beat standards. Singles for “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” succeeded largely due to their innovative music videos (produced by Jerry Kramer and co-produced by Glenn Goodwin and Bobby Diebold), which featured ridiculous characters created by Roth and his Creative Chief Director, Pete Angelus, who’d previously directed Van Halen’s Roth-era videos.

On April 1, 1985, Roth and Van Halen parted ways. In his 1998 autobiography, Crazy From the Heat, Roth characterized Van Halen’s music just before his 1985 departure as “morose”. Roth wished to record an album quickly, tour, and then shoot a movie, (for which he hoped Van Halen would record the soundtrack. The film, entitled Crazy From The Heat, was budgeted at $20 million by CBS Studios; however, the project folded after the consolidation of CBS Studios.

Some of the musical artists lampooned in this video include Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, Willie Nelson, and Boy George of the 1980s band Culture Club. It’s well thought out and conceived, and is amongst the funniest I’ve ever seen. Roth is particularly gifted in that he knows how to play to his audience for laughs and isn’t above using slapstick, much like the comedic performances of greats like Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke.

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(If the video won’t load or play click here.)

Some things you might not have known about David Lee Roth (again, from Roth’s Wikipedia entry):

In April 1993, Roth was arrested in New York City’s Washington Square Park for buying what he described as “$10 worth of Jamaican bunk reefer” from an undercover police officer. The arrest made headlines and became a late-night television punch-line. When asked by Howard Stern whether the bust was a publicity stunt, Roth said, “Howard, in New York City this small of a bust is a $35 traffic citation. It literally says ‘Buick, Chevy, Other’. Your dog poops on the sidewalk, it’s $50. If I was looking for publicity, I would have pooped on the sidewalk.”

In March 1994, Roth released Your Filthy Little Mouth, a musically-eclectic album produced by Nile Rodgers. The album failed to achieve positive critical or commercial success, proving to be Roth’s first solo effort not to achieve RIAA Gold or Platinum status shortly after its release. The support tour found Roth playing smaller venues in the U.S., and larger venues in Europe. Your Filthy Little Mouthsaw a remastered re-release in 2007.

In 1995, Roth returned with an adult lounge act, performing largely in Las Vegas casinos, with a brass band that featured Nile Rodgers, Edgar Winter, and members of the Miami Sound Machine. It also featured several exotic dancers, who in Roth’s words were “so sweet, I bet they shit sugar!”

In the late 1990s, Roth trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in New York City, and worked as one for some time. He occasionally told stories about his experiences as an EMT on his 2005 radio show, which replaced Howard Stern’s legendary radio show, after the latter moved to satellite radio.

In 1997, Roth wrote a well-received, New York Times best-selling memoir, entitled Crazy From the Heat. The 359-page book was whittled down from over 1,200 pages of monologues, which were recorded and transcribed by a Princeton University graduate who followed Roth around for almost a year. The book received mostly positive critical and reader reaction, and helped to reinvent Roth’s image as a popular wit and adventurer, with a bon vivant personality.

in 2012 Roth rejoined Van Halen. The reformed band released A Different Kind of Truth, their first full-length studio album with Roth on board since 1984 and a huge commercial success.

My Favorite Music Videos, Part Twenty-One: ‘Til Tuesday’s ‘Voices Carry’

Sometimes being good isn’t good enough…it can be hard to catch lightning in a bottle more than once.

An good example can be found with today’s entry in the Favorite Music Videos series, ‘Til Tuesday‘s 1985 hit “Voices Carry.” The song is haunting enough…but the clever way the music and lyrics are linked to the story told in the video easily make it one of my favorites.

That story features the band’s lyricist and singer Aimee Mann and her involvement with a high-society pretty boy who doesn’t understand her blonde spiky hair with braided rat tail, the punk/new wave style of dress or the music she plays with her band (the rest of ‘Til Tuesday), and wants her to conform so she can better fit in to his upper-class society. After several attempts to rebuff her style he confronts her, forcing her to sexually yield to him.

As the video ends we see the couple seated amongst a well-dressed audience at a Carnegie Hall concert, waiting for the performance to start. Mann’s partner turns toward her and his eye falls on the braided hair tail, and he pulls his arm away in apparent disgust. Slowly at first she starts to sing along with the song’s words–“He said, shut up! He said, shut up! Oh God, can’t you keep it down?”–her voice gets louder and louder and soon she is standing and has removed her hat, revealing her spiky blond hair, while he is hiding his face in his hands. By the end she is waving her arms and enthusiastically belting out the words.

(If the video fails to load or play click here.)

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Early success came with a price for ‘Til Tuesday. The band did not have another major hit after “Voices Carry”…and although they were critically acclaimed, the record sales steadily declined. They had disbanded by the 1990 release of their third album Everything’s Different Now, mostly due to Mann’s departure to pursue a solo career. She was hampered by the band’s contract with Epic Records, however, which prevented her from releasing her first solo album (Whatever) until 1993. Since then she has released seven more solo works and has contributed to various tribute albums and soundtracks.

