Since 1967, outsider pop savant R. Stevie Moore has recorded over four hundred albums. Though most of them have been released only as super-limited-edition cassettes, CD-Rs or home videos, and are available only through his personal label, the R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club, a surprising amount of his work has wound up on the internet.
I first discovered Moore’s incredible, twisted music by pawing feverishly through his online videos. Because he documented his music throughout the late seventies, eighties and nineties using early video technology, much of his formidable oeuvre is today available on YouTube. There’s a lot of RSM ephemera to sift through; here are some of my favorite R. Stevie Moore video moments.
9. “I Need Your Love,” 1988
In “I Need Your Love,” a shimmering, psych-pop number filmed in 1988, R. Stevie Moore is a kinetic, jittering mass, imprisoned in a cramped room filled with unidentifiable, blurry media. RSM is all kissy faces and wide eyes as he worships a pristine CD, which he holds in front of his face like some sort of alien object.
8. “One Moore Time,” 1993
Who can resist the plaintive, melancholy ballad “One Moore Time,” in which our hero glumly wanders around a post-apocalyptic, abandoned parking structure, wearing a neck brace and eating a cheeseburger? Nobody, that’s who.
7. “Chantilly Lace,” 1980
On “Chantilly Lace,” Moore is the paragon of the eccentric, wild, girl-obsessed youth. With his cleanly-shaven face, frizzy blonde hair, sharp aqua suit and classic rock ‘n’ roll surf sound, he’s an unlikely—yet compelling—sex symbol.
6. “Answers,” 2010
This recent RSM music video reveals an unlikely new direction in his video aesthetic: there are other people populating his narratives, for one, and the look of the video is uncharacteristically cinematic. But archetypal RSM qualities remain, including an image of him—dressed in a white bathrobe—playing the guitar in a room full of swaying, half-dead light bulbs.
5. “Colliding Circles,” 1985
Sometimes, simplest is best. One reliable R. Stevie Moore video formula involves him staring unblinkingly into the camera for the duration of the song. It’s an unstable one-man act. These types of videos are the VHS equivalent of a Mac PhotoBooth self-portrait. I never get tired of any of them. In “Colliding Circles,” he appears shirtless, with pinched fingers forming tiny A-OK circles, coming together in sync with the throb of the song.
4. Play Myself Some Music, 1986
Here’s RSM again, staring hauntingly into the camera. His wide, moon-shaped face, cropped into circle and diamond shapes, is crudely spliced into other travel footage. Yet the video hijinx never completely mask the undercurrent of loneliness that runs through this remarkable song. “Play myself some music / Listen to side 2 first / Play myself some music / Pretend I did not lose you,” RSM intones. “Silence makes me cry.”
3. Too Old (To Fall in Love), 1984
My favorite of the R. Stevie Moore “staring video” genre: “Too Old (To Fall in Love),” in which RSM breaks from staring intently at us to take long, leisurely drags from a joint. His sartorial mood is casual; striped athletic socks and an indigo-hued plaid button-down take center stage when he stands up to perform an impromptu dance.
2. Alecia, 1986
I’m also partial to his appearances on variety TV show The Uncle Floyd Show, which helps explain the bizarre, tragicomic universe he inhabits. In the carnivalesque “Alecia”—named after his fictional twelve-year-old sweetheart—Moore is a falsetto-singing, baseball cap-wearing jock, singing into a microphone tucked into a baseball mitt. He’s the demented high school boyfriend you always wish you’d dated instead of that vapid star quarterback.
1. “I Like To Stay At Home,” 1986
For his electric rendition of “I Like To Stay At Home” for The Uncle Floyd Show, Moore’s wearing a fuzzy mustard-colored bathrobe, soloing on a miniscule teal-colored guitar that he keeps in his pocket. It’s the ultimate misanthropic anthem for hermits the world over.
Montreal-based writer Natasha Li Pickowicz runs the blog Popcorn Plays. She will be speaking with R. Stevie Moore on Friday, September 23 at 3:30 pm, as part of Pop Montreal’s Symposium. This free, public interview is co-presented by Maisonneuve and will be held at L'ancienne École des beaux-arts de Montréal (3450 St. Urbain). Moore will also perform that evening at la Sala Rossa.
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