Allow me, if you will, to take you back to August of 1981. Some of the pop songs topping the charts back then were Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes), The One That You Love (Air Supply), and Elvira (Oak Ridge Boys). Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie had just been released. Raiders of the Lost Ark was gaining traction in movie theaters. Ronald Reagan was entering his seventh month as U.S. President. Regular gasoline set drivers back an average of $1.19/gallon. Lady Diana had just wed Prince Charles. Deciphering the Rubik’s Cube was the latest craze. The top programs America was watching on their cathode ray tube television sets included M*A*S*H*, Dallas, Alice, The Jefferson’s, Three’s Company, The Dukes of Hazard, and One Day at A Time. Oh yeah, there was one other thing…
Ladies And Gentlemen…
Forty years-ago this month, MTV officially launched an around the clock, stereo music video channel on cable TV. It opened with footage of Apollo 11 lifting off, MTV founder John Lack announcing “Ladies and gentleman…rock n’ roll”, an astronaut on the moon staring at a rapidly-changing MTV flag, and the MTV guitar theme music playing in the background. No one had seen or heard anything like it before in the history of television. MTV boldly claimed it would do for television what FM did for radio and that we would never look at music the same way again. It turns out they were right, at least for a few years anyway.
Wait. A Monkey Invented MTV?
No, not a monkey, a Monkee. In 1977, former Monkee Mike Nesmith crafted a short promotional film for his hit single Rio at the request of his record label. It was essentially an early music video prototype. Later, he assembled clips of music videos introduced by comedians for a pilot for a TV show he called PopClips. Nesmith found a believer in Warner Communications’ John Lack who debuted PopClips on Nickelodeon. The reaction was immediate and off the charts. Nesmith was offered a role in the new venture and was asked to make some changes to the show. He was not too keen on the changes and even less interested in becoming a TV executive, so Nesmith sold his concept to Warner Brothers and moved on. Talk about Monkee business. Lack, who had developed Nickelodeon and The Movie Channel (TMC) for Warner, built upon Nesmith’s idea to form MTV and scored a hat trick.
Trivia: Michael Nesmith produced Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” music video in 1983. He also produced Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” music video in 1987.
I Want My MTV!
I used the term “hat trick”, but MTV was hardly an overnight success. For one thing, there were precious few quality music videos to play back in those days. For another, according to Wikipedia, only about 25% of American homes had cable when MTV launched in 1981. The fledgling network teetered on having its plug pulled. For the first few years the majority of cable TV subscribers never heard of it. It was not even available in Manhattan where MTV was based. The MTV staff had to take a bus to New Jersey to watch the debut in a seedy basement bar. Cable companies and record executives simply did not get it. Rock music was to be heard and not seen. It took a good three to four years until MTV finally came into its own as more and more cable TV viewers began demanding “I Want My MTV!”.
Trivia: MTV’s John Lack paid Mick Jagger $1 in cash to record a “I Want My MTV” video promo.
The King of Pop Single-handedly Changed MTV
Even after MTV took off, it was not all smooth sailing. The biggest criticism the network faced early on was the almost total absence of music videos by black recording artists. MTV staunchly denied their network was racist, arguing they did not play videos from black artists because the available music did not fit MTV’s rock format. Prince’s hit song 1999 received light rotation on MTV in 1982, but it was not until Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit Billy Jean, and his epic music video Thriller, that the MTV doors really started to open to black artists.
Trivia: In 1988, MTV debuted Yo! MTV Raps, a program dedicated entirely to Hip Hop music. It became MTV’s highest-rated program at the time.
As a teenager with divorced parents, I could only watch MTV when I was visiting my father since my mother did not have cable. But I also got my MTV fix for free from my regular excursions to Luke’s Record Exchange in Pawtucket, RI., where I often bought used Beatles records (I was and still am a big Beatles fan). Unless he was play-testing a record, Luke always had music from MTV blaring through massive public address speakers set up inside his store. The sound quality was poor but the big PA speakers lent the music a kind of “you are there”, live concert effect.
