Jim Hershleder, who would later direct videos for Steve Earle, Kathy Mattea and John Fogerty, got the call to make "Midnight Blue." Gramm was best known in the video age for "I Want to Know What Love Is," the big Foreigner ballad, but he always considered himself a rocker. For "Midnight Blue," Hershleder left him unadorned, woodshedding the song in leather jacket and jeans with his new band. The concurrent storyline is the stuff of teenage dreams: taking the convertible to gather the girl and ride off into the moonlight.
Jim told us how it came together.
Jim Hershleder: The concept stemmed from the power of the song, which seemed to me captured the feeling of being young, having your first car, and picking up your girlfriend who had just snuck out of her house to meet you. My teen years in Minnesota, basically.
Songfacts: Did the song title inform your color treatment?
Jim: For sure the title and all the lyrics were obviously great, and influenced the video's color palette. The chorus made me recall lying down in the back seat of my father's speeding car looking at the moon through the trees. This was a hard shot to make without palm trees in Los Angeles.
Songfacts: Was there any thought to having Gramm star as the young rebel?
Jim: I don't think that would have been very good. Do you? Lou was too smart and artistic to request it. And the label really trusted me, I guess. It was my first #1 on MTV.
Songfacts: How did the shoot go, and what were the biggest challenges?
Jim: We shot in and around LA. The house that the girl, actress Traci Lind, sneaks out of belonged to my producer, Karen Bellone, and her husband Ryan Hedgecock. Ryan is the founder of the band Lone Justice.
We also shot in Griffith Park. The shoot was fantastic. The D.P., Paul Cameron, did his '80s back light thing, and Mike Mayers and I shot the time lapse and smeary stuff. The clip was edited in New York by Kathy Abbott, and colored by Bill Willig. The exec at Atlantic was Shelley Cooper. We also went out to Joshua Tree, for Atlantic, the next day, to shoot The System's "Don't Disturb This Groove."
Songfacts: What was your background, and how did making this video affect your career?
Jim: I had previously gone to NYU film school, then worked as a cameraman and producer for two of the hottest video directors of that time: Peter Kagan and Paula Grief.
The video was the biggest I had made up until that time, and I was too young to realize it would be one of the greatest weeks of my life. Thanks for reminding me.
September 25, 2015
Check out our interview with Lou Gramm.
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