It's the summer of 1989, and I'm just shy of my sixteenth birthday. I'm parked on the floor in front of the living room TV with a pint of Cherry Garcia, keeping the volume painfully low so as to not wake my mom, who doesn't care how late I stay up but is an annoyingly light sleeper. Still, I'm determined not to let that interfere with my late night TV habit. I'm glued to Post Modern MTV, one of the shows that I live for during my summers home from boarding school (my other favorites are Late Night With David Letterman, Welcome Back Kotter reruns, and 120 Minutes--MTV's other "alternative" music show). Post Modern MTV is where I get to see the videos from the artists and bands that I worship, the ones deemed too quirky for the channel's daytime programming, which during the summer of '89 was saturated with the likes of Milli Vanilli, Paula Abdul, Richard Marx, and Bon Jovi....music that (to quote the Smiths) said nothing to me about my life. Post Modern is how MTV redeems itself to viewers who prefer the Dead Milkmen to Debbie Gibson, and I drink it in like a fine wine cooler, eager for an antidote to the generic dance music and dull pop metal that ruled the mainstream airwaves at the time. Some of the videos that were in heavy rotation on Post Modern MTV that summer included gems like Tin Machine's “Under the God”, the Pixies' “Here Comes Your Man”, and Morrissey's “Interesting Drug”. And then one night they threw in this 4-minute slice of awesomeness that blew my mind.
Robyn Hitchcock himself introduces the video with a weird ramble about gardening tips (?). He comes off fairly eccentric and a bit cocky, which is pretty much what you’d expect from a post-punk British artist on late night MTV.
I'd never heard of Robyn Hitchcock before, but I liked him right away and I loved this song. I didn't (and don't) know who the Balloon Man is meant to be, or why it’s presumed that his name is Bruce. Balloon Man may or may not be a metaphor for….something, probably sex or drugs or perhaps nothing at all. But check out the fun nonsensical lyrics and the goofy, student film-y effects in the video and just TRY not to love it.
Bonus: a promo for MTV’s “Good News Bad News Contest” which I don’t remember at all (surprising, given the amount of late night MTV I was devouring at the time).