Meeting Gunnar Strøm

After talking with Michael Patterson, and his story of meeting Gunnar Strøm in Seattle in 2008, it became clear that Gunnar Strom was the person we needed to connect with. His expertise on animated music video and his particular interest in rotoscoping was unique and was potentially important to "Tom Waits For No One". This film had been under the radar for so long, in some ways, I had just come to accept it as destiny. 

But the more my brother Jack and I talked about the film, the artists and the success they went on to achieve, the more we began to feel that if anyone could provide an authoritative analysis - Gunnar Strøm would be the person to validate the film, or put it to bed once and for all. So what do you do when you only have someone’s name and the country they live in? You search the Internet. 

We scheduled a video conference with Gunnar to get introduced and ask him about “Tom Waits For No One” - had he seen it before, and if so, how did fit within the context of his paper “The Two Golden Ages of Animated Music Video”?

By the time of our meeting, Gunnar had found “Tom Waits For No One” on YouTube, visited TomWaitsForNoOne.com and had many questions. Gunnar said he was a big Waits fan - had been since the 1970s. He was surprised he had never seen the film, and he loved it. Personally, I was thrilled, or in my native tongue, I was “stoked”! 

Jack and I told him about the research we’d done, what we thought we’d found, and we asked for his perspective. Gunnar wanted to take another look at the film, so we scheduled time to talk in a couple weeks. When the next video conference began, all I wanted to ask was “what do you think?!” For 35 years this video sat in obscurity - and I felt like this call could change all of that. Or maybe it wouldn’t, but at least I would know and would have a direction -- to celebrate, or to go on as I did after it fell from visibility in 1981. 

In short time, Gunnar Strøm said the words I had only hoped to hear - that “Tom Waits For No One” was unique - the era in which it was created, the rotoscoping method used, the animators involved and the subject of the film all meant this film was not only one the first American music videos, but was quite possibly the first rotoscoped music video ever made. 

I normally don’t talk like this, but there is no other way to say it... to me his words were breathtaking. I could hardly believe it - this film was indeed the real McCoy, and ahead of its time.

© John Lamb 2014