Café Mouffe: Danger Mouse & The Grey Video

James Boyle says in an On the Media interview that if 50-somethings were talking about the golden age of digital sampling, U.S. judges would be more likely to accept it as a significant cultural production worthy of protection under the fair use doctrine. So I am here to testify, Your Honor, as a card-carrying member of the ACLU and the AARP: The Grey Album by DJ Danger Mouse, a 2004 remix of Jay-Z’s  Black Album and the Beatles’ White Album, is a brilliant and transformative work of art in its own right. We need the freedom to make more art like it.

The Grey Video is yet another level of transformation based on Danger Mouse’s remix of Jay-Z’s “Encore” track. According to Wikipedia:

The Grey Video is a music video made in the autumn of 2004 by directing team Ramon & Pedro, that is Swiss directors Laurent Fauchere and Antoine Tinguely, to promote the single “Encore” from The Grey Album.

The video, which is entirely in black and white, features clips from The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night, and footage from a Jay-Z performance. It uses new footage and computer generated imagery to create scenes that involve John Lennon breakdancing and Ringo Starr scratching. It begins with The Beatles performing before cameras and a live audience. Ringo Starr begins to drum to the 1:00 to 1:08 segment of “Glass Onion”. John Lennon begins to sing while George Harrison and Paul McCartney nod their heads to the beat. After a few moments, the monitors in the director’s booth begin to flicker, showing scenes of Jay-Z rapping “Encore”, and the lyrics of the chorus begin to show behind the group. Starr’s drum kit becomes a set of turntables and mixer and he begins to scratch while John continues to sing “Oh, yeah!” as sampled from “Glass Onion”.

As “Encore” moves into the second verse, the beat changes to a sample of “Savoy Truffle”. A John Lennon body double starts to breakdance, leading to a headspin. McCartney and Harrison are replaced by two dancers. The Lennon double backflips off the screen, flinging his wig off. The drummer walks off and the lights fade to black.

The video is not available commercially, but has become popular over the Internet. Due to the legal issues surrounding the use of copyrighted material, the video is shown with the disclaimer that it was made for non-commercial and experimental purposes only. Picture-quality differences are apparent, however, as the original Beatles footage originated on film, while the added footage originated on digital video with inferior image quality.

Can I get an encore? Video mashups of The Grey Album abound on YouTube, but you never know what will be suppressed thanks to copyright pressures. Check out: The Grey Album part 1The Grey Album part 4; and The Grey Album part 5. And as of today, you can still download MP3’s of the entire album or single tracks on Grey Tuesday. No, Your Honor, I am not a 50-something pirate! I downloaded it for research purposes only.

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