When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand
JANITOR: Denise Gallant’s Suburban Lawns video (1980)

Los Angeles in the days of New Wave totally kicked ass:   The Police (including an impossibly young Sting) gigging at the upstairs bar of Madame Wong’s in Chinatown; Pee-Wee Herman developing his act at clubs on Sunset Boulevard; Andy Warhol snapping Polaroids of hipsters waiting on the street to get into Club Lingerie; future film score maestro Danny Elfman and his band Oingo Boingo playing on the Strip at the Whiskey à Go-Go; and on and on.

One of the best New Wave sounds out of L.A. came from the band Suburban Lawns.  Having that trademark New Wave Music quality of a pulsing beat driving short and sharply-crafted songs, the Lawns were one of the bands that helped cleanse the airwaves of the post-Beatle 1970s wasteland of bombastic Art Rock and tinny, rinky-dink Disco.

This was also the early days of accessible and portable video.  The introduction of 3/4″ videotape during that time was the bridge in the evolutionary liberation of alternative filmmaking, from the Post-War period when artists in New York and Paris were taking their 16mm cameras out into the street and making experimental films, to the introduction of the family camcorder that put the means of videomaking in the hands of Mom, Dad, Buddy and Sis. 

The leap from 16mm to videotape created a rush of immediacy:  movie-makers no longer had to wait for the film to be developed before they could see the results.  Editing went from physically cutting the film and cementing pieces together to previewing cuts on a TV monitor and pushing buttons.  Even the images had that sense of urgency because tubes in those early cameras (by their non-digital nature) had a blurry / smeary quality that — in retrospect — has a quality of paint being brushed on a canvas.

This video captures that rush.  Alternative videomaking still was a raw process; directors and cameramen were inventing techniques to compensate for a lack of even the most basic effects.

The previous generation of aspiring filmmakers took photographs with their still cameras, seeing what light and film could do.  The result saw an evolutionary leap in the visual texture of commercial films during the 1950s and 1960s.  In 1980, virtually the only accessible editing was straight cuts from one image to another with no ability to fade or dissolve images.  The result of filmmakers like Denise Gallant is the sophisticated editing language that has evolved over the last quarter-century.

For a Hi Rez version, you can contact the creative force behind this video at info@video4dvd.com.  In the meantime, savor some curvilinear sighs from the pre-pixel age…

Doug / PoMo Joan

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10 Comments to “JANITOR: Denise Gallant’s Suburban Lawns video (1980)”

  1. Paul Joiner says:

    That was a fascinating ride. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in a typical 70’s drug experience.

    • Doug says:

      This came out when I was trying to clean up my act, but my head was already seriously twonked (and there were enough chemicals still in my body) that I grooooved all the way with this song.

  2. Jeffrey L. says:

    Doug – thanks for this. I just “discovered” the Suburban lawns last year and listen to them almost every week now.

  3. Doug says:

    A guy with such evolved and diverse tastes as you, Jeffrey, deserves only the best! ;-) Let me know if you produce any moving-image work, I’d love to check it out.

  4. Did you get my comment?

    If not email me at

  5. I’ll try again:

    This was shot with a Black and White camera and colorized with my video synthesizer which Rob Schafer and I built since 1975 at UCSC.
    My office WAS on Sunset Blvd. I was the first VJ in LA and SF, starting 1978. I did know Danny Elfman, Mark Motherbaugh and did about 20 videos for Kim Fowley.
    Se my videos with The Humans, Group 87, and Tuxedomoon on You TUbe for example of live video synth form 1978.

    • Also LOVED Club Lingerie – one of my favorite places to do live videos with bands. John Belushi came to one of our showings. ALso played at the Roxy, Whiskey, China Club, and Reseda’s Country Club, who had the first video projector at that time.
      Also did live New Age music withSteve Roach and Richard Burmer, later to come out on Tower Records as “Watercolors”. We got a Billboard Award for it.
      Andy and Pee Wee – Aren’t they east coast?

      • Doug says:

        Denise, sorry to be late replying but I was literally in the jungle, doing a road trip on the Malay Peninsula.

        Your work/career fascinates me, and I kick myself that we never met during the Perkins Palace, Country Club days. I gotta ask: with all the disciplines you use, from art to electronics, how did you learn all these skills and which ones came first?

        • Denise gallant says:

          Hi Doug. I don’t remember this post and just found it by accident. Thanks for the question. My grandfather was an artist which was my first influence. I loved science in school. When in high school I met rob Schafer and then his dad, Paul. They were my next influences as Paul founded radio automation. I pulled rob I into video. I decided I wanted to do electronic animation when at ucla film dept. John Whitney Sr. Was a big influence and I later got to meet him. Paul recently died. Rob and I are still friends. He is an engineer at cbs ny

          • Doug says:

            Thanks so much for the reply! That’s quite a big background of influences. Whitney must have been an eye-opener!

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