Jan 232009

In the early ’80s, when Mick Jagger was wearing football pants and knee pads on stage, he did a lot of running around in public. I thought I could easily find him running, dramatically and symbolically in Stones videos, but this is the best I could find. You’ll see Mick run – for dramatic effect – 3 minutes and 15 seconds into this meandering clip. It’s not an impressive display, but he’s acting. We’re better off thinking of Mick in those football pants and knee pads, running because The People demand a great show!

The “getaway” trot is a common reason for rock artists to run in videos, tying back to the long tradition of musicians on the run, whether from the law or adoring fans. For a historical perspective, see the characters of White Christmas on the run at the start of that holiday classic for the former and The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night for the latter.

At the 1:15 mark in her “Human Behavior” video Bjork begins to pick up pace as a bear pursues her through the woods (or are she and the bear the same?)…she’s got a “girly,” floppy arms motion, possibly in part owing to her stylish, floppy outfit…at 1:25 she abandons her floppy trot for flying (later she does a mean backfloat, making this possibly rock’ first triathalon event). She lands in a tree, but when the branch breaks she falls into a darkened country road and must duck under an oncoming car driven by the bear. Relieved to escape a certain death, she resumes trotting through the woods, this time with a precocious Little Red Riding Hood gait.

The root cause of the getaway trot may be something more profound, however: the attempt to run from one’s demons. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ singer Anthony Kiedis gives shirtless running with a tight ponytail a bad name in the video for “Under the Bridge.” Let’s talk a look at a clear example of the inner demons-inspired rock trot.


As Kiedis revisits familiar haunts, there’s a growing sense that the man’s inner demons are in pursuit. Finally, at the 3:15 mark, Kiedis is seen bursting through his own head, which had already been superimposed over the cover of John Lennon‘s Imagine album. Arms-a-pumpin’, ponytail-a-flowin’, the initial impression is that of Jim Thorpe getting back in touch with his Native American roots for a Hertz Rent-a-Car commercial. Soon, though, this impressive imagery is diminished by the jiggling of Kiedis’ budding manboobs and clear lack of triangulation where the midsection meets the hips. Immediately following this sequence, he’s put on a black tank top and is wrapping himself up in his arms, as if in shame. Coincidence? A closing gesture meant to comment on the serious lyrical content of the song? I think not. The remorseful body language is similar to what we see from a runner-up in an athletic event. Although he gives it his best effort, Anthony’s not the shirtless, ponytailed runner he used to be.

For some, a wedding day can unleash a can of demons, as demonstrated in Greg Kihn Band‘s, “Jeopardy.” At the 2:12 mark, with his bride and wedding guests turning into zombies, Kihn makes a frantic, awkward dash down the aisle. His form is poor before he’s mercifully dragged back into the zombie mix.

NEXT: Closing thoughts.


  24 Responses to “Bands on the Run”

  1. saturnismine

    I’d like to see a video for the Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run” that shows them doing exploding plastic inevitably interpretive running, all wasted and artsty-fartsy like.

    Wait a minute…no I wouldn’t.

    This is wonderful stuff, mod.

    The Beatles are miraculous runners. They manage to broadcast the same cheekiness while running that they are known for at post-trans-continental flight press conferences: more evidence that their deity-like status is well deserved.

  2. saturnismine

    very lame-assed pince-nez: isn’t the Christopher Cross song called “Ride like the wind?”

    either way, i’m glad not to see him run.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    Has ANYONE ever seen the ’60s Stones movie, Charlie Is My Darling? I was hoping to find clips of the Stones running away from fans for a separate Beatles-Stones analysis, but there was nothing on YouTube and the like.

  4. Mr. Moderator

    There’s no better use for the Pince-Nez than something that lame. No need to apologize, Sat!

  5. saturnismine

    Thanks for your approval of my nez pince-ing.

    I can’t remember if there’s any running in “Charlie is…”.

    I saw it back in the early 90s, when potato still had no “e” on the end, if ya know what I mean.

