I want my…no, wait. No I don’t.

What happened to MTV?

It has nothing whatsoever to do with the M anymore.  So how did it get here and why?

Let’s get this straight.  MTV (if you loved it or hated it) revolutionized a hurting music industry on August 1st 1981 at 12:01 a.m.

I’m actually old enough to remember staying awake for days watching it.  ‘Video Killed the radio Star’ was the first video, followed by some tv static (while producers put in the next video, no kidding)  then Pat Benatar’s ‘You better Run’.

Soon the VJ came on to introduce us.  It was Birmingham Alabama’s Alan Hunter (by accident) who said, “And I’m Alan Hunter, Let’s get to it.”

In reality it’s a miracle they even made it.  When they first started out, their selection of videos was incredibly limited because the concept of the music video was new to America. Britain, however, had been experimenting with music video “promo-clips” and many of the early videos aired on MTV came out of Great Britain. In fact,  music acts like Duran Duran, who were not receiving radio airplay at the time, more or less owe their international success to the heavy rotation and repetition of the small cache of videos in MTV’s collection.

But it caught on quick.  And changed the music industry just as quick.  And like most trend setting moments, not always for the best.  Music became visual, which was bound to happen.  But now a great video could sell a pretty crappy song.

Looks and flash mattered.

But MTV had landmarks.  With the show 120 minutes they broke underground bands like Nirvana, Weezer and Oasis to name a few.  With Headbanger’s ball they brought and broke Metal.  (real metal).

In 1988, they broke the color barrier with ‘Yo, MTV Raps’.  The series is absolutely responsible (or guilty) with the spread and popularity of hip hop to the masses.

And do you remember the unplugged series?  It was more than groundbreaking.  Squeeze was first (for those who want to know such things), and then a litany of great performances followed.  Paul McCartney redeemed himself, Eric Clapton showed he not only could play a Strat, and Nirvana proved that there were real songs behind their music.  Don Henley, REM, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Lenny Kravitz, and more memorable performances to name.

Then in about ’92, they aired a reality show called ‘The Real World’.  The success of the show started a downward spiral away from music that changed MUSIC television, to just another reality show channel for kids with no attention span and acne.

So where has it landed now?

There is literally NO music on MUSIC television anymore.   If “video Killed the radio star” then “Reality shows killed the video music star”.

Maybe with the popularity of Youtube  it doesn’t make sense now.  And they must have viewers, because they don’t seem to want to change a thing.

I’m not sure I miss it. I may be a little nostalgic for it….But they could be instrumental in truly breaking GOOD new bands and artist, and that I think is a shame.

Have any thoughts or memories of MTV?




6 responses

  1. Shawn Ryan

    Rarely watched MTV, even when I was keeping up with the new bands. I could never figure out what videos had to do with music. The answer: Absolutely nothing. Videos have everything to do with marketing. I don’t want someone telling me how a song should be interpreted. I’ll leave that to my own fevered brow.
    And actually, there were American-made videos back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They called them “vignettes,” and I remember watching them as an 11- and 12-year-old on “Now Explosion” on Super 17 in Atlanta. Saw videos for Ides of March “Vehicle,” “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy” by the Poppy Family, lots of stuff. And I admit, at that young age, I would watch them for hours.

    March 27, 2011 at 2:29 pm

  2. Joey

    I remember watching MTV as a three year old. I have always been a huge hair metal Fan and the first video I ever remember seeing was, “Tears Are Falling” by KISS. I used to adore all the hair metal music videos.

    But to be honest I still watch MTV. Jackass and it’s spinoffs Rule. And Shows like Silent Library and Pranked are Funny.

    March 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm

  3. Allen Barlow

    When I was 10, my family got cable television a few short months after MTV launched. For a while, we were the only house in the neighborhood that had it so kids would flock to my house to hangout and watch it for hours. The Brit bands who were in the early rotation have a special place in my heart. Squeeze, Madhouse, Boomtown Rats, Adam Ant, Joe Jackson, etc… good memories and actually some good songs. Used to love catching “the Young Ones” episodes ( MTV’s first “show”) on Sunday nights. Truly sad that MTV even still goes by that moniker.

    March 27, 2011 at 7:18 pm

  4. Berry

    I WANT MY MTV! I used to love MTV. We didn’t have cable when MTV first came out so I would watch it for hours at my aunt and uncles house. I can remember staying up until the wee hours of the night just to see Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon” debut. Headbanger’s Ball was the best show ever in the late 80’s.
    I never thought about how much I missed the old MTV until I read this blog. Who didn’t love “Beavis and Butthead”?
    They should change the name to “Reality Shows Featuring Young Idiots Channel”. Youth is wasted on the young.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm


    In 1974 in Los Angeles, while watching a concert on TV and listening to the stereo, hi-quality audio on FM (KLOS, I think), I predicted to my best friend in Alabama that someday there would be a TV channel dedicated to rock music with high quality stereo sound and it would be a revolution. I’m sure a lot of other folks predicted something similar. Then came MTV.

    It was pretty meh from the start, but it was all we had. And, gotta say, Martha Quinn rocked my world! Loved to watch her, even if the music was so-so.

    Glad it happened. Glad Alan Hunter had the resources to start (if he did) Workplay. If he didn’t, “Thanks,” to whomever did.

    Wish I could predict the NEXT big thing. And then do something about it.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:41 am

  6. Jeannie

    I used to love to watch Madonna… I miss mtv

    December 10, 2011 at 2:40 am

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