I had a best friend in school whose parents blocked MTV from their cable package, which I never understood. His mother did not strike me as the Tipper Gore-type. As a result, I was not able to discuss the videos or the VJs with him. Luckily, I had a couple of other school chums who had more liberal-minded parents. For those parents who saw MTV as a bad influence, most of us original MTV fans turned out just fine, thank you. The kids are alright.
I liked MTV and the VJs, but I never fantasized about becoming an MTV VJ. I knew I had neither the charisma nor the looks. However, MTV was one of the inspirations I credit for making me think seriously about a career as a DJ in commercial radio broadcasting. I had and still have a great face for radio. To its credit, MTV is still with us (albeit a considerably different network today), whereas I lasted less than seven years in radio before burning out.
What Is Your Favorite Music Video?
The video I think of the most when I think of MTV is Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistible. It was not flashy or full of special effects, but it was sexy in a tasteful way, and it was a great song to boot. Most viewers probably associate Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing with the music channel because of its lyrics. Some other memorable videos: A-ha’s Take On Me utilized rotoscoping which combined hand-drawn sketches with live action. Genesis’ Land of Confusion featured creepy looking puppets. David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes was the first music video to cost over a half million dollars to shoot. It goes without saying, Thriller was the mother of all music videos. MTV made artists realize they could stand out by creating their own unique look…Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Boy George, the Gloved One, Prince, ZZ Top, and the list goes on. Think back. What is your favorite music video from the 1980s?
In 2011, to celebrate MTV’s 30th Anniversary, Billboard.com readers voted for their top ten favorite music videos from the 1980s. The results were:
- “Thriller”, Michael Jackson
- “Like A Prayer”, Madonna
- “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, Cyndi Lauper
- “Take On Me’, A-ha
- “When Doves Cry”, Prince
- “Sledgehammer”, Peter Gabriel
- “Hungry Like The Wolf”, Duran Duran
- “Walk This Way”, Run-D.M.C + Aerosmith
- “Every Breath You Take”, The Police
- “Rhythm Nation”, Janet Jackson
Trivia: What were the first ten music videos ever to air on MTV?
- “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles
- “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar
- “She Won’t Dance with Me” by Rod Stewart
- “You Better You Bet” by The Who
- “Little Suzi’s on the Up” by Ph.D.
- “We Don’t Talk Anymore” by Cliff Richard
- “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders
- “Time Heals” by Todd Rundgren
- “Take It on the Run” by REO Speedwagon
- “Rockin’ the Paradise” by Styx
Cool Is Their Rule
In September of 1983, just as MTV was gaining traction with cable TV providers and viewers, Huey Lewis and The News released their third record, Sports. This self-produced powerhouse of an album climbed to #1 on the Billboard albums chart the following year and yielded four top-ten hit singles. The Heart of Rock & Roll, Heart and Soul, I Want a New Drug, and If This Is It, and the corresponding music videos, firmly put the band on the map. Or as Patrick Bateman put it in the 2000 film American Psycho before murdering his co-worker with an axe, “…when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost.” There is no higher praise than getting your record endorsed by a music-loving axe murderer. I remember when this album came out and it is hard for me to believe these great songs are 38 years old!
I reached out to the band and asked for their two cents on MTV. Huey Lewis and The News co-founder, backing vocalist, and drummer Bill Gibson responded to my query on behalf of the band: “We were one of the first bands on MTV, and it quickly became evident that it was extremely influential in appealing to the masses, which is what we were trying to do musically. That said, we weren’t too keen on many of the early videos that they would show – we thought people were taking themselves a little too seriously, hence our M.O. of keeping our tongues firmly implanted in our cheeks when we made our videos. MTV definitely played a big role in our success, but we like to think it was the music first!”
Trivia: According to Wikipedia, Huey Lewis and The News’ “Sports” album has sold nearly ten million copies in the USA alone.