Mann remains very active in writing, recording and releasing music, as well as the occasional television or film appearance.

My Favorite Music Videos, Part Twenty: ZZ Top’s ‘Gimme All Your Lovin”

The next entry in the Favorite Music Videos series features three fashion models, three men–two with long beards, one without–in dusty clothes, wearing Wayfarer sunglasses and playing guitars and drums, respectively–and a certain customized bright crimson 1933 Ford Coupe.

ZZ Top was a band with a certain following–not hugely popular, but like many bands it had its niche–and despite robust record sales, platinum records and a few moderately successful hit singles it could not grab the attention of the mainstream fan. How that all changed when guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons’ red hot rod made its debut appearance in this, the first of the band’s hugely popular themed music videos.

1983’s Gimme All Your Lovin’ was the first video to feature Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard (notably, the only one without a beard) as a sort of trio of magical wizards who take the side of the hero–a character that is bullied and oppressed, generally from a domineering manager or business owner–and turn the tables in the hero’s favor.

The band’s appearance is definitely unique: Gibbons once told the story of how the three men checked into their rooms at a posh Las Vegas hotel…and as they entered the lobby, which was brimming with drag queens in full attitude, garishly caricatured overdeveloped bodybuilders and celebrities awash in high fashion–instead, all heads turned toward them. That the band was not only able to market its offbeat style but to also shape themselves in a way that screamed “cool!” was one of the keys to both the band’s music and video successes.

Like others such as Robert Palmer, Duran Duran and Michael Jackson, ZZ Top was a major force in shaping the beginnings of the music video genre.

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Eliminator, the album the song came from (and that also contained the hits “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs,” and “Got Me Under Pressure”), had some controversy associated with it, according to Wikipedia:

According to former stage manager David Blayney (15 years with ZZ Top) in his book, Sharp Dressed Men, sound engineer Linden Hudson co-wrote much of the material on the album as a live-in high-tech music teacher to Beard and Gibbons. And, despite continued denials by the band, it settled a five-year legal battle with Hudson, paying him $600,000 after he proved he held the copyright to the song “Thug” which appeared on Eliminator. David Blayney further described, in his book, the role Linden played in the process of planning and preparing Eliminator. This was well demonstrated in the writing and making of a demo of the song “Under Pressure”. Billy and Linden wrote the whole song and created a recorded demo all in one afternoon without either Dusty or Frank even knowing about it. Linden created the bass on a synthesizer, created drums on a drum machine and helped Billy Gibbons write the lyrics; Billy performed the guitars and vocals. David Sinclair, of the London Times, described in his book The Story of ZZ Top how Linden Hudson drew Billy’s attention to the possibility of using a drum machine for the final recording of the Eliminator album. Deborah Frost, writer for Rolling Stone magazine, described in her book ZZ Top – Bad And Worldwide how Linden Hudson researched popular song tempos, then presented Billy Gibbons with the results of his studies. Linden’s data suggested that 120 beats per minute was the most popular tempo in the rock music market at that time. Billy decided to go for it and recorded most of the Eliminator album at that tempo.

My Favorite Videos Part Nineteen: Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’

The newest installment in the Favorite Music Videos series is Cyndi Lauper‘s 1983 hit “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.”

This work is one of the early landmarks of the music video genre (like many that we’ve seen collected here). Wikipedia says this about the song:

The song was written by Robert Hazard, who recorded it in 1979. He wrote it from a male point of view. For Lauper’s version, she changed the lyrics slightly to allow it to be performed by a female and Hazard approved the minor changes. Her version appeared on her 1983 debut solo record, She’s So Unusual. It is a synthesizer-backed anthem about the roles of women in society and is considered by many to be a feminist classic of the era. Gillian G. Gaar, author of She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll (2002), described the single and corresponding video as a “strong feminist statement”, an “anthem of female solidarity” and a “playful romp celebrating female camaraderie.”

The variety of releases of the single includes an Austrian birthday card with a 3″ CD of the song inside. The song has been heavily distributed in karaoke version as well. Lauper later went on to completely re-work the song in 1994 resulting in the new hit “Hey Now (Girls Just Want to Have Fun)“. The song was remade by Lauper yet again in 2005 on her The Body Acoustic album, also produced by Chertoff and Wittman with Lauper, with guest support vocals from Japanese pop/rock duo Puffy AmiYumi.

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(Try this link if the video fails to load or play.)

Some interesting facts about the video include the very low cost of its production…and that Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels lent the crew his state-of-the-art (for that time) video editing equipment for its post-production:

The release of the single was accompanied by a quirky music video. It cost less than $35,000, largely due to a volunteer cast and the free loan of the most sophisticated video equipment available at the time. The cast included professional wrestling manager “Captain” Lou Albano in the role of Lauper’s father while her real mother, Catrine, played herself (Cyndi would later return the favor by appearing in WWF storylines opposite Albano and guest-starring in an episode of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, where she announces Albano is missing because of a letter he wrote her, with part of it torn off leaving out an important detail). Lauper’s attorney, Elliot Hoffman, appeared as her uptight dancing partner. Also in the cast were Lauper’s manager, David Wolf, her brother, Butch Lauper, fellow musician Steve Forbert, and a bevy of secretaries borrowed from Portrait/CBS, Lauper’s record label.

