I don’t remember what I was doing on August 1, 1981. I was living in Warwick, Rhode Island. I was nine-and-a-half years old. It was summer and school was out. We would occasionally go to summer camp, but August 1 was a Saturday and there was no camp on weekends. We did have cable, so while it is possible I saw that very first video by the Buggles, aptly titled, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” But if I did, it didn’t really stand out in my mind as an important day in music history. Of course, it was the day that MTV was born, changing the way people listened to music by adding a new dimension to it. You could now sit in front of the TV and watch your favorite bands perform the songs that made them famous. Eventually, music videos evolved into an art form all their own adding to the glamour or rock bands, but in those early days it was entirely experimental.
While I may not recall the day that MTV was born, it soon permeated my consciousness. I remember watching the station in those early days, either at my house, a friend’s house, or my grandparent’s house. Those early videos stick with me right down to this very day, three decades later. The Buggles, Duran Duran, Peter Gabriel, Devo, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello, The Who.
For a period of 9 years from 1981 through 1990, I grew up with MTV. But that was a key decade in my life: third through twelfth grade. Years that are formative musically. I didn’t own very many albums (and in the early eighties, it was still albums and not cassettes). In fact, one of the few albums I managed to collect was Def Leppard’s Pyromania album. I would listen to the the radio. In Warwick, Rhode Island, my station of choice was 92 PRO FM. But I was influenced by MTV more than anything else.
After 1990, I went off to college and pretty much stopped watching and with very few exceptions, I haven’t gone back. MTV has morphed into something that I think wasn’t originally intended. They rarely play music videos these days. But those early days still provide fond memories, the music I saw performed on the station, the videos I watched influenced my musical tastes and most certainly had an impact on who I am today.
This morning, SiriusXM 80s on 8 has a special program featuring four of the original MTV VJs: Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn and Nina Blackwood. They’ve got a bunch of musical guests from the early days of MTV and they are recreating that first day of videos by playing the songs that were first played on MTV in the order they appeared. It’s making for a fun Monday morning.
So happy 30th birthday MTV! It’s hard to believe it has been 30 years.