Aside from my brief Beavis and Butt-Head phase, my favorite show on MTV was Unplugged. I am a big Beatles fan and Paul McCartney’s live Unplugged (The Official Bootleg) CD from 1991 is one of my all-time favorite McCartney albums. It was released as a CD and on vinyl as limited editions, though the CD was eventually issued as a standard title. The album has a fantastic mix of Beatles songs, solo McCartney tunes, and 50’s hits. Unlike other artists who had performed on MTV Unplugged, McCartney truly went unplugged by not even amplifying the band’s acoustic instruments. There have been many other notable Unplugged recordings of various genres including releases by Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Maria Carey, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton. It was a rare treat to experience their classic hits acoustically. Clapton’s tender acoustic treatment of Tears in Heaven, a song about the death of his four year old son, is very moving. His unplugged, low-key arrangement of Layla is nothing short of musical brilliance. Who ever thought he could take one of his most scorching rock hits and turn it into an acoustic ballad.
And The Award Goes To
One MTV show I honestly could have cared less about was MTV’s VMA’s (Video Music Awards). I was perfectly content to see the highlights on the national news the following night, like the time in 2003 when Britney Spears exchanged some serious saliva with Madonna before millions of viewers. You’ve come a long way, baby.
The Big Secret
Five VJs (“Video Jockeys”), Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, Mark Godman, J.J. Jackson, and Nina Blackwood, with virtually zero television experience, served as cable TV ambassadors for this new thing called “music videos”. The charter member VJ’s had a very down-to-earth, personable style, just like DJs on the radio. If any of them had big egos, they hid it well. They came across like they were “live”, yet the big secret they were hiding was they were not live at all…it was Memorex (video tape to be more accurate). Also, they often never saw the music videos they were talking about. This required them to keep their comments brief and generic. Ah, the magic of television.
No matter. We loved our VJs. They spoke as if they were talking to each one of us personally, not to throngs of pimply-faced teenagers and young adults. Besides introducing music videos, they conducted interviews with major rock stars, covered live concerts all over the globe, and hosted live MTV New Year’s Eve party broadcasts. And they were getting paid for it! To quote George Gershwin, nice work if you can get it.
Where Are They Now?
Today, the surviving original MTV VJs are all in their 60s. Some are married (or remarried), most have kids, and they are all still involved with music in one way or another. They also all still look fantastic. Yet I look at them today and I cannot reconcile in my brain how I remember them…Martha Quinn with her pixie hair looking like she was all of 17 years old (she was actually 22), the suspender and tennis shoe-wearing Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood with her 80s hair looking so rock ‘n‘ roll, and Mark Goodman with his expansive hair. So, what are these four amigos up to today?
Although all of the original MTV VJs were perfect, if I had to choose one favorite VJ, it would have to be Marth Quinn. I am not alone. In 1991, Rolling Stone readers voted her “MTV’s Best-Ever VJ”. She had a sunny personality and she always acted like she was having the time of her life, which she was. She was young, adorable, and pioneered hosting rock music videos on television. I guess you could say, to coin a song from the 80s, she blinded me with science.
As a teenager with more testosterone than I knew what to do with, I secretly longed for a Quinn wardrobe malfunction before wardrobe malfunctions were a thing. Considering anytime I watched her she was dressed like a 17th century Quaker instead of a 20th century fox, there was little chance of that happening. Sorry if I sound bitter. I forgive, but I do not forget.
Over her years at MTV, Quinn got to interview some big stars like David Lee Roth, Frank Zappa, and Paul McCartney (see the Trivia note at the end of this segment).
At the end of last month Quinn wrote on the 80splusradio iHeart website, “As we celebrate MTV’s milestone, I reflect on the fact that today when you see the iconic MTV logo it takes no time at all to process what it represents. You recognize it as instantly as when you look at a grilled cheese sandwich. One second. Boom. Got it…MTV came flying out of left-field like a meteor into an unsuspecting world. August 1st, 1981 a fiery, mind-blowing, meteoric pop-culture disruptor blasted into our consciousness, changing the lives it touched forever.”
Quinn generously took a few minutes out of her very busy schedule to answer my questions:
PS: Did you own a boombox, Walkman, or a record player in the 80s?
MQ: Yes! A Sony Sport boombox that could record from the radio, a must for my Howard Stern years :))
PS: You went from a college grad to a TV star hanging out with rock stars. Do you think it changed you?