Lorne Michaels (Broadway Video, SNL), another of Hoffman’s clients, agreed to give Lauper free run of his brand new million-dollar digital editing equipment, with which she and her producer created several first-time-ever computer generated images of Lauper dancing with her buttoned-up lawyer, leading the entire cast in a snake-dance through New York streets and ending up in Lauper’s bedroom in her home. The bedroom scene is a homage to the famous stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers’ film A Night at the Opera.

Before the song starts, the beginning of her version of “He’s So Unusual” plays.

The music video was directed by Edd Griles. The producer was Ken Walz while the cinematographer was Francis Kenny. The treatment for the video was co-written by Griles, Walz, and Cyndi Lauper. The video was shot in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in summer 1983 and premiered on television in December 1983.

My Favorite Music Videos Part Eighteen: Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’

Robert Palmer was a semi-successful recording artist in 1985 when he released his eighth album, Riptide. He had worked with various artists–Little Feat, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rogers and Tony Thompson of Chic, and Duran Duran amongst them–and had spanned several different musical styles, from New Orleans funk to jazz-rock to R&B to blues.

He formed the band The Power Station in late 1984 with Edwards, Rogers, Thompson on drums, guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor, both of Duran Duran. The resulting self-titled album went platinum. He began work on Riptide in early 1985 and recruited Andy Taylor, Edwards and Thompson to play on the record, with the latter two also working as producers.

He struck gold when his video for “Addicted to Love” was overwhelmingly successful. Film director Ted Emery discussed how Palmer might have gotten the idea:

We got so many warnings about him. We were told ‘this man is not mainstream, he has a message’. His song was Doctor Doctor so I made the film clip, got all these models in lipstick and swimsuits. He came into the studio and all the dry ice starts flowing out and the models with the guitars start moving. Palmer looks around and the record company guy starts panicking. It hit the fan like you wouldn’t believe. We had to pull it all down, change the look of the studio. Years later he used it in a film clip.

The “models with guitars” were all that most people remembered and were talking about when director Terence Donovan’s music video for that first album single was released.

Imagine five very attractive women, dressed nearly identically–each in a plain black long-sleeved dress with a small black studded belt, black stockings and pumps–each with dark hair pulled back, dark eye makeup and bright red lipstick. These are the drummer, keyboardist, lead guitar, bass guitar and rhythm guitar. They sway back and forth in time with the music, each staring blankly ahead, very rarely at the camera, and with only a very few changes of expression.

Of course they aren’t really playing the instruments. Those that thought the women to be attractive and perhaps even sexy in a cooly detached way probably weren’t too concerned about that.

Palmer lip-synced along with his vocal, moving convincingly as he performed, dressed fashionably in a black tie, white shirt and black pants.

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(Try this link if the video above won’t load or play.)

With this video and the two similarly-themed ones that followed–“I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” and “Simply Irresistible,” from his 1988 album Heavy Nova–Palmer cemented his place in the Music Video Hall of Fame as an early pioneer in the medium, and a creator of a theme that has been parodied and imitated many times since.

A heavy smoker, Palmer suffered a heart attack in September 2003 and died at the age of 54.

My Favorite Music Videos, Part Seventeen: Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ (with Chevy Chase)

There are performance music videos and then there are…mock performance music videos. As I’ve said before, most performance videos aren’t very good, if the only purpose of the video is to show an artist/band doing just that. The worst part of the performance video is usually–they’re not really playing the instruments.  But it’s set up to look like they are.

Many videos show the subjects “playing” instruments…but that’s usually in the background and not the point (or plot) of the video. It’s more to show us the band members and give them some face time.

Today’s video, 1986’s “You Can Call Me Al,” features Paul Simon and Chevy Chase “performing” the video. The best part is Simon starting to lip-sync the lead vocal track–then, upon seeing that Chase has instead taken over the vocals, he quits with a hurt betrayed self-pitying look on his face.

Along the way Simon “plays” a penny whistle, a saxophone, a conga drum and a bass guitar along with the appropriate musical parts in the song.

Chase, meanwhile, really overplays his part, with exaggerated hand gestures and comical facial expressions.

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(If the video won’t load or play for you, try this link instead.)

Wikipedia says this about the video:

Paul Simon did not like the original music video that was made, which was a performance of the song Simon gave during the monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live in the perspective of a video monitor. A replacement video was conceived partly by Lorne Michaels and directed by Gary Weis, wherein Chevy Chase lip-synced all of Simon’s vocals in an upbeat presentation, with gestures punctuating the lyrics. Chase, at 6’4″, towered over the much shorter (5’3″) Simon.