“Keep Your Hands to Yourself”: Talkin’ about true love & sin with Georgia Satellites’ Dan Baird

By on July 17, 2019

We’re payin’ another visit to this vintage episode — which first aired on January 23, 1987, and you’ll now find streaming on Night Flight Plus — to take a look at some of the music videos we considered the “Best New Sounds of 1986.

At the end of the segment you’ll find the memorable video for “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by the Atlanta-based roots rockers the Georgia Satellites— the original lineup was Dan Baird (guitar/lead vocals), Rick Richards (lead guitar), Rick Price (bass) and Mauro Magellan (drums) — which made it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Night Flight contacted Dan Baird — currently on the road with his band Dan Baird & Homemade Sin — who graciously gave us an exclusive inside look at making the video.

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First off, we asked Dan to tell us about the video’s two directors, Bill Fishman and David “Preacher” Ewing, a.k.a. “Fisher” and “Preachman”:

Dan Baird: “They were kinda Mick and Keef about most things. They knew they were collaborators and ideas would just fly around as things went on. A few arguments, but mostly just riffing off of each other. They were a good combo.”

“When things got real busy one guy would do the camera crew, the other talk us into doing shit we normally wouldn’t. Those guys had kinda laid out the concept for the video before we started.”

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Dan Baird

In the video — which Dan says took three days to shoot — we see the band in the back of a flatbed truck, rumblin’ down a dusty rural back road.

DB: “It was a road north of Atlanta a pretty good bit. They had a guy playing scout and I think he found it. The truck was a rental. Zero suspension, my ass was hamburger after two days on that damn old thing. No road closures, just deserted, and we did shoot for two days of riding around.”

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We asked Dan if he really hit his head on that low tree branch, or if it was just a close call:

DB: “Yes, that tree branch got me pretty damn good, even though it was a lightly-glancing blow. At 40 mph, if that was a solid hit, you’d be trying to interview roadkill.”

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“In one of the ‘riding around’ scenes we had tuned in the local rock radio station who were playing the song for the first time. Someone had tipped up as to when it was gonna happen. We tuned in and rode around doing more lip sync. No idea if any of that made it into the video, but we all felt pretty damn cool for three minutes.”

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The video also features scenes of a backyard BBQ, which ends with a shotgun wedding. That’s Baird gettin’ hitched to his pregnant bride before they head off into the sunset at the end with “just married” painted on the bed of the truck.

DB: “Those guys were looking for the perfect redneck shotgun shack. We drove all over the place, they weren’t happy with ANYTHING we’d seen. We’d been out all afternoon prior to the shooting days and I had them drop me off at my house in Brookhaven just north of Atlanta. They took one look and both yelled ‘That’s it!’ So, yes, I lived in the directors’ perfect idea of a shotgun shack.”

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Dan says that a few friends, and “some pro actors, some neighbors,” appear in that sequence.

DB: “We had a bunch of [shotgun shacks] in that neighborhood at the time, all lived in by musicians, artists, and ne’er-do-wells in their twenties. Along with some of the original inhabitants of an old mill village. It was a catered meal and good.”

“I was feeling kinda weird about kissing the actress in front of everybody until my wife finally yelled out, ‘Give her the tongue!,’ so I did and that’s the one you see. The actress and my wife were both good sports about it.”

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MTV loved the Georgia Satellites’ little homespun video so much that they put it into heavy rotation, which surely helped the single, released in late ’86, make it all the way to the #2 spot during the week of February 21, 1987.

It was only kept from going all the way to #1 by Bon Jovi‘s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” a song that nobody probably gives a shit about now.

In 1987, at the fourth annual MTV Video Music Awards, the Georgia Satellites were nominated as “Best New Artist in a Video” (they lost to Crowded House), but Mary Deacon did win the Best Art Director for her work on the video.

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Read more below about the Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”

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“Keep Your Hands to Yourself” sounds like it might have been inspired by a snatch of conversation overheard at the bar in a rowdy honky tonk, maybe a drunk cowboy being turned down flat — “Don’t hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself” — before she boot scoots away to be with her friends over in a corner booth.