MQ: Yes, it gave me a sense of purpose and belonging that I didn’t have prior.
PS: Do you have any MTV memorabilia you cherish besides the famous McCartney tea cup?
MQ: I still have the shirt I auditioned in; it was given to me by my NYU roommate who was from Nashville. It said “Country Music Is In My Blood”!
PS: What kind of music are you currently listening to besides 80s?
MQ: I don’t have much time in my day to listen to music other than 80s, but every once in a while, I’ll decompress with some old-school tunes, anything from Aerosmith to Earth Wind and Fire, to the Beatles, Cheap Trick, even some Uriah Heep. Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book and Cat Stevens Tea For The Tillerman are two albums I can listen to over and over.
PS: Are you into records, CDs, downloads, or streaming?
MQ: Mostly streaming these days! I have a turntable but only have a few records out of storage.
Today, Quinn is still married to her husband of 29 years, Jordan Tarlow (Fuzztones), has two grown children, is a vegetarian, and resides in California. She is originally from Albany, New York. Quinn celebrated her 62nd Birthday in May. She hosts The Martha Quinn Show from her home studio during morning drive on San Francisco’s KOSF-FM, an all-80s (what else?) radio station, in addition to her “After Party” podcast.
“Considering anytime I watched her she was dressed like a 17th century Quaker instead of a 20th century fox, there was little chance of that happening.”
As she was during her time on MTV, Quinn is bubbly, upbeat, and quick witted. To listen to Quinn’s morning show, download the free iHeart radio app to your smart device, select KOSF, and stream the audio via Bluetooth to your Como Audio music system. Or, if your Alexa device is connected to your Como Audio music system via an audio cable or Bluetooth, ask Alexa to play KOSF from iHeart Radio and hear it through your system. By the by, Quinn also played Bobby Brady’s wife in a Brady Bunch TV show reunion years ago. I cannot believe Martha Quinn was a Brady by marriage.
Trivia: After finishing an interview with Paul McCartney, Quinn swiped the tea cup McCartney had been drinking from, but not before downing what was left. Ew. She still has the unwashed cup and once jokingly said she could use it to clone Paul McCartney.
Nina Blackwood was born in Springfield, MA, about a 1 ½ hour drive from Como Audio’s office, 65 years ago (she will turn 66 next month). She is a passionate supporter of animal rights, owning six cats, two parrots, and a dog. Rumor has it she lives in Maine but she prefers to keep her exact whereabouts private. Blackwood was the first of the five original VJs to be hired (and years later would be the first VJ to exit MTV). She had the most distinctive voice of all the hosts, and with the passage of time, it has only become more so.
Blackwood certainly had her share of interviews with the stars…John Mellencamp (I still refer to him as John “Couger” Mellencamp), Ray Davies, The Cure, Annie Lennox, Tom Petty, and the list goes on. Her worst interview was with Frank Zappa who came down with a serious case of ‘who the heck are you?’
John Waite sure knew who Blackwood was. A couple of month’s ago, Waite confirmed in an interview that his smash hit “Missing You” was about his then wife, some gal named Patty, and Nina Blackwood. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to know you inspired a hit song. Now, if she could only earn some royalties off of it…
She had sex appeal for sure, but Blackwood also brought smarts, wit, and sophistication to MTV. She was the thinking man’s VJ, and I am sure a lot of men thought about her!
I caught up with Blackwood via email but I experienced some kind of Internet gremlin and never found her responses to my questions. She graciously answered them all over again for me:
PS: Did you own a boombox, Walkman, or a record player in the 80s?
NB: “Record player and later Walkman.”
PS: Was there a rock star/group you wanted to meet or interview back then that never happened?
NB: “George Harrison.”
PS: What do you miss most about your time at MTV?
NB: “Miss living in NYC.”
PS: Do you have any MTV memorabilia you cherish?
NB: “Saved everything, however, it was destroyed in storage in the 90s, unfortunately.”
PS: Do you keep in regular touch with your fellow VJs or not so much?
NB: “Yes. Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and I work together on SiriusXM 8 Big 80s on 8 and we have a weekly PODCAST “I Want My 80s Podcast”. Martha and I are in touch regularly.”
