For all the ballyhoo around VH1 Classic rebranding itself as MTV Classic, the channel’s programming still doesn’t include very much music. In fact, most of the programming seems to date back only to the ‘90s, after the network began transitioning from actual music television to youth-culture oriented reality programming. If your nostalgic tastes run towards Pimp My Ride, The Real World, and Cribs, well, great, hunker down and binge. But if your trip is musical discovery, may I point you in the direction of the new streaming channel launched this year—to much less fanfare—by Night Flight?
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you missed something amazing. From 1981-88, during the weekend’s wee hours, the USA cable network aired Night Flight, a four hour block of weirdo-culture programming that often defied easy categorization. Random bumps were culled from the most shocking scenes from John Waters films and strange old out-of-copyright cartoons, music from the backroads of post-punk subcultures was given a fair hearing—including but not limited to the late Peter Ivers’ incredible New Wave Theatre, profiles of outré performers were produced, and cult movies were aired in their entirety, including the punk documentary Another State of Mind (Who would have guessed back then that not only would Social Distortion be a band forever, but that they’d become SO HORRIBLE?), the not-to-be-missed proto-Riot Grrrl satire/drama Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, and The Clash’s classic Rude Boy. For that era’s weird kids who lived in flyover country, without access to the coasts’ record stores, clubs, and cinematheques, that basic cable freakshow was manna from heaven.
In recent years, Night Flight‘s creator Stuart Shapiro resurrected the show’s name and logo as a web site that shows a similar—if perhaps a tad less edgy as seen several decades later—curatorial point of view, and they’ve launched Night Flight Plus, a subscription service for Roku devices and web browsers. The subscription premium is quite cheap—$2.99 a month or $29.99 a year, for which you get a wealth of goodies—concert films, music documentaries, tons of “B” horror and other offbeat films, plenty of Night Flight’s original programming, and, to my delight, The Best of New Wave Theatre, a rare VHS compilation released by Rhino back in 1991, which has never, to my knowledge, legitimately been released on DVD or Blu-Ray.
Here’s a couple of clips of intact segments from the show, to give a sense of Night Flight’s musical sensibility and its ability to devolve into utter randomness, and both clips leave the commercials in place, which kind of cracked me up. I’ve followed those with an excellent episode of New Wave Theatre.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Do you remember ‘Night Flight’?’
‘The Filthiest Person Alive’: Divine profiled on ‘Night Flight,’ 1986
‘We use the music as an exorcism’: Cabaret Voltaire takes over ‘Night Flight,’ 1985