Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
Pride and Joy
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2007, Volume 14, #11
Written by John Metzger
Mon November 5, 2007, 06:40 AM CST
The underlying purpose of MTV always has revolved around product packaging, but considering its heavy slate of reality and other non-music-related programming of late, anyone who has stumbled upon the channel in the past decade would be well within their rights to wonder how in the world the station obtained its name. There was a time, however, when MTV’s focus was entirely upon promoting songs and albums. When it debuted in August 1981, its operators desperately were in need of material to broadcast.
Although MTV played a significant role in altering the course of the music industry, it initially wasn’t limited to pushing style over substance. Undeniably, artists were made to look as physically appealing as possible, but having good looks wasn’t a requirement for getting on the air. It’s true that MTV played its share of hokey pop tunes, but it had no choice but also to incorporate promotional videos by Elvis Costello, Dire Straits, the Grateful Dead, and Stevie Ray Vaughan into its standard repertoire. The stylistic juxtapositions were strange, but this was a big part of MTV’s appeal.
Pride and Joy originally was issued in 1990, shortly after a helicopter carrying Vaughan and four other passengers tragically crashed in the wake of a show at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. Hastily rushed to market in the VCR era, the 30-minute collection compiled all eight of the videos that Vaughan had made between 1983 and 1989. There’s nothing truly special about any of the promotional spots either. The cheesy storylines and fake performance settings were standard fare for the day, and the visuals hardly could be considered cutting edge. Nevertheless, they achieved their goal of gaining a lot of exposure for Vaughan’s work, and — whether it’s the barroom blues of Love Struck Baby, the turbulence of Couldn’t Stand the Weather, or the raucous Jerry Lee Lewis-meets-Chuck Berry mayhem of The House Is Rockin’ — the music undeniably was both vibrant and engaging.
Still, it was his performance of Howlin’ Wolf’s I’m Leaving You (Commit a Crime), from a Mardi Gras celebration hosted by MTV in 1987, that served as Pride and Joy’s highlight. Delivered as a blast of Doors-ian roadhouse blues that also was filtered through the legacies of the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, the song simultaneously was snarling and soulful. As it wound toward its conclusion, Vaughan couldn’t help but to allow the tune to drift through Smokestack Lightning, another of Howlin’ Wolf’s compositions. While Vaughan’s recorded output largely was hit-and-miss, he clearly was in his element on stage.
Although the collection has been expanded considerably for its release on DVD, Pride and Joy is still a shambles. In addition to replicating the original program, the new edition boasts several live performances, a few forgettable television commercials, and an array of promotional segments for material that was issued after Vaughan’s untimely death, including an interview that he and his brother Jimmie conducted in conjunction with their collaborative effort Family Style. Like its predecessor, however, there are some rather magnificent moments that emerge from within the messiness of Pride and Joy’s construction. The video that was compiled for Vaughan’s instrumental rendition of Little Wing, for example, is a touching tribute not only to his career but also to his fellow bluesmen as well as his beloved Fender Stratocaster. Similarly, his acoustic showcase on MTV’s Unplugged — during which he delivered sterling interpretations of Rude Mood, Testify, and the set’s title track — is a raw, urgent, and dazzling display of his talent as a guitarist.
At the time of his passing, Vaughan had just begun to put his life in order after overcoming his issues with substance abuse. His work on the posthumously issued Family Style hinted at his newfound maturity, which unfortunately never had the opportunity to come fully to fruition. Still, the polished R&B flavors of the hit single Tick Tock served as a prelude to the material on Eric Clapton’s Pilgrim and John Mayer’s Continuum. Although Pride and Joy struggles at times to paint a comprehensive overview of Vaughan’s career, anyone who takes the time to examine its details will discover the magnitude of what the world lost when he died.
Pride and Joy is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box