It’s odd to think it’s been 15 years since The Darkness’s breakthrough hit. It feels like both too long ago and not long ago enough. They’ve packed a lot into that 15 years – breakups, breakdowns, Eurovision, an awful lot of cocaine – but simultaneously feel like they’ve always been here and like they just showed up, fresh off the bus from Lowestoft and ready to take the piss.
Fronted by Justin Hawkins, in all probability the funniest man the rock world has ever known, they presented the world with something of a conundrum – the idea that a band could be hilariously funny without being a joke, that the silly excessive side of rock could be something to take deadly seriously. Catsuited, flamboyant and possessing a never-bettered falsetto, he was such an entertaining figure that the media couldn’t get enough of him… until it could. Overexposure, overindulgence and burnout led to an unfairly truncated time at the top, and unjustifiable dismissal in some circles as a novelty act.
This was the first a lot of people saw of the band, and what an intro. The video, directed by Alex Smith (who also made the video for Coldplay’s Yellow, the binary opposite of this one in every single way) is a doozy – take Kerrang!’s hand as we dive on in.
How do you state from the opening frame that a video is going to be awesome? With a spaceship, obviously. That is fairly fantastic stall-setting-out. This was a higher-budget, slicker video than the band’s two earlier ones (Get Your Hands Off My Woman and Growing On Me), part of a drive to break the Darkness through in America. It worked to an extent, with the song reaching number nine on the US Alternative chart, but it took a Samsung advert aired during the Superbowl nine years later to get them to the top.
There’s a heart shape covered in fog, which feels pretty glam. Lots of pink. What’s happening?
It is in fact a heart-shaped pool and look, here’s a wet, excellent Justin Hawkins, shaking water from his pink locks, spitting water out like a Dutch fountain and doing a very good job of “bath face”. A former jingle-writer for adverts, he and his brother Dan decided to form the band at a Millennium Eve party, and managed to sell out the Astoria before releasing any music.
Towelling off by being embraced buy a big hairy space mammal is one of those things you just don’t see in a lot of music videos. An advert for Batchelor’s Cup-A-Soup came out the same kind of time as this, part of their “Hug in a Mug” campaign, parts of which seemed eerily similar to this bit though…
There’s the glamour shot. A Vaselined-smeared lens, elegant soft focus, and a beautifully jumpsuited Justin gyrating on a black-linened bed. Justin left the band in 2006 after rehab, effectively dissolving it, but they reunited in 2011.
In comes Dan, the less joyous, more conventionally musicianlike Hawkins brother, entering through a door reminiscent of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army video, released the same year. He is, notably, not wearing a Thin Lizzy shirt – the dude must have had fifty or so.
In comes drummer Ed Graham, the one man in this video no longer in the band, having parted ways with them in 2012. Their current drummer is Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor, a man whose face Justin Hawkins has tattooed on his ring finger.
In any other band, the handlebar-moustached, extravagantly-headbanded Frankie Poullain, seen here entering with the pleasantly robotic movements of an automaton, would be the flamboyant one. He left the band in 2005 after some “musical differences”, but rejoined in 2011.
Like something Inspector Gadget would have in his house if he was in a glam rock band, a handy ceiling hatch slides away to reveal an alpine white Gibson Les Paul Custom, which necessitates some top-level axe-gurning from Justin.
Oh shit, he’s gone.
That walk is extraordinary – an inimitable mixture of prance, mince and strut, pure showmanship. Oh, also, he’s been beamed down onto an alien planet.
It is a giant crab, which for a lot of bands would be seen as some sort of STI metaphor, but at this time Hawkins was in a committed relationship with the band’s manager so unlikely to be battling a pubic infestation.
Justin’s headband is a thing of beauty. It may or may not be a creation of Ray Brown, the Highgate-based costumier responsible for lots of Justin’s catsuits as well as outfits for everyone from Judas Priest to Lady Gaga. If it’s unfeasibly flamboyant, it might be a Ray Brown number.
There are two instances of thumbs-ups in this video, and it’s a gesture Justin Hawkins has thought a lot about, seeing it both as a rebellion against the snarling, middle-finger-flashing behaviour of the rock world around him and a practical solution to a real problem In 2004, he told CNN: “If you’re trying to encourage people to clap at the end, they’re often holding a glass of beer in their teeth and that’s dangerous. I wouldn’t want to put our kids through that — we’ve got a responsibility to them. So one thumb’s fine. Hold the glass carefully, don’t spill it, don’t drop it, don’t roll around in broken glass. Just give us the thumbs up, and we’ll be on our way.”
Dan looks completely different when you can’t see his hair, doesn’t he? He looks a bit like the GI Joe character Destro here.
The flame tattoos poking out of Justin’s catsuit go, in his words in an interview at the time, “Right down to the wood.” He has loads more tattoos these days, including a going-over of his JUSTIN lightning-bolt tattoo in an ice-blue effect, a giant Frank Frazetta painting on his back and a Space Shuttle on his shoulder intended to remind him of the craziness of the peak Darkness days: “It took off, went really well, and then it exploded and killed everyone on board.”
It might be a hair spray can, it might be an enormous sausage, but whatever it is he’s singing into, good on him. The cry of “GUITAR!” became a big part of the legacy of this song, the epitome of the “We know what we are doing is silly but we’re extremely happy to be doing it and are doing it extremely well” ethos of the band.
What a lot of amps.
What a LOT of amps.
WHAT A LOT OF AMPS.
This spinning camera bit is vaguely reminiscent of the basement conversations in 1990s sitcom That ’70s Show, but with blue space-fire. Isn’t it? Yes it is, thanks.
Ed Graham is a great drummer, and is by all accounts a really nice man, but he’s a terrible actor. He gives an arguably worse performance in the video for the band’s wonderfully-titled Yuletide single Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End), in which he gazes upon a toy robot shooting laser beams around the room with the most noncommittal expression ever achieved by a human.
Hang on, Satan is here in woman form. Forgot about that. No idea who it is under all the red. The internet doesn’t seem to know either. Was it you? Let us know.
The ambiguity between whether the space-octopus is attempting to destroy the ship or mate with it is, in these more enlightened times, almost certainly space-problematic.
Obviously, as luck would have it, being The Darkness, laser beams come out of their instruments. And, it being a spaceship fight, it’s obligatory for the lighting to go completely bonkers. That always happens in things like Star Trek and seems a bit counterproductive – isn’t it easier to concentrate on winning a battle if the spaceship doesn’t suddenly resemble a disco? But then, who are we to question the core rules of sci-fi?
Another thumbs up, held for slightly too long. Wonderful stuff. What a band. What a man. What a thumb.
Words: Mike Rampton
Posted on September 21st 2018, 1:05pm