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The lyrics even offhandedly mention that hoary old idiom we’ve been hearing forever: “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

It’s an idea as old as dirt, really. You may even remember that the concept of “putting a ring on it” was also at the heart of Beyoncé’s fierce sister-solidarity hit “Single Ladies” a little over ten years ago (and that’s likely to be the only time “Queen Bey” is ever mentioned on Night Flight).

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We asked Dan to tell us about writing “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”:

DB: “It was written in ‘81. David Michaelson, who was our original drummer, was making a move at a local bar where we hung out. He got shot down hard. I believe the entire quote was ‘Don’t talk to me, don’t even look at me, and keep your hands to yourself!’ He was baffled, I was laughing like a hyena. David never did hook up with that gal.”

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DB: ” I’ve no idea how much time had passed, maybe two weeks, and I was riding the bus home from my surveying job downtown and fell into that half-sleep commuters do, with my head on the window. I did actually have about three bucks in change on me, first line showed up and then it started writing itself.”

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“I had no pen or paper. Very pre mobile phones. I had the first verse in total by now. I just kept reciting it internally for the rest of the ride and walk to the aforementioned shotgun shack. My wife was home, I held up a hand and ran to write it down. She wasn’t pleased to be told to hush, but she’s a writer and understood afterwards. I think it took about twenty minutes to finish.”

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We asked Dan about the line “Talkin’ about true love, talkin’ about sin” and we wondered if Dan had a strict religious upbringing:

DB:: “It just fit. Now, some of my dad’s side of the family were in the preachin’ business, but I don’t think I played it that way. It was just written from a 1950’s point of view. I wanted to write a song Carl Perkins might have sung. In truth, I was pretending to be Chuck Berry writing a song specifically for Carl to sing. I’m a big fan of writing very conversationally. In 1956, some gal probably did say all that to some horny boyfriend on a drive-in Saturday night.”

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The demo version of the Georgia Satellites’ best-known song was so damn good, that it’s the version you actually hear on their self-titled Elektra debut, which made it all the way to #5 on the Billboard Top 200 album charts.

DB: “We actually recorded that demo in ’83, at Axis studio in Atlanta. Great old Neve board with ‘flying faders,’ giant room, great mics and outboard gear. Got shopped and no takers. Long tale of the actual release on Making Waves Records in ’85. Jeff Glixman was the producer on both the demos/EP and our first LP in ’86, so he did a remix on that track so it would fit in with the sonic of the LP.”

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Take a gander at the Billboard‘s Year-End Hot 100 chart hits from 1987, and you’ll see that “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” almost sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb, and that’s not meant as a backhanded slight, not one bit, as you can see for yourself how a hit song without any synthesizers on it was really quite an anachronism in the mid-’80s.

It’s pretty much the only raw non-corporate rock ‘n’ roll hit on the list.

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Hell, just look at some of the other acts we featured in our “best sounds of ’86” episode — Big Audio Dynamite, UB40, Fine Young Cannibals, Klymaxx, the Communards, Golden Palominos, Love & Rockets, Timbuk3, Beastie Boys, New Model Army, Simply Red, and the Woodentops (read more about them here) — and you’ll see the Georgia Satellites seem like a throwback to an earlier, more glorious age in rock ‘n’ roll, long before the Day-glo blazer wearin’ short-haired acts began clogging up the MTV airwaves.

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If Elektra Records had released the band’s single in the first half of ’86, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” might have been one of those tunes you’d hear blarin’ from FM rock stations and tape deck all summer long, because it’s the perfect southern-fried BBQ rock ‘n’ roller for top-down cruisin’.

Alas, its release late in the year meant it started climbin’ the charts over Christmas and into the New Year before reaching its peak in February of ’87, when most the car windows are rolled up and the heater’s on full-blast.

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Our big thanks to Dan Baird for talkin’ to Night Flight about “Keep Your Hands to Yourself!” Watch the band’s video in our “Best New Sounds of 1986” episode, now streaming on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.