Is there a weirder and more (hopefully deliberately) anachronistic video than that for Wings’ “Goodnight Tonight”?
Wait. Let’s back up a minute and talk about how “Goodnight Tonight” — the song — was an almost unbelievably weird thing to begin with. Paul McCartney is a man who, regardless of whether you like him or not, is universally acknowledged to have been a part of a band that shifted rock music from “fun thing you listened to that also annoyed your parents” to “cultural touchstone that will never die.” Paul McCartney is a man who kept his finger on the pulse of popular music well post-Beatles. Paul McCartney is a man who should know better than to have released “Goodnight Tonight”, a song which sounds like someone who once had disco described to him, but had never actually heard disco music, got some session musicians together to ride the thin fading edge of disco.
Remember, this song got released in March 1979. That’s a full three years after “Disco Duck”:
…close to 18 months after the release of Saturday Night Fever:
and a few months before the Disco Demolition.
To be sure, though, the problem with “Goodnight Tonight” wasn’t just that it came at the wrong time. Even had this thing come out at Peak Disco, it wouldn’t have been OK. McCartney’s production flattens the song out, stripping all sexiness from a genre that was built on sexy. It sounds like one of those ubiquitous records you could buy in the late 1970s for $2.00 where anonymous session vocalists re-recorded the big hits of the day.1 McCartney’s voice sounds far away and criminally bored, save for when he yelps “You can say anything/But don’t say goodnight tonight.” There’s an inexplicable flamenco guitar that wanders in midstream. There are weird “pew! pew!” laser sounds at one point. Vocal effects are slathered on so that things sound as computerized as if they escaped from a Meco song. There’s a moment where everything drops out except the bass. It’s a veritable blender of disco cliches.
And oh god, the video. THE VIDEO.
So you record a disco song as disco dies out, and you decide that the best way to promote that song is to do a video where you dress up as a band from the…1930s? McCartney’s hair says early 1930s, and not in a good way.
Pro-tip: the only man that ever looked decent with a center part was F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The other male members of Wings get some slicked-back retro hair too, but Linda clearly told Paul to fuck off and that there was no way she was changing her hairstyle for this folly.
Everyone plays modern instruments but sings into old microphones and midway through the video cuts to what is presumably present-day Paul playing the bongos and looking, quite frankly, a bit unhinged.
Man, there’s a reason this thing didn’t make it onto Back to the Egg even though it was recorded during those sessions.
Oh – and of course there’s a 12-inch version, but even we aren’t terrible enough to make you listen to all seven of its punishingly dull and confusing minutes. We’re not total monsters.
At the tender age of 10, I was duped by one of these and bought the “No Name Singers Sing Bee Gees Songs” record instead of the actual Bee Gees record. ↩