Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.
This issue we will cover "Rappin' Rodney" by Rodney Dangerfield. This song was part of Dangerfield's 1983 comedy album of the same name. Dangerfield was at his peak in the early '80s following Caddyshack and his previous comedy album titled No Respect. The Rappin' Rodney album would peak at #36 on the Billboard album charts and receive a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Recording. The song "Rappin' Rodney" includes some of Rodney's best punch lines from his act, but with a chorus and some background singers. He's not really rapping, just delivering punchlines that rhyme along to a beat. It was actually co-written by J.B. Moore and Robert Ford Jr. who had worked on some hit rap records including "The Breaks" by Kurtis Blow. The single actually peaked at #70 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January of 1984. Part of that could be to the exposure it received from the music video being played regularly on MTV. I don't consider this a true rap song by any means, but this could be considered the first rap song by a white male artist to hit the Hot 100 at a time when not many rap songs were crossing over to the pop charts at all yet.
The music video for "Rappin' Rodney" was directed by Alan Metter who went on to direct several films including Back to School which also starred Rodney Dangerfield. I had the pleasure of an interview with Alan Metter (who has since passed away) and asked him about how he ended up directing the video. Here is a portion of what he had to say:
Rodney and I had the same lawyer and he put us together. It's funny, but when Estelle Endler, his manager, took me to meet him she spent most of the car ride "preparing" me, saying things like, "No matter how difficult the talent may be, it's worth it to work with them" and, "When you talk to the press, nothing is off the record." I thought I was meeting Ahmadinejad. I wrote the video and then produced and directed it. At the time it was the highest budget I'd ever had for a video, so we had plenty of time to shoot it, three days I think, maybe four. It was the first film he'd ever done and he was just great to work with. It was a big hit. Rodney started bringing projection equipment on the road and used the video as his opening act. For the video, Dangerfield is preparing for his impending execution while delivering some of his classic self-deprecating jokes as rhymes. He surprisingly doesn't find any respect throughout the whole process. Poor Rodney can't even find respect in the afterlife as he's banned from entering the pearly gates. Luckily, he wakes up to find out it was all just a bad dream. Watch for cameos in the video from Fr. Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) and Pat Benatar (as the masked executioner). Here is the music video for "Rappin' Rodney" by Rodney Dangerfield...
Rodney doesn't really do any dancing himself, but it is interesting to note that "Rappin' Rodney" was choreographed by Billy Goodson, who was one of the dancers in Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video. So there were certainly some credible individuals involved with creating this song and music video. If you 're a fan of Dangerfield's comedy, he hits some highlights within the song. And that chorus, it can definitely get stuck in your head if you're not careful. I am sorry if you start humming "No Respect, No Respect" later.
Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!