Guest post from Kirk Gee
Motorcycles are cool. That's a simple fact- from T.E. Lawrence on his Brough to the classic outlaw chopper, the ferocious streetbike, the renaissance of Scramblers and street trackers to my mate Andy running his lovingly maintained T150 around Minneapolis in the short riding season, it's all cool with just a frisson of danger. Open any of the nearly 50 issues of this very publication randomly and you'll find cool. The scooter however, is a more difficult proposition. Sure the Italian versions are as classically stylish as it gets and the utterly mad Eastern European variety are decidedly cool, but the bog standard mass produced commuter version? That's a hard sell, but for a time in the mid 1980s Honda and their advertising crew did it with aplomb.
The CH series, introduced in the early '80s (called the Elite in the US and the Spacy elsewhere) were the cutting edge of scooter design (Liquid cooling! Digital dashboard! Retractable headlight!) and Honda's advertising went all out with a suitably Futuristic New Wave campaign featuring some unimpeachably cool musicians. What 80s America made of none other than Miles Davis basically ignoring the product he was selling I don't know, but it's utterly fantastic.
It was the 80s, and it really doesn't get more tongue-in-cheek New Wave Futuristic than Devo, who had also hawked other top tech of the era like Laserdiscs and looked perfectly at home on the step-thrus.
Everything but ordinary indeed. Much of the look of the commercial is thanks to editor Lawrence Bridges, who worked on Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' video and who brought a contemporary aesthetic and an awareness of French Nouvelle Vague cinema to a scooter ad featuring none other than Lou Reed and 'Walk On The Wild Side'.
[This Lou Reed ad keeps getting taken down from YouTube, so apologies if the link is dead]
Bridges took badly shot, over exposed footage and made it into a wonderfully kinetic minute long film that manages to capture the feel of pre-gentrification Lower East Side New York and doesn't even show the product or star until the last 8 seconds. It still looks fantastic and managed to completely upset all Lou's 'serious' fans. Honda weren't done yet though, and of course peak 80s madness with Grace Jones is utterly perfect.
Grace is magnificent and why wouldn't you buy whatever she tells you to buy, even when Adam Ant is involved.
It was all for mainstream television of course, and this seemed risque enough that a 'clean' version without Grace having a nibble on Adam's shell-like ear was available too. It's all wonderfully odd and fantastic, much like the bikes themselves which around this time went fully futuristic and became the CN250 aka the Helix, still in production in Japan and even raced on the Dirt Oval at times... Photo: Serge Faberge