In August of 1985 San Francisco “cabaret no-wave” heroes Tuxedomoon took part in an interesting evening of entertainment presented by the Hamburg-based television channel NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk). The program was called “Video Night” and—possibly accidentally—sounds a hell of a lot like the program Night Flight, which cable subscribers in the United States could consume on the USA Network during the same period. Here’s a description of the “Video Night” courtesy of Der Spiegel (translation executed by yours truly):
In addition to art videos from New York and Tokyo, clips from classic Hollywood movies and amateur films, the filmmaker Marianne Enzensberger and the popular singer Marianne Rosenberg serve as moderators for several avant-garde acts. Among them are: the formation AGZ (Anarchist Rubber Cell) and the American act Tuxedomoon.
For some reason, after all of the scheduled programming was over, Tuxedomoon were obliged to take the stage in front of a largely empty hall and play a couple of tunes in the wee hours of the night, with the knowledge that the proceedings were being transmitted to TVs live. Bruce Geduldig and Steven Brown kicked off the curious performance with some gallows-humor banter, in a practice known to musicians the world over as “making the best of a bad situation”:
Geduldig: Let’s hear it for late-night TV! Ahhhhhh!
Brown: All right, is anybody still awake out there?
Geduldig: I’m sure somebody’s awake out there in TV Land.
Geduldig: There’s gotta be someone awake, Steven!
Brown: Well, I think, um. We’re, we’re called Tuxedomoon, and well, isn’t late-night TV great?
Geduldig: We’re just always saying hello. It’s like religion, you know. It’s like a new educational religion.
Brown: I don’t know if I’d go so far as that, Bruce, but myself….
Geduldig: I learned a lot, myself. I learned a lot tonight.
Brown: Well, I like to come home at four o’clock in the morning and turn on the TV and see something like this, myself….
Geduldig: This is nice for a change, isn’t it? I get tired of snow.
Brown: Well, I mean, Dallas isn’t on at two in the morning, right?
Geduldig: It’s an honor. This is an honor.
Brown: It’s an honor. Unfortunately, it’s snowing onstage.
Geduldig: Well, we’re going to go on blind faith, anyway. We’re just gonna do this, because we have faith that somebody out there is still awake.
Brown: Blind Faith couldn’t make it tonight…..
Geduldig: We know you’re awake.
Brown: Is anybody still awake out there? I hear an answer…. Hello, TV Land!
Geduldig: Well, we’re still here.
Brown: This is Hamburg calling, this is Hamburg calling. Hello world! Here we go….
Quick guide for younger readers: It was uncommon for TV to be broadcast at night until the widespread adoption of cable TV, and 1985 was still early days for that progression—this partly informs Geduldig’s mordant assumption that there really is nobody out there watching. “Snow” is what an old-school tube TV broadcasts if the unit is turned on but there is no active input—it’s a synonym for “static.” It’s what most TV channels would have played in the middle of the night. Dallas was a popular nighttime soap opera in America. Blind Faith was a British blues-rock combo featuring Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech that released an album in 1969.
There can be little doubt that Tuxedomoon really did make the best of it. Geduldig spends most of the first song, “Watching the Blood Flow,” swinging from a handy rope hanging down from the ceiling, while for the follow-up, “Reeding, Righting, Rhythmatic,” Brown consents to sing blindfolded. After the credits roll, the video jumps to their performance from earlier in the evening, which featured “Special Treatment for the Family Man” and “Hugging the Earth.”
Here’s the full page from Der Spiegel from July 22, 1985, featuring the “Video Nacht” writeup in the bottom-right corner:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Tuxedomoon’s video-art piece ‘Ghost Sonata’ is just the thing for these ‘burn it all down’ times