cover image Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes

Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes

Saul Austerlitz, Author Continuum $27.95 (250p) ISBN 978-0-8264-1818-0

In this look back on the music video genre, film and music critic Austerlitz does an admirable job explaining how early pioneers like the Beatles and Bob Dylan paved the way for the Madonnas and Michael Jacksons of the 1980s, the decade in which the music video thrived. Unfortunately, Austerlitz muddles his historical narrative by arranging it more by theme than by chronology. Focusing on specific directors like Michel Gondry and Paul Hunter, topics such as comedy and minimalism, and the groundbreaking concepts and techniques of videos such as Peter Gabriel's ""Sledgehammer"" and the Sinead O'Connor's ""Nothing Compares 2 U,"" Austerlitz proves an erudite authority, clearly articulating what makes videos such as the Replacements' ""Bastards of Young"" and Guns N' Roses' ""November Rain"" so important to the canon. But this specificity comes at the expense of a broader, more sociological take: hot-button subjects such as homosexuality are addressed, but Austerlitz rarely connects these to the prevailing cultural climate. Similarly, Austerlitz's assessment can be succinct and spot-on, as in his consideration of Nirvana's legacy, but these moments are too few and far between. Still, film and music aficionados will find themselves smiling at discussion of their favorites and chuckling over Austerlitz's skewering of less successful specimens; like his subject, Austerlitz's efforts can be described as ""part disposable crap, part ... genius.""