I was 14 years old when MTV signed on the air. The perfect age to fall under the spell of what was then cutting edge entertainment. I remember feeling very excited and slightly proud that I didn’t have to call my cable company to say, “I want my MTV” because I had it! I was what we now refer to as an early adopter, I had access to MTV when MTV was still in very few homes. This meant I got to see some of the earliest music videos. This also meant that I got to see them over and over, but that is beside the point. I’d get home from school and rush to the television to watch Roxanne by the Police, David Bowie’s Fashion and Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants. MTV provided me, for the first time, exposure to bands that were not being played by Casey Kasem on his weekly top 40 show and I liked it! I liked it a lot. I have no doubt that my love of alternative music can be at least in part traced back to August 1st, 1981–the day MTV signed on the air.
Last week, after years of not playing music videos, MTV removed the words music television from its corporate logo. And while it has probably been two decades since I last tuned in to watch music videos, I still felt a bit sad. 29 years after the Buggles proclaimed that the radio star was dead, Snooki has finished off the music video.
I decided to pay homage to the MTV of old by putting together a list of some of my favorite videos from back in the day. It was very difficult to narrow the list down to five.
1. Don’t Stand So Close to Me, The Police. Not sure when this first aired on MTV but it was replayed often and I loved it!
2. Rock the Casbah, The Clash. When I first saw this I had no idea just how badass they were and how much I would wind up learning about music because of them.
3. Watusi Rodeo, Guadalcanal Diary. From MTV’s show the Basement Tapes, this was the first and last song I played as a DJ at WUOG in Athens, GA.. I chose this video for sentimental reasons, also for the Nina Blackwood cameo.
4. I Wanna Be Sedated, the Ramones. Even the Ramones, as unattractive as they were, could be stars during the early days of MTV.
5. You Might Think, The Cars. In the early to mid 1980’s, no one told a story on video as well as the Cars did. Ric Ocasek transformed into a fly–that’s good stuff!
I could literally go on and on: Squeeze, Split Enz, the Pretenders… Which videos do you remember from the early days of MTV?