PS: What kind of music are you currently listening to besides 80s?
NB: “My favorite “new artist” is Wolfgang Van Halen [Eddie Van Halen’s son] Mammoth WVH. Always like listening to the Rolling Stones.”
PS: Are you into records, CDs, downloads, or streaming?
NB: “Vinyl or streaming.”
“She was the thinking man’s VJ, and I am sure a lot of men thought about her!”
Nowadays, Blackwood hosts 80s-On-8 seven days a week on SiriusXM and co-hosts Big 40 Countdown. If you do not have SiriusXM, no worries. Blackwood hosts Absolutely80s and New Wave Nation both airing on the United Stations Radio Networks. As she mentioned above, she also co-hosts the weekly SiriusXM podcast I Want My 80s. Happy Birthday, Nina!
Trivia: During her MTV job interview luncheon at Manhattan’s exclusive Tavern on the Green, Blackwood literally almost chocked to death on a hard dinner roll. After recovering, she was offered the VJ job and accepted. She figured since they saved her life, the least she could do is accept the job.
Of all the original MTV VJs, Alan Hunter struck me as the most laid back…like someone you would hang out with and have a beer (or whatever) and talk about music (or whatever). Regarding the whatever part, not that I have lived the life of a Saint, but if I had false teeth, they would have fallen out onto the floor when I read in VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, that Hunter snorted cocaine (as did Mark Goodman and J.J. Jackson) during a portion of his MTV days.
With his suspenders and tennis shoes he came across like he was not entirely sure what he was supposed to be doing. In the aforementioned book VJ, Hunter recounts many of his antics. One time, he appeared in full clown gear. Another time, he cartwheeled himself right into a teleprompter, scattering broken glass all over the MTV set. Then there was the time he awkwardly caught a full-grown Zippy the chimp and injured his back in the process. Despite his shenanigans, he was such a nice guy, you just had to like him no matter what he did.
Hunter readily admits his MTV VJ audition was a train wreck, yet MTV hired him anyway, probably because they could not stop liking him. His female MTV fans really liked him, too. So much so, MTV management insisted Hunter remove his wedding ring during his on-air segments so as not to disappoint his female viewers. He eventually went back to wearing his ring at the understandable insistence of his then wife.
“Despite his shenanigans, he was such a nice guy, you just had to like him no matter what he did.”
Hunter, 64, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, is married with three children, and now lives in California. He hosts SiriusXM’s Classic Rewind as well as 80s-On-8 six days a week, co-hosts SiriusXM’s Big 40 Countdown and I Want My 80s podcast, co-owns Hunter Films production company with his brother, and co-founded and is an Advisory Board Member of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. Be careful if you approach him on the street. He has a black belt in Shotokan Karate. Obviously, Hunter does not know the meaning of slowing down.
Trivia: Hunter was very excited when he received a fan letter that included a naked picture of the attractive female author. She said she thought Hunter was ”so sexy”, but then proceeded to ask him to please pass her naked picture on to Steve Perry, the then lead singer of Journey.
J.J. Jackson passed away on March 17, 2004 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 62. At the time, MTV released this statement: “J.J. Jackson’s deep passion for music, his ease and good humor on air, and his welcoming style really set the tone for the early days of MTV. He was a big part of the channel’s success and we are sure he is in the music section of heaven, with lots of his friends and heroes. We are fortunate to have had him as a part of the MTV family. He will be greatly missed.”
Jackson’s last gig was as host of The Beatle Years on the Westwood One Radio Network.
I was surprised to learn that Jackson, who was born in New York, was a DJ at legendary Boston rock station WBCN-FM in the late 1960’s- the same radio station I interned at while a student at Emerson College.
Trivia: After a night of clubbing, Jackson used to apply Preparation H under his eyes to reduce the swelling before taping his MTV VJ segments.
