STEVE PERRY, STREET TALK, 1984
First off, say "'Oh, Sherrie,' Steve Perry'" out loud to yourself.
As you can imagine, not all of the 20,000 songs are unquestionable classics. In fact, I'll bet at least 500 of them will turn out to be of dubious quality. But that's the point of a list like this: we all pick up scars and detritus along the way. I have a shoulder that goes numb a lot of the time. My right pinky toe always has a split nail. And I like it when "Oh, Sherrie" comes on my iPod.
Now, this song objectively sucks. I know this to be a fact. But every time this video came on in 1984, I watched it. Every time! This is the same year I bought Husker Du's Zen Arcade and listened to it 150 times. Some ear-worms are beyond your control.
I think that the best way to write about this song is to walk us through the truly fabulous video. It's one of my all-time faves. So click here:
We start with the big budget castle marriage, with Steve Perry looking like King Farquad. With the crown on, he looks like the Burger Prince. He then erupts in incredulity because the video is just not him, and strips off the costume at 0:56 to reveal "him." Wow-- love the tight jeans and the open shirt with the truly epic mullet. The video then does a "Spinal Tap" parody, with poor Steve Perry caught in the crossfire of the modern music industry. They need him for the video, for a meeting, to meet the press... I mean, it's just brutal. It's not as if he has just left the most popular band on the planet to launch a hubris-tainted solo career with this video, right? Who the hell do these people think he is, a famous singer? I like at 1:01 when he says "I wanted so much more" but then suggests that the big-budget setup with the "battle to the death of good and evil" doesn't fit his timeless love song. I mean, I'm sure Steve had no idea what the video was going to be about when he showed up. He had only sold 30 million Journey records-- he's a neophyte, a young, innocent newcomer. Almost virginal, if you will.
Once his manager liberates him from the soul-sucking chaos, Steve hits the stairwell at 1:55 and... BAM! That VOICE! The POWER! It's quite overwhelming. It makes everyone else go into slow motion for a moment. And what a beautiful love song it is: "Well you shoulda been GONE! / Knowing how I made you feel / And I should've been GONE! / After all your words of steel." So we have a couple that treats each other like garbage. It gets worse. They apparently make each other "burn" (someone needs to take Steve to the clinic) and he's confident that "you'll go on hurtin' me." Whee! Love! It tastes like ashes in my mouth!
Here are a few more choice highlights:
At 2:05, he grabs the railing, all angry-style. Great move. Don't screw with Steve Perry.
At 2:20, Sherrie arrives, and she is cute as a button, but at 2:45, Steve greets her with a withering look through iron gates. The symbolism is overwhelming. Something has come between them; mainly, the unnecessarily creepy bridge he's singing. "Hi, honey! Thanks for coming to the shoot. Maybe I hate you!" Sherrie has to hang out there at the foot of the stairs all hangdog and nervous for another minute and a half.
At 3:29, the production manager rips up the schedule for the day. "Those damn rocks stars and their realness! Now we'll never finish the dream sequence!" The weenie director has to be restrained by the manager! All hell is breaking loose. He's been off set for 90 seconds!! What kind of a schedule were they on? Did they have another eight minutes before the Mihalovich bar mitzvah needed the place?
At 3:36, we learn that Steve is a man of the people. His guitar player is here! After a hearty handshake, he grabs the extra's lute so he get to wailin'! And this comes twenty years before Sting turned the lute into a rock instrument!
Freeze frame the video at 3:45. Check out Steve's face. Take your time.
At 3:46, Sherrie is laughing and thinking, "My god! The BROOM is bigger than you!" I mean, seriously! Steve Perry is dwarfed by a regular house broom! Couldn't they have cut that down for him? He looks 4' 8".
Then we get 15 seconds of all the extras and crew sitting around waiting for this jackass to get back to work. They make it seem like he's been singing for six hours. It would seem that the guitar solo would lead into the chorus and reconciliation. But NO! Steve's gonna stick it to Sherrie with another creepy bridge, where the notes he hits at 4:13-4:16 can only be described as wolf howling. I love the totally inappropriate smile he flashes as he tells her how bad they are for each other.
4:23: Steve has to stay on the steps because she's three feet taller then he is. And nice jeans!
And then, paydirt! At 4:29, our lovers come together, and... Steve kisses her on the outside shoulder. It is hoooooooooooooooot. He is so comfortable around women, our Steve!
5:00-- "I kinda like you, baby." I can't tell you how many times that worked in 1984. All you needed was that and Kevin Bacon's "Let's dance!" from Footloose, and you were in there!
And he won over the crew! They love him. But then, rebel that he is, Steve walks off that damn set! Right off the damn set! Sadly, the video cuts out before the last line, which is, "Steve, don't go! The label loves you!" That kills me. It's by far the most realistic moment in the whole thing.
I was in 9th grade in 1984, and the "Oh, Sherrie" video suggested that tiny, troll-like men could score cute, chipmunky babes. I wanted, nay needed to believe it.