Hello. I’m Gavin Edwards, contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the author of Last Night at the Viper Room, the ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy series, and (with the original MTV VJs) the New York Times bestseller VJ. I live in Los Angeles. I like caffeine, boardgames, and lists with three items.

1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #26

(New to the countdown? Catch up here.)

ad2601MTV goes to commercials and plays a promo for Michael Jackson.

“He’s been bad!” says MTV Voiceover Guy, as we watch Jackson dancing in black leather and buckles. “He’s been smooth!”–a quick cut of him from “Smooth Criminal,” white fedora rakishly tilted over one eye. “Now he takes his own image on!”–tabloids with names like the Intruder are piled onto each other, with headlines such as “MICHAEL AND DIANA SAME PERSON,” “JACKSON’S 3RD EYE STARTS SUNGLASS FAD,” “MICHAEL WEDS ALIEN.” (I note that in the grainy black-and-white image of the alien, it looks like a young boy with a hat, sunglasses, and a funky collar.)

As we see an array of stop-action animation, MTV Voiceover Guy continues, “Witness the world premiere of an animated fantasy, the latest video from Michael Jackson, ‘Leave Me Alone,’ debuting on MTV 5, 8, 9, and 10 pm eastern.” Jackson was never so happy as when he was starring in a movie fantasy: one of the things I remember best from viewing the contents of Neverland when it was put up for viewing before an aborted auction was the vitrines he had commissioned from Disney craftsmen that contained classic scenes of their movies, in some cases with Jackson himself now incorporated. (For example, Pinocchio meets the Blue Fairy while just outside the window a Jackson marionette does a little dance.)

We see a huge stadium filled with a crowd, presumably Michael Jackson fans: somewhere between fifty and ninety thousand people, I’d say. “And cap off the week with MTV’s Michael Jackson Sunday,” MTV Voiceover Guy says. “Including scenes from his brand-new home video, Moonwalker. Only on MTV.”

For many years after Jackson’s commercial peak, MTV was still trying to curry favor with him–in 1988, he was still a big star, but as the years went by, it was mostly out of habit. This clip played three hours ago if you were watching the countdown live in 1988, and years have passed since I wrote about it last in this sporadic web project. Jackson has died since I started recapping the countdown, which makes it play somewhat differently: where once “Leave Me Alone” seemed like a contradictory come-hither from the star of countless attention-seeking videos, now it feels like a sincere, if confused, plea.

ad2602 A new commercial! A team of five people with black jumpsuits and severe haircuts stride through what appears to be a hallway in a spaceship. “What will the future bring from Nintendo?” the announcer asks. We actually know the answer to this: the GameBoy, and later, the Wii, but what he was looking for was “More hits like The Legend of Zelda!” The walls puff steam and eject Nintendo controllers into the jumpsuit crew’s hands, and then we see some blocktastic computer-game graphics. Whatever important intergalactic mission the jumpsuiters was on is abandoned as they play videogames. The tagline: “Now you’re playing with power.”

ad2603Another new commercial! This one is for the VHS release of The Presidio, which I have never seen. Judging from this short ad, I feel confident saying that it stars Sean Connery, Mark Harmon, and an upside-down car on fire.

ad2604We wrap up our commercial break with spots from our local cable provider, UA-Columbia Cablevision: a Season’s Greetings message and the commercial for the pay-per-view Royal Rumble. Then an animated bumper: a squiggly line interacts with various bits of public-domain clip art, in an updated version of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python cartoons. We see a scientist, an alarmed maiden, a woman with a butterfly net, a stomping foot, an miner with a pickaxe, a milkmaid swinging on a rope, and a family watching TV. The squiggle briefly turns into an MTV logo, and then gets sucked up by a vacuum cleaner.

posted 4 March 2014 in 1988. 3 comments


Twenty_Feet_From_Stardom_posterLast night’s Oscars were almost exactly the baseline of what one can expect from the show: a few surprises (but not too many), a middle-of-the-road hosting job by Ellen (neither exceptionally bad or good, which was a pleasant change after some recent hosting debacles), a reminder to catch up on some of last year’s movies before they forever go into the Netflix queue. (Plus a glorious and well-deserved triumph for 20 Feet from Stardom.) Before we all agree to put this recent batch of awards shows into the memory hole, a few relevant dispatches: (1) My rundown of who was closest to EGOT now requires an update, since Robert Lopez has completed the show-biz grand slam. (2) Jared Leto, who pretty much began his awards season by sitting down with me, ended it last night with an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club. The Rolling Stone website has both my profile of Leto and an extended Q&A.

posted 3 March 2014 in Links, Outside. no comments yet

Rolling in the Deep, 2/26/14

rs1202Life as a content provider: I have been busy the past two weeks providing content, including a bunch of pieces for the Rolling Stone website. You might enjoy my interview with David Lynch (in which he reveals his love of ZZ Top), my report on the excellent live reading of Pulp Fiction at LACMA, my news report on the “Fall Out Bird” game, my list of anti-love songs as counter-programming on Valentine’s Day, my rundown of twelve people who are close to achieving the EGOT, or my report on the estate sale held by Exene Cervenka of X (who was both charming and much more politically conservative than I expected). In the print magazine’s latest issue, I had a short dispatch on Foster the People and contributed some quotations to the cover story on the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman, drawn from the interview I conducted with him in 2005.

posted 26 February 2014 in Outside. no comments yet

Incredible Deal on Last Night at the Viper Room

lastnightsmallIf you read books on a Kindle, or via Kindle software on your phone or your tablet of choice, and if you never got around to my most recent book, Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind (which the LA Weekly called “enormously compelling”–more reviews here), then you are in luck. Amazon is having a one-day sale: today only, you can buy the electronic version of Last Night at the Viper Room for just $2.99. Purchase, download, read, enjoy!

posted 25 February 2014 in Buy My Stuff. 2 comments

Friday Foto: Empty Garden

I am not generally a superstitious man. I don’t think twice about the number 13, black cats, or the danger to my mother’s spine should I step on the wrong section of sidewalk. But the last couple of years, I have had a private Beatles-related superstition. It started when I bought a set of four pint glasses, each decorated with the image of a different Beatle (circa Let It Be). Every time I stacked the dishwasher, where glassware sometimes goes to die, I worried that if the John Lennon glass was the first one to break, it would be a spooky reprise of his being the first Beatle to die. I wasn’t obsessed with this–if I had been, I could have just put John on a high shelf–but it was a frequent, brief, morbid thought.

