Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Films of Martin Scorsese Part XVII: Robbie Robertson's Somewhere Down the Crazy River

Robbie Robertson’s Somewhere Down the Crazy River (1988) *
Directed By:
Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson are friends and collaborators, so I it makes sense that Robertson would ask the best director in the world to do a music video for him. But seriously, is this the best either of them could come up with. It’s bad enough that the song is one of the worst, most cheesy things I have ever heard, but Scorsese’s video for the song is even cheesier. Seriously, I expect more from Scorsese, even if he’s just making a five minute music video.

Somewhere Down the Crazy River is a terrible song. There I said it. The verses have Robertson speaking, and trying, I think, to sound like Barry White as he talks about a girl. What does he say? I have no clue, I stopped paying attention to the lyrics after the chorus kicks in, where Robertson sings about catching the “blue train” all the way to “Kokamo” or some other crazy crap that makes no damn sense. I am not sure I ever heard the song before I watched the video for this series, and I guarantee you, if it ever comes on the radio, I will change the station immediately (the damn thing has been stuck in my head for 12 hours now, and it’s driving me insane!).

But Scorsese’s video for the song is even worse. At first, I thought we would get a standard video of the band playing the song, as the video opens with close ups on the band members hands as they play their instruments. But then Robertson starts ‘sing talking”, and the video takes an ugly turn.

Robertson is seen only in silhouette standing in front of a giant red screen. The camera then pushes in on his face, and Robertson has an almost pained expression on it as he goes into the chorus. During the verses, he tries to look “sexy”, but it doesn’t work. After the first chorus, someone joins him in the silhouette – a sexy girl dancing (how she can dance to this crap is beyond me, but dance she does). I guess the best thing you can say about her is that she is wearing more clothes than all the girls in all the rap videos combined.

The video gets worse. In the chorus, once Robertson sings the line “Somewhere down the crazy river”, his back-up singing, some idiot with a mullet sings the same line, and his giant face keeps appearing in the frame. When by the end of the video, Robertson and the girl – who is probably young enough to be Robertson’s daughter – start making out, the creepiness factor reaches a new level.

Seriously, this is what Scorsese came up with? I know it was the 1980s, and in many ways, Somewhere Down the Crazy River is no worse than most other videos of the time period. But I expect more out of Scorsese. There were some artists who were pushing the boundaries of what music videos could be at that time, but Scorsese simply embraces it with all its cheesiness. It is, quite simply, the worst thing he ever directed.


  1. Leaving a comment here to see it will post before I leave a long comment myself.

  2. Horrible "song". Probably the worst in the history of recorded music. It's just rambling talking over a dreadful arrangement.