I guess it was the hair, but during his MTV days, I thought Mark Goodman was a Robert Hegyes’ (“Juan Epstein” on the TV show Welcome Back Kotter) doppelganger. Goodman was to kick off the very first VJ segment on MTV and introduce his four fellow VJs, but there was some sort of satellite snafu resulting in Alan Hunter being the first VJ ever to speak on MTV. At one VJ reunion, Nina Blackwood said Goodman still held the distinction of being the most divorced VJ. During his time at MTV, Goodman interviewed big names like David Bowie, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and David Lee Roth.
Goodman was born in Philadelphia in 1952 and has one daughter. He currently resides in New York with his wife. He is all over SiriusXM hosting 80s-on-8 five days a week, SiriusXM’s VOLUME, co-hosting SiriusXM’s Debatable (a talk show about music), Big 40 Countdown, and the weekly I Want My 80s podcast.
Goodman did not respond to repeated requests through SiriusXM to participate in this article.
Trivia: During one MTV segment, Goodman was thrown down on the floor by legendary professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper (R.I.P.), but Piper did it in such a way to ensure Goodman was not injured.
Former Rolling Stone editor Kurt Loder was never an MTV VJ, but he was just as well known and arguably, just as important. In the late 1980s he hosted MTV’s The Week in Rock and went on to become the first anchor and correspondent for MTV News. He had a great voice, a dry delivery, and brought credibility to television music reporting. I used to love the opening of MTV News…the twirling white satellite dish with the MTV logo and the typeball loudly banging out “MTV News”. Except for Alan Hunter, the other original VJs never cared much for Loder, pointing out before he joined MTV, Loder frequently denigrated the music channel while writing for Rolling Stone magazine.
Loder was born in New Jersey but is a long time New Yorker. He turned 76 in May. He reviews films for reason.com and creators.com and hosts True Stories which is currently on hiatus on SiriusXM’s VOLUME channel. Loder was unable to participate in this article due to his current work schedule.
Trivia (from Wikipedia): “Loder was one of the first to break the news of Kurt Cobain’s death; he interrupted regular [MTV] programming to inform viewers that Cobain was found dead.”
In 2013, the four surviving VJs collectively went “on the record” (pun intended) in a best-selling book about their MTV experiences (plus quotes from the late J.J. Jackson). In “VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave” with Gavin Edwards, they recount fascinating, behind-the-scenes stories of what it was like to be in the center of a television revolution.
I was curious how the VJs related their memories so I queried co-author (and one-time Jeopardy! contestant) Gavin Edwards: “The VJs were mostly interviewed separately, because they’re scattered all over the country”, Edwards explained to me in an email. “But there were some exceptions: I interviewed Mark and Alan when they came to LA (separate trips), and each time, Martha made a point of joining us for a while so there would be some back-and-forth dynamic (and being around each other reminded them of stories they would have otherwise forgotten). And if one VJ said something about another one, I’d repeat it to them so they could respond. They were, honestly, all happy to have a chance to interact with each other.”
In “VJ”, you will read about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. You will hear tales from the studio side of interviews gone wild, water fights, a streaker, romances, and a runaway TV camera. And of course, there is plenty of name dropping. You will even learn about invisible fish. You will also find out how MTV ended for each of the VJs, proving in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
80s Internet Radio
If you miss all that great 80s music, Internet radio offers plenty of free options. With your Como Audio music system on, just press and hold the remote’s Play/Pause key in Internet radio mode, select Station list > Stations > Search stations > Type in “80S”, select “OK” on the right, and then browse through the list. Dr. Pundit, for example, offers three excellent choices all streaming out of Minnesota in very high quality at 320 kbps: 80s Radio, 80s Lite Hits, and 80s Love. As Dr. Pundit says on his website of 80s Lite Hits “…you’ll only hear the biggest adult contemporary hits of the decade. Twenty-four hours a day. Classic light 1980s pop for the masses!”
Spotify Connect is yet another free option having numerous 80s-related playlists.
MTV Was So 1980s
Unless you are of a certain younger generation, you would not recognize the current MTV. As music video ratings declined, MTV pointed its cameras on its viewers, morphing into the premier reality TV channel with shows like 16 and Pregnant, Revenge Prank, Jersey Shore, Ghosted, Jackass, Teen Mom, The Osbournes, Punk’d, and occasional mainstream movies. MTV pioneered the reality genre with The Real World in 1992 which centered around eight young strangers moving in together in a new city. Want more? There is MTV 2 with even more shows and movies. As it so happened, video did not kill the radio star, reality TV did.
