Time for a cleanse, and what better way to get my thoughts back on track than with a Masterpiece YouTube. Only this one is a little bit different; it’s actually so bad that it’s a masterpiece. It’s like a masterpiece of banality.
That’s So Jacob Presents
Episode 18: “Tell Him,” The Exciters, 1963.
Ever since I finished reading the book Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound by Alan Betrock, I’ve been playing “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “Be My Baby” in my head. But one of the most forgotten gems of the 1960s girl group scene is none other than “Tell Him,” by The Exciters, featuring lead singer Brenda Reid.
On the surface, this is probably one of the most banal, boring, and unfortunate music videos of all time, set to the tune of one of the best songs of all time. Seriously, there is so much more they could have done. As in, literally, anything. This entire video can be summed up in one sentence: some people went to the zoo and sang to the animals. But since this is Masterpiece YouTube, let’s break it down. Keep in mind that this “music video” was made way before the advent of Final Cut Pro or iMovie or even the Internet.
We open on a bear. Aww, yay, a nature video! Wait…not so fast. The camera then zooms out to show the Exciters singing to said bear, wearing fancy red dresses and suits, looking terribly out of place for a day trip to the zoo. Then we go back to the bear, who listens for about a half second before walking away, because he is a bear and cannot understand the concepts of love or music or the English language. The camera goes back to the singers, and then to the bear, who appears to clap along, but then at 0:36 is all, “…Did you not get the memo yet? I’m a bear. A BEAR. I still do not understand what you are doing with your hands and your mouths. Forget it, crazy humans. Bye.”
Bear walks away.
Brenda and her crew head over to the lions’ den, and you can actually see the lion in the background running out of the shot, as if to say, “no way I’m going to be in this dumb video, bye.” Then the camera zooms in on him. (LION: “What did I just tell you people?”) Then he has a change of heart and goes back into the frame, following Brenda, as we cut to some swans, who are more interested in some food in the water than the talented lady singing near them.
Then comes the weird part. I’m talking, super weird, like Three Men and a Baby weird. The camera zooms in on Brenda, but there is someone in a white dress, who may or may not be a ghostly spectre just standing there. Stock still, quiet, and probably unaware that he/she is being filmed. Seriously, you couldn’t have chosen another angle or edited the person out? What was the budget, $7.50 and some Fruit Roll-Ups?
Swans? Still eating.
And now, the really weird part, and the kind of dizzying one. The Exciters have now gotten on one of those turntable thingies you find on playgrounds, and finish the song while in a slow revolve, with Brenda’s eyes following the camera when she comes back around to it.
So, there you have it. Weirdest one-hit wonder music video ever. Kind of a shame, too, because the Exciters were really good, especially Brenda. Speaking of Brenda, when I first saw this video on YouTube awhile back, someone commented saying something like “wow, this is really good, whatever happened to the lead singer?” and someone named “breid1976” or something responded “thanks for the compliment…that was me, my name is Brenda Reid, I’m a mother and grandmother now, and I’m still singing…glad you enjoyed it…” That version of the video has been taken down, and the comment along with it (I looked, and could not find it). No word on whether that YouTube user actually was Brenda Reid or not, but it’s quite possible; as far as I know, she is still alive and well at age 70. It also seems like something she’d do; I imagine her as being this sweet old lady who has a garden and goes to church every Sunday and also happens to have been one of the best forgotten voices of the 1960s. She is on Facebook, and I friended her; seeing that her wall posts are a lot of praise from random fans, I’m hoping that she’ll accept my request and we can become pals, like I’ve done with Julie Brown and Mink Stole, both of whom I’ve written to and gotten responses from.
And now, to bed, for some light-ish reading.
This episode of Masterpiece YouTube was brought to you by Thin Mints. Thin Mints: it doesn’t matter how many calories there are per serving; go ahead and eat the entire box yourself, because you deserve it. Find yourself a Girl Scout and buy some Thin Mints today!