  6. Re Absolute Beginners: Will the awesomely stupid use of backward filming (the jumping out, then back into, the red smoke) be the subject of a future thread, or should we discuss it now?

  7. “Lately I’ve been scouring YouTube to find videos showing actual rock musicians in the act of running”

    I’m impressed that you have the balls to have written this line in a public forum.

  8. BigSteve

    The Beatles run kind of androgynously, no? Most rockers didn’t spend a lot of time in gym class, probably acquiring whatever running skills they might have by running away from bigger guys.

    There’s lots of comical running in the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage video:


    I love the sound of the backing track on that one, the vocals and the video not so much.

  9. Mr. Moderator

    How could I have overlooked “Sabotage,” one of my favorite videos ever? Thanks for bringing that one to the table, BigSteve. How’s Denver?

  10. BigSteve

    Denver yesterday was great — sunny and warm. Today there was snow, but you know it’s January, what are you gonna do? It has a surprisingly uncongested downtown, and many, many brewpubs. In general The West kind of creeps me out, but I’m hanging in there.

  11. alexmagic

    Mod, I’m sure everyone admires and appreciates the amount of work you’ve put in on this subject that, no doubt, we’ve all be pondering for some time now. Something I’m surprised that you didn’t note in the Jam running review: Buckler is wearing a shirt with racing stripes on it. Clearly, he came into the Jam Relay expecting it to be a serious competition, which probably accounts for why he’s so angry that Weller called a timeout to skew the race results.

    Doing my part for the efforts here, I’ve gone back this morning and reviewed the pertinent running sections of A Hard Day’s Night. There are two scenes worth noting: the intro and the Can’t By Me Love interlude/track meet.

    During the intro, we see that John has terrible form, running with his arms flailing about wildly. George has an arguably more unorthodox form than John: he runs with his left hand either in his coat pocket, or hovering just outside his coat pocket. I believe, in running circles, they call this a Half Napoleon. Maybe he had a pack of cigarettes in his pocket and was afraid they’d fall out. Famously, George trips and takes a header in the intro, wiping out Ringo behind him. Later evidence may suggest that Ringo is lagging by choice here. When we see the three of them making their final run for the train in the intro, Ringo displays a more natural runner’s form, while John continues to flail about. Note here that Ringo passes the other two and gets into the train first.

    Paul sits out the first heat but shows up during the “Can’t Buy Me Love” events. Early note: a shot of Ringo barely jumping for comedic effect comes later, but when the Beatles all vault over the pile of junk at the bottom of the fire escape, Ringo displays a natural, almost animalistic pounce.

    As they take the field, Paul is down for business, quickly shedding his jacket. Does he feel he has something to prove here, having been forced to miss the first round? In the same moment, John tries to throw off his hat and falls hard on his ass. Paul looks back for a second, spying weakness. Lennon immediately tries to compensate; he takes off for a long run away from the rest and sprints back, his hat now blowing off. About three quarters of the way down, he appears to get winded like Weller would find himself years later. As he runs back, his arms windmill, and he almost does a header face first into the concrete. McCartney strikes back, running at double Lennon’s speed, likely making fun of him as he windmills and does an intentional tumble to the ground. Is this the moment Paul took over as the leader of the band?

    Next, the four of them line up for a relay. George and John are in traditional starting stances in the middle, while Paul and Ringo stand at the outsides, probably exchanging smirks. Paul doesn’t run, instead pretending to kill the others with an imaginary starter’s pistol. Ringo outruns the other two, even in fake death.

    When we next see them, capering in pairs in the concrete square, Paul and Ringo have paired off again, while John and George are partnered once more. I think we’re seeing evidence of the Varsity and JV Beatles squads.

    After they box for a bit, we see a full race. Paul disappoints here, sort of leaping in the back. He’s not going all out, perhaps afraid to lose face to Ringo. John is running at full steam in the lead, but his bad form costs him again, as he tumbles and Ringo is wiped out for a second time. George, having fallen earlier, easily navigates this Beatle bunch-up and sprints ahead for the win.