Mind you, I am not opposed to reality TV. I am not sure why, but I have become addicted to TLC’s Return to Amish. I suppose I was just never able to make the adjustment from the original MTV to what it became. I had a similar experience when CNN Headline News (HLN) ceased being a 24/7 news channel and turned into the Forensic Files marathon channel. Goodnight Chuck Roberts, wherever you are.
MTV Turns 40 This Month. Celebrate 14 Years of Music.
MTV survived because of its ability to change with the times. So much so, the “M” in MTV no longer stands for “Music”. Appropriately, the “M” does not stand for anything anymore. On its website, MTV calls itself “…the leading youth entertainment brand…”. Although the channel itself is airing some specialty programs marking its 40th Anniversary, as of this writing I was unable to find any mention of it on its website. MTV also declined my invitation to participate in this article.
At least there is one organization happy to shine a light on MTV’s musical past. The Grammy Museum (which I never knew existed) in Mississippi is holding a year-long exhibit that celebrates MTV. “I Still Want My MTV” displays Michael Jackson’s leather suit as worn in his Dirty Diana video, the dress Madonna wore in her Vogue music video, the 1986 VMA award given to Dire Straits for their Money for Nothing video, plus other MTV-related memorabilia from Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Run DMC, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift among others. Sweet.
Cannot make it out to Mississippi? Tune your Como Audio music system to Internet radio station WXPN out of Philadelphia for “MTV Week” (not to be confused with Shark Week). The week of August 2-6 will feature MTV-inspired programming including the former host of MTV’s 120 Minutes, Matt Pinfield, and Rob Tannenbaum, author of I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution.
If you want your MTV served up the way it used to be, satellite TV and most cable services offer “MTV Classic” in their channel lineups. I Want My 80s, and to a lesser extent, House of Pop, play those classic music videos we remember, lamentably, without the vintage VJ patter and interviews. If your TV speakers are not up to the task (most are not), consider connecting your TV’s output to your Como Audio music system either with an analog audio cable or an optical cable and experience a sound upgrade. Of course, you can always call up your favorite music videos anytime on YouTube and stream the music from your smartphone or computer to your Como Audio music system via Bluetooth.
Whether you have fond memories of the original MTV as I do, are a big fan of the current iteration, or never cared for it at all, you cannot deny the major influence the channel had on music, the artists, our culture, and on its audience. MTV provided us with a new way to connect with our favorite rock bands and literally gave us a new way to look at music. There is a reason why we are still talking about this channel forty years on. Like the Apollo rocket that launched MTV, the music channel was a blast. Ladies and gentleman…rock n’ roll. Happy 40th Birthday, MTV! Enjoy the music (videos).
The iconic MTV logo was created by a tiny Manhattan graphic design studio tucked behind a Tai Chi school. In case you are wondering why I did not include any vintage MTV logos and a couple of period snaps of the VJs in my article, it is because MTV insisted on charging a $750 licensing fee per image. It occurs to me that perhaps the “M” in MTV really does represent something today…Money.
September’s Tech Rap: Recommended Stations
Debbie Gibson was one of my favorite artists from the 80s. She turns 51 at the end of this month.
|Sarah Brightman |
Lee Ann Womack
Billy Ray Cyrus
General Manger Peter Skiera lives in southern MA, worked in radio broadcasting throughout New England, and also worked for Cambridge SoundWorks, B&W Loudspeakers, and Tivoli Audio for 15 years before joining Como Audio in 2016 as Vice President of Product Development. If you have a comment or would like to suggest an Internet radio station or a topic for a future Tech Rap, Peter can be reached directly at email@example.com
SiriusXM: Subscribers can listen to SiriusXM channels on SiriusXM radios, online, on-the-go with the SiriusXM app, and with Amazon Alexa, the Google Assistant or however they stream at home. Go to www.siriusxm.com/ways-to-listen to learn more.