Last week, I knocked the John glass off my desk. It landed on a carpet, but broke anyway. I know it’s just glass and there was a 25% chance of this happening, but I am officially a little weirded out. If the next glass to break is George Harrison’s, then I will actually put the final two away, because I don’t want to be responsible for a kitchen mishap designating either Paul or Ringo to be the next Beatle to die.

IMG_7979Inspirational wisdom from Run-D.M.C.: “There’s three of us but we’re not the Beatles.”

posted 21 February 2014 in Photos. no comments yet

Rolling in the Deep, 2/12/14

rs1201I am still wrestling with my Big Deadline, but may I bring you up to date on some of my writing in recent weeks for Rolling Stone? I wrote about Against Me!, both in an article for the magazine and in an online interview with Laura Jane Grace (né Tom Gabel) and James Bowman. I interviewed Damon Albarn of Blur and the Gorillaz about his forthcoming solo album, Everyday Robots. I attended the David Lynch Foundation tribute to Ringo Starr, filing both a report on the evening and a micro-interview with Ringo. Then I attended a Grammy ceremony honoring Neil Young and transcribed his excellent acceptance speech (which couldn’t get across the full flavor of his humor, but it’s still cool to read) and grabbed a micro-interview with Neil as well. There was a fusillade of other Grammy reports: a report on Clive Davis’s annual night-before party, a rundown of all the pre-show awards (at an odd but convivial not-on-TV ceremony–to file that one, I had to walk across the street to the Staples Center and use the free wifi there before the Grammys telecast started), and a short dispatch on what happened at the Staples Center that you couldn’t see on TV. In addition, I wrote about the British Invasion episode of the Sixties documentary on CNN produced by Tom Hanks, the huge mural commissioned by Foster the People, and the late Pete Seeger. And I filed a bonus interview with the Swedish DJ known as Avicii.

But if you want check out one piece that I’m responsible for in the past month, I would recommend my gallery of some of the greatest performances ever on Soul Train. It’s all great stuff, but I particularly recommend the James Brown showcase (especially “The Payback”), the Smokey Robinson duet with Aretha Franklin, and the four (!) songs Al Green did with a hot live band. Enjoy!

posted 12 February 2014 in Outside. no comments yet

Tomato! (Tohmahto!)

Shaun White is on the halfpipe today in Sochi (no spoilers here!). If you want to flash back to his first Olympic triumph, eight years ago, you can read my Rolling Stone cover story on the Flying Tomato here. “I need a Crunk Juice glass with diamonds on it,” he told me. Something that didn’t fit into the article: I was in the green room of Regis and Kelly with Shaun White and his entourage, as were INXS, who had just recruited a new lead singer, J. D. Fortune, via the Rock Star: INXS TV show. Fortune worked the room, shaking everybody’s hand, clearly thrilled to be there, while the veteran members of the band kept to themselves, vaguely glowering from being awake too early. I was very careful to not identify myself as a representative of Rolling Stone to Fortune, because I was afraid that if I did, he would try to tell me his life story.

posted 11 February 2014 in Archives, Articles. no comments yet

Friday Foto: Shrine Auditorium

IMG_7601 - Version 2Photographed on December 8, during the second night of the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas. The Shrine hosted the Oscars a few times about 25 years ago–it’s looking a little dilapidated now, but it’s still a beautiful building.

posted 24 January 2014 in Photos. no comments yet

Rolling in the Deep, 1/14/14

rs1200Hello and happy new year, citizens of the world. I am currently finishing up a big project (more details to come very soon), so there won’t be a lot of activity around here for another two weeks or so. (But after that, Rule Forty Two bonanza!) You may, however, be interested in some of my recent writing for Rolling Stone: a feature on the Swedish DJ known as Avicii (in the current issue of the print magazine, but also available on the website), a conversation with Stevie Nicks at her home (with video!), a goofy speculative squib on the secret project being cooked up by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, and a Q&A with the divine Rosanne Cash.

posted 14 January 2014 in Outside. no comments yet

Rolling in the Deep, 12/27/13

songskeylifeFor your reading pleasure, some of my writing for the Rolling Stone website in the past month. I attended the annual KROQ Christmas show, with eighteen bands playing over two evenings. Night one had more guitar oriented-bands, such as Queens of the Stone Age and Vampire Weekend, while night two had more dance music, such as the great Capital Cities, and finished with the Arcade Fire. I hung out in the kitchen of Stevie Nicks and interviewed her about American Horror Story (there’ll be more material coming from that interview soon). I interviewed Snoopzilla and his collaborator Dam Funk, and got a contact high just by being in the same room (no lie). And I had the great privilege of attending Stevie Wonder’s three-hour performance of all 21 compositions on Songs in the Key of Life (plus an extra unreleased song, possibly from the Key of Life sessions, called “Living for Your Love.”) A moment that didn’t make it into that writeup: John Mayer leaving the stage, and without thinking, waving goodbye to Stevie.

posted 27 December 2013 in Articles, Outside. no comments yet