    Next is the jumping competition. Ringo does his hop, having nothing to prove. George and John show considerably better form than Paul during their jumps, as Paul isn’t taking this thing very seriously. It’s a bit disheartening, as he makes a joke of the whole thing by bounding around quite a bit.

    My take on the Beatles as runners, based on available evidence: Ringo is by far the best runner, with the surest mix of form and athletic skill, but a questionable drafting strategy. John may be the fastest, but terrible form and surprising clumsiness cost him greatly in the field. George seems to be the worst athlete early on. Evidence on Paul is inconclusive: he shows signs of speed and acrobatic skill, but he’s dogging it intentionally throughout. Conclusion? Paul and Ringo need to race each other in 2009, to determine once and for all which Beatle was the best runner.

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    No, No, NO, Mod! Look carefully at the scene where Buckler smashes the clock. Your explanation of what’s happening here completely misses the point, since BUCKLER IS NOT SMASHING THE CLOCK WITH A DRUMSTICK. He’s using a hammer! Yes, it’s true — a hammer! YouTube might not provide the frame-by-frame detail required to see this, but I assure you that’s what he’s deploying; I slowed down the DVD to analyse this moment in detail when I got the Jam DVD box set, so iconic a moment it is in the band’s video history.

    This hammer-smashing-clock scene has gone on to acquire tremendous importance to me as I explore my feelings about this band. Am I disgusted by the fakery of it? Did they try earnestly to do the smashing with a drumstick and fail (and, if so, where are the outtakes)? Is this somehow a comment on the plight of the working man; an exhortation to rise up and smash the system that keeps you tied to the clock from nine to five… using the tools they give you to build their God-damned war machine? What’s going on here?

    I appreciate your desire to examine Running In Rock, but, as I say, you’ve missed a crucial detail in this clock-smashing scene. Your carelessness threatens to up-end your entire analysis.



  13. give this a whirl Mr. Moderator:
    you’ll wish you haden’t!

  14. Mr. Moderator

    Kilroy, you’re a genius! You too, Alexmagic. HVB, my deepest apologies for missing the hammer, if I did indeed miss that. I’ll have to see if I can get a screen capture of that for the record. This may change everything.

  15. saturnismine

    it’s definitely a hammer.

  16. Mr. Moderator

    The “Absolute Beginners” single preceded the release of The Gift, right? I was noticing that the split-screen graphic I created for this analysis seems to tie into that later album’s cover. Note, too, how the band members are organized according to the Olympic medals ceremony placement that would have followed the “Absolute Beginners” race!


  17. 2000 Man

    One thing this thread is helping to prove is the apparently endless gaffe goldmine that is Mick Jagger’s solo career. Can’t he get Bill Cosby to buy all his old videos so they won’t be seen anymore?

  18. trivia:
    Let’s Work was the first commercial video produced using Hi-Definition technology.

  19. mockcarr

    I suspect a video for the Jam’s Running On The Spot went nowhere.

  20. How about the video for The Pixies’ “Velouria?”


    I recall that MTV only showed it once; they disliked it so much.

  21. Mr. Moderator

    Great find, Doctor!!! Slo-mo rock running. Now that’s cool.

  22. AlexMagic,
    Great Beatles analysis, but don’t forget that the extreme high shots of the 4 Beatles includes a ringer Ringo. Ringo was sick that day of shooting, so it’s 3 Beatles and a stand-in for Ringo in the scenes where it’s too far to see their faces. For all we know it may be a marathon runner from Kenya portraying Ringo.

    Don’t Costello and the boys run around like pigeon-toed dorks in Oliver’s Army?

  23. Mr. Moderator

    Wow, Chickenfrank, Elvis takes off at the 1:25 mark but not the rest of the band:


    It’s possible, though, that they all run on one of those other Help!-like videos they made at that time.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube