Tentative Video Review #2

The Making Of GTR

(released 1986)

1. Sketches In The Sun ****1/2
2. Hackett To Bits****
3. When The Heart Rules The Mind**1/2

Featuring (in order of speaking roles):


As part of the hype which accompanied their sole eponymous album, GTR created a "The Making Of ..." video which ran on MTV and was issued to the public (for a while). Merely pointing out the existence of this thing might be a sufficient condemnation -- as these reviews usually require a bit more detail, however, some further analysis is probably in order.

This is a truly frightening release, which redeems itself somewhat by placing the ridiculous history of this band in a more comprehensible light. The video's course winds through a series of talking heads, taking serious tones while speaking of the band and the album. In the standard "Triumph Of The Will" style which marks most MTV documentaries and political videos of our present age, what the participants say is less important than the fact that they are seen saying it. Howe at one point refers to GTR as a real group, and seconds later refers to it as a partnership between himself and Steve Hackett. Brian Lane can be seen making the truly Spinal Tappian observation that smaller crowds were better for the Steves at this stage. Geoff Downes shows not a hint of irony in claiming Max Bacon as a talented singer. All of this (and more) runs past the viewer in 5-15 clips, edited for an amazingly superficial/ 1980s style.

It can be said, in Steve Hackett's defence, that he looks extremely uncomfortable through most of this, and creates a few subtle chips in the superhuman aura which the video attempts to create around the band members. When he says that he's "never been in a band that's worked harder on material", there's more than one possible interpretation of what he means (especially given his jocular complaining about Queen having released several albums since they entered the studio). Amusing though these moments may be in retrospect, though, they can't justify the existence of this thing.

This promotion is divided into six sections. The first, "The Beginning", emerges past the absurdly pseudo-Wagnerian appearance of the band logo, and automatically provides a hint as to where the ultimate blame should lie. Both Hackett and Howe claim that they spoke to Brian Lane about forming a new band; Lane appears onscreen shortly thereafter and shells out a few lines of meaningless corporate hyperbole. For a record-company weasel of Lane's stature to be featured so prominently is clear sign that something was seriously wrong (although, to be fair, most viewers would probably have clued on to this some time before). Hackett, Howe and Downes share more of their bright insights into the band's formation as this section reaches its conclusion.

We then come to "The Band", a brief overview of the other three members. Jonathon Mover comes off as having nothing in particular to say; Max Bacon appears semi-lucid; Phil Spalding comes off as having a bit of pluck, completely at odds with the dehumanizing video-mythology about him. A credit to his resolve, I suppose (he also brought Mover into the band, apparently). Hackett and Howe play teasers of "Horizons" and "Your Move", and not much else happens.

"The Studio" begins with Max Bacon warning the band's followers not to eat at the (Townside?) Cafe, one of the few moments of near-irony on the work. After that, it's back to the usual nonsense -- Howe talks about running his guitar through a keyboard ("I'm not saying I'm Chopin ..."); an engineer can be seen moving a few controls while mixing "Imagining"; Geoff wears a red sweater. And that's about it.

"The Songs" is the most interesting section on the video, for two simple reasons -- performances of "Sketches In The Sun" and "Hackett To Bits". The former shows close-up's of Howe's fingering techniques, thus begging the question "why wasn't this clip put on a better video". The latter features only the Whammy-bar/"Please Don't Touch" section, and shows Hackett looking rather uneasy after its conclusion. Aside from this ... Hackett and Howe clarify what they wrote in "When The Heart Rules The Mind" (Howe: the beginning, Hackett: the chorus), Bacon and Spalding sing into the same microphone for dramatic effect, the Steves each play a bit of "Imagining" on acoustic and thereafter join in for a very brief duet.

Not much of note happens in "The Tour", save for the fact that Brian Lane emerges as the most prominent figure again, and Howe mentions that he'd like to play something like "Siberian Khatru", though probably not actually "Siberian Khatru", on the upcoming shows. And it's on to ...

The predictable conclusion, the ultra-glossy music video for "When The Heart Rules The Mind". Focusing on quick cuts and Hollywood/action lighting, this is nothing more than a typical '80s rock video, the very prototype of the styles that were so forcefully mocked by the parodists of the day. About the only things of note are (i) viewers can determine which parts were played by Hackett and which by Howe, in case the guitar tones weren't clear enough, and (ii) Hackett's costume is the blue suit which he would later wear for the Time Lapse cover. (For the truly vigilant, it should be noted that one "David Foster" is credited as the editor for the video).

If you want to see a solo, studio performance of "Sketches In The Sun", you may want to look for this video. Otherwise, it's for completists and masochists only.

The Christopher Currie

(review originally posted to alt.music.yes on 10 September 1998)

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