1988 Countdown #77: Foreigner, “I Don’t Want to Live Without You”

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I love Foreigner the way I love my microwave oven. The oven’s clunky and utlilitarian, and I don’t even use it that often. But when I nuke a bag of popcorn, or fill my eyes with that double vision, it makes me happy beyond all reason.

Alas, this song isn’t one of the GE Spacemaker II’s better efforts. It’s an over-synthed ballad that’s clearly trying to follow up on the band’s last big over-synthed ballad, “I Want to Know What Love Is.” But while that one came out on the other side of the children’s choir with an improbable majesty, this one is just goopy and overwrought. (And so, of course, it hit #1 in the adult-contemporary format.)

By the time this track was released, singer Lou Gramm was busy launching his solo career (which apparently was meant to coexist with the band, but that never really works, does it?). His single “Midnight Blue” had the punch of classic Foreigner; it hit #5 in 1987 and is one of two ’87 videos that I bitterly regret came just a little too early for this countdown. (The other one, of course, is Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.”)

Anyway, Foreigner don’t appear anywhere in this video. (Given the way they looked like an accounting firm in the “I Want to Know What Love Is” clip, it may have been a smart move for them to return to their classic “faceless” image.) What we get instead is a total clip job: lots of short footage taken from nature films and old Hollywood movies.

The video starts with stock animated footage of planet Earth from space (and a misspelling of the single’s name–MTV renders the title as “I Don’t Wanna” rather than “I Don’t Want to,” a sign of how little attention anyone was paying at this point). Then a volcano erupts, a raindrop falls, cells squirm around, a mushroom grows through the miracle of time-lapse photography, and a frog expands its throat in dramatic fashion. Lions and gorillas lead to a clip from an old Hollywood movie, apparently set on a riverboat, where the leading lady drops her handkerchief to entice a man.

If this video came out today, it would have its own Wikipedia page where fans would identify every single animal and starlet. Knowing some references but not others, I feel very pre-Google.

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Peacock footage, then back to the riverboat, where our leading lady gets her handkerchief back. Popeye and Olive Oyl vanish into the tunnel of love. Joe DiMaggio kisses Marilyn Monroe. Giraffes rub their necks together. An actor lugs around an actress like she’s a bag of laundry. A WWII sailor kisses a girl. An ox (I think) licks the ear of its young. B&W movie kiss. Fred Astaire in a hotel room, spinning around with a chair and mooning over a photo of a girl.

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As we roll into the chorus, an actor who might be Ronald Reagan looks jealous as a girl gets kissed in front of him. Betty Boop gets a ring from a man with a villainous mustache. A beauty queen admires her own ring. The young Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Philip wave to the crowds on their wedding day. A couple at their wedding reception spin around the dancefloor on rollerskates. None of this seems to be bolstering any emotion in the song.

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A new sequence: a fertilized ova, a human fetus in the womb (with lovely golden lighting–why can’t all sonograms look like this?), a squalling infant, and then a monkey mother holding a simian baby. Movie clip: octuplets and a shocked father fainting (I’m going to guess this comes from Miracle at Morgan’s Creek).

The sun rises. A cell splits in two. The raindrop falls again, and the frog does its freaky throat thing again. Two iceskaters spin around on the ice. Some guy kisses Myrna Loy’s neck. An ostrich flaps its wings. A black-and-white movie star carries his girl through a swank apartment. Penguins hang out on the ice while two orca whales surface behind them. Elizabeth Taylor kisses Eddie Fisher for the cameras; he’s wearing a yarmulke. A cartoon wooden soldier has his heart spring out of his chest. More actress-carrying: this time, she gets deposited onto a bed. Two herons hop about. Animation of a “1 Karat Ring,” which has an actual carrot.

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Communion (presumably at a wedding ceremony, given the other clips), a straw-hatted boy stealing a peck on the cheek from a farm girl, a bride and groom walking on a tightrope, balancing with large poles. More movie kisses: in soft focus, on a train platform, on a front porch, in color, with John Wayne, with billowing smoke.

A bird sits on the back of a walking calf. Spencer Tracy picks up a kicking infant. A lioness licks her cubs. One last black-and-white kiss, and then we finish with the same shot of Earth we started with.

You hardly ever see this type of video anymore. It’s not just that it seems lazy and uninvolved, a memo to fans saying “Hey, we couldn’t be bothered to make a video, so our record company just slapped something together for us.” It’s too expensive now: with the amount you’d have to spend these days to clear the rights for all these old movie clips, you’d be better off just hiring some hipster animator.

“I Don’t Want to Live Without You” hit #5 on the Billboard singles charts–Foreigner’s last single to hit the top 40. (They had sixteen of them–just one more than Pat Benatar.) You can watch the video here.

posted 14 October 2008 in 1988 and tagged , . 3 comments

3 Comments on 1988 Countdown #77: Foreigner, “I Don’t Want to Live Without You”

  1. Chris M. Says:

    Speaking of faceless videos and 1987 hits that came just a little too early for this countdown (I think), this is actually the followup to the first single from this Foreigner record, “Say You Will.” If “I Don’t…” could be packaged in a white box labeled Generic Foreigner Ballad (a la “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” which I think this resembles more than the exquisite “I Want to Know What Love Is”), “Say You Will” could be labeled Generic Foreigner Uptempo Semi-rock Track (a la “Urgent”).

    If memory serves, Gramm and Mick Jones made appearances in that black-and-white clip, but they were brief shots in the midst of a montage of sexy images that had nothing to do with the song, or anything. I bring all this up only to point out that none of Foreigner’s videos at this point contained much band participation, and they suggest that maybe the problem was Jones and Gramm having their (later well-publicized) falling-out, probably over Gramm’s solo career. I have to imagine Jones was furious Gramm didn’t bring a song as great as “Midnight Blue” to the band.

  2. Tom Nawrocki Says:

    The archetype of this genre is the video for “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen. I thought it was a stupid gyp back in 1982, when MTV played it constantly, and I think it’s a stupid gyp now.

  3. John Says:

    Any idea what the movie was with woman dropping handkerchief? Ive tried searching anywhere and cant find..

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