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Rock on film roll

Arindam Chatterjee on how Aerosmith videos gave an entire generation goosebumps and the power of music caught on film.

art and culture Updated: Jun 01, 2007 16:31 IST

A train raced down the tracks. A man with long, flowing hair came out of nowhere and struck a mean pose with his guitar, in front of it. I had a premonition of the guy being crushed. His death was staring at me from the television screen. I wanted to reach out…

"Somebody tell him that the train is nearly there," I shouted, unknowingly. Did he hear my call? I would never know but he moved away at the last second. I was 14 and that's how I was first introduced to lead gui tarist Joe Perry in the video of the song, Livin' on the edge, from the seminal Get a Grip album and the legend of Aerosmith.

It was the band that managed to capture our imagination in the early '90s by redefining the language of music videos.

And Get a Grip was our stairway to the magic of visuals, riding on the intoxicating pull of bluesdrenched rock. Each video - starting from Livin' on the edge, Cryin', Crazy to Amazing - was like a mandate on teenage angst in suburban America. Cutting across cultural barriers, Steven Tyler's sexually charged pyrotechnics interspersed with short, structured storylines touched a raw nerve.

<b1>And then, there was Alicia Silverstone - feverishly making love to her boyfriend on a motorcycle in Amazing or jumping off a bridge at the climax of Cryin'.

Subsequently, Silverstone moved on to films while Aerosmith went ahead with their follow-up efforts, which honestly never quite lived up to the intensity of Get a Grip. However, the videos left behind a deep impression that forever changed the viewing habits of music lovers.

Can we blame Aerosmith for making us more aware about the visual culture propagated through stoic, animated imageries? Though it is difficult to arrive at a simple conclusion, many would certainly point out the influence of DVDs on both Gen X and Y.

"Since I am a musician I prefer a DVD version of a particular album over an audio CD. The best part is that you get to watch and feel the performers playing in a live setting. It somehow translates into a first hand experience," says bassist Nitin Mani of The citing Supersonics, favourites such as Pink Floyd's Pulse, U2's Go Home and Jimi Hendrix's Live at Woodstock.

To elaborate his point, Mani also gives the example of a 2005 Grateful Dead tribute concert, which he was then part of as a member of Krosswindz.

"Frankly, I was not very wellacquainted with the repertoire of Grateful Dead. For a month, I tried to pick up various Dead numbers by listening to a cache of their albums. Just before the show, I saw two live Dead concerts, which helped me more than the month spent listen ing to albums. I learnt so much about the band and its music."

His band mate Ananda Sen informs that DVDs also mean value for money. He picks out names such as Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense and Grateful Dead's The Closing of Winterland, which would otherwise not be found in audio format. Sales executives at city music stores talk about the popularity of the sparse DVD titles on offer.

Nevertheless, the city still nurtures fans that swear by their audio CDs. "If I want to watch a spectacle, I will watch a DVD. But when I seriously listen to an album, I prefer the audio medium. I would rather concentrate on the music and not get distracted by the visuals," says Jayashree Singh of Skinny Alley.