The Blue Angels Had Sweet Dreams
It’s taken a while, but we believe we’ve found the best quality upload of the classic 1986 Blue Angels music video. The visuals are striking (of course) and the music, Van Halen’s Dreams from their 1986 album ‘5150’, just seems to hit all the right notes as an accompaniment to the Blues flying their McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk jets. The video was uploaded to YouTube by Nikeen Magariño. Enjoy, and be sure to turn that volume up because this particular video has tasty audio that was encoded at higher quality than the norm. After the video (watch it twice…we’ll wait) keep scrolling for the rest of the story.
Artists and Art
In 1986, Van Halen said adios to their bombastic crooning frontman David Lee Roth. Sammy “I Can’t Drive 55” Hagar replaced Roth. When 5150 was released, Van Halen decided they would not do any music videos (or have to pay any production costs for them) to support singles from the album. 5150 included eventual hit tracks Best of Both Worlds, Why Can’t This Be Love, Love Walks In, Summer Nights, and Dreams. Those of us of a certain age recall 1986 as the heyday of MTV. When MTV played music videos. Lots of them- and as a result of those videos plenty of bands sold lots of records. But not a single one of those videos was a Van Halen video for a track on 5150- even though Why Can’t This Be Love reached Billboard’s #1 position that year.
1986 was also the year of ‘Top Gun.’ Inspired by the moderately cheesy melodrama with some great flying scenes (and a memorable line or two), Van Halen’s label (Warner Bros.) decided that Dreams would go just great with the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Team; AKA the Blue Angels. And so WB worked with the Navy and McDonnell Douglas to acquire “stock” footage from Blue Angels performances over the previous few years. There was an element of timing to the venture though. Independence Day weekend was quickly approaching and WB wanted to release a patriotic eye-popping sweet-sounding vid for airplay over that weekend. The story goes that they took all of three (3) days to make what many believe is the finest video depicting the Blues during their Scooter epoch ever made.
Kismet, or the Law of Unintended Consequences
Everything dovetailed nicely from there. Van Halen approved of the video (they weren’t paying for it). The Navy treated the project as a 40th anniversary tribute to the Blues. McDonnell Douglas got lots of exposure for their tiny but immensely capable A-4F Skyhawk light attack jet. When the video aired it created a sensation. Originally intended to air over the Holiday weekend only, the video instead ended up airing up to 4 (sometimes more) times a day (and aired on all of the MTV networks), and they kept playing it occasionally right up until MTV pretty much quit playing music videos. 5150 did quite well at least in part to the video. The Navy’s Recruiting Command loved the video too- often setting it up for viewing in recruiting offices. During the late 1980s it was everywhere.
In the irony department, 1986 was also the last year the Blues flew the Skyhawk. The Team introduced their new mounts, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet, at the end of their show season and began flying them the next show season. It was the end of one memorable epoch and the beginning of the longest one ever. The 1986 Blue Angels pilots were:
Lead flying A-4F Skyhawk #1 (BuNo 155033) Navy Commander ‘Boss’ Gil Rud
Right Wing flying A-4F Skyhawk #2 (BuNo 154172) Marine Corps Captain Mark Bircher
Left Wing flying A-4F Skyhawk #3 (BuNo 154983) Navy Lieutenant Commander Donnie Cochran
Slot flying A-4F Skyhawk #4 (BuNo 154180) Navy Lieutenant Pat Walsh
Solo flying A-4F Skyhawk #5 (BuNo 154211) Navy Lieutenant Commander Curt Watson
Opposing Solo flying A-4F Skyhawk #6 (BuNo 154904) Navy Lieutenant David Anderson
Narrator flying TA-4J Skyhawk #7 (BuNo 158722) Navy Lieutenant Wayne Molnar
There’s more- see the Addendum below!
Credit Where Credit is Due
From the comments about this piece I learned that the majority of the footage used in the video was actually shot during the 1977 show season. The pilots from the 1977 Blue Angels who were flying the jets when the majority of the footage was shot were Lead #1 Commander Casey Jones USN, Right Wing #2 Captain Dan Keating USMC, Left Wing #3 Lieutenant Commander Don Simmons USN, Slot #4 Lieutenant Al Cisneros USN (who left me the informative comment- thanks Al!), Solo #5 Lieutenant John Miller USN, and Opposing Solo #6 Lieutenant Vance Parker USN. In 1977 the Narrator (#7) was Lieutenant Bruce Davey USN and the Events Coordinator (#8) was Lieutenant Jim Bauer USN.
I also learned more about the producer of the video. Former Blue Angel Curt Watson singled out John B. Moranville as a person instrumental in the making of the video. Moranville “was the person that took file footage of the Blue Angels and with the permission of Van Halen used their music for this video. John seems to have been forgotten in this endeavor. It was his skill as a producer that made this so successful.” Thanks for your comments Curt!