Day 138: A song that you feel is greatly under-appreciated.
“New Frontier” – Donald Fagen
In other posts, I’ve talked a little bit about how I saw videos before we got MTV.
Somehow we discovered “Night Flight.” USA Network used to run the show on Friday and Saturday nights, starting at about 11:00 PM until some ungodly hour. My brother and I used to watch it together pretty regularly. While they occasionally had a movie or some interviews or something, they primarily played videos. (This was also around the same time of NBC’s “Friday Night Videos,” so on Fridays, if you got lucky, you might actually catch a video while the other channel had a commercial on.)
This just goes to show how big a deal videos were back then (even NBC wanted in on the action).
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Part of the draw of “Night Flight” (for us, anyway) was that they played a lot of videos that you might not get access to on MTV. They strayed from some of the more popular fare of the day and leaned a little more toward classic rock acts and “alternative” artists (before there was “Alternative Rock”).
“Night Flight” was the first place I heard (and heard of) INXS (which I thought was pronounced as “inks” for the longest time) and the only place I’ve ever seen the video for “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)” by Pink Floyd. I remember a bit of a fuss when they showed the “unedited” video of “China Girl” by David Bowie. (Oh my God! People having sex on the beach! Was that a nipple? I think I saw a nipple!*)
It was also the only place I’ve ever seen the video for “New Frontier.” It was a favorite of theirs for a while, getting regular rotation every week. I grew to like it a lot, but it wasn’t getting airplay anywhere else, so I sort of lost track of it.
I’ve never understood why this song didn’t do better. As I mentioned, it didn’t get a lot of airplay on radio, which I still, to this day, don’t understand. Donald Fagen was the creative force behind Steely Dan (although it was years before I knew who he was or of the Steely Dan connection). Stylistically, it’s not that far from the band’s vibe. At the time Steely Dan was broken up (and predicted never to regroup) so fans were upset. You’d think this would have filled the void a little bit. Plus, it’s just a good song with a good groove.
The song is basically about a guy who has a party in his father’s 1960s-era bomb shelter. He meets a girl, likes her, and you can guess what probably goes on from there. In the video, it’s just one girl in the bomb shelter, and it sort of reminds me of the “Let’s Do It For Our Country” scene in Grease 2, although with a much “jazzier” vibe and animations sprinkled in for good measure.
So, it remains among my favorite songs, and thus an obvious candidate for “Underrated” status. Alas, (despite a respectable play count on my iPod), to the broader public, it’s been relegated to obscurity
Maybe the video needed a nipple.