Favorite Things–Music Videos

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?

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16 responses

  1. Reality TV killed the Video star!

    I too, was fortunate to get it early, although it was a few weeks before I knew it.

    I loved MTV as much for the knowledge they would provide as the videos. Nina, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn would always provide you with why “so and so’ was important, even if their new video sucked.

    “Hungry Heart” was probably the only song by Springsteen I had ever heard prior to seeing “10th Avenue Freeze-out” on MTV. It really wasn’t even a video but footage from a performance. It wasn’t long before I knew all the words to Thunder Road. Thank you, Martha Quinn!

    “Rock the Casbah” motivated me to figure out how to hook my TV up to my stereo! London Calling blew my mind.

    Steve Winwood’s video’s didn’t do anything for me, but the Vj mentioned “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”. Thank you!

    The Cars definitely (did I spell it right?) got into the video production. It was years later, but the Dead’s “Touch of Grey” was a great video. I think it was the only one they ever produced for MTV.

    Perhaps my favorite song that would have never made it without MTV was “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I’m a sucker for a catchy tune with a fiddle.

    On the negative side, MTV loved them some Rod Stewart!

    • You bring up a really good point Mike. MTV wielded a lot of influence even in the early years. Bands who initially didn’t want to embrace the music video concept were forced to because a popular video could, and most of the time would, translate into higher record sales.

      I too enjoyed the tidbits of information the VJs would share before and after they played a cluster of songs.

  2. Awesome! And a great shout out to Marietta, Georgia and the big chicken in the Guadalcanal Diary video! I saw the first weekend of MTV – possibly the first night. I was at a party and we were mesmerized by the concept… I think the VJ was Martha Quinn.

    • I can’t tell you how happy I was to learn that the video for Watusi Rodeo was on YouTube! I was so nervous when playing that song on air for the first time (not because of the song, but because it was my first time slip-cueing live) that my hands were shaking which caused the record to skip! Missed the first several seconds of the song! Four and a half years later it seemed only fitting that I sign off the air with the same tune.

  3. All of those videos come back to mind so vividly. Great post.

    Martha Quinn and I spent so many wonderful hours together. But looking back, JJ Jackson may have been my favorite. Just not nearly as cute as Martha.

    I used to love to get a pair of chop sticks and jam on the pillows of the sofa along with the likes of Neil Peart and Alex Van Halen. Their skill and all out awesomeness made me wish I hadn’t chosen the trumpet.

    Lasting faves: Billy Jean, Distant Early Warning, White Wedding, In a Big Country, Panama & Owner of a Lonely Heart (remember the snake?)

    • Those Van Halen videos were classic! So many great moments in Jump alone. White Wedding, loved that one! She Blinded Me With Science by Thomas Dolby–another early favorite that was overplayed but I didn’t care. That Big Country song provided me my senior quote for my high school yearbook. *Sigh* Good times!

  4. What a great, and sad, trip down memory lane. When I saw the news about the “music” part being removed from the channel’s identity, I felt OLD.

    The first video I saw on the channel was Fleetwood Mac’s “Hold On To Me.” When I was in HS, I wrote an article for the school paper about this newfangled thing called “music television” that was captivating those in my generation. (And it was this article, which received an award from the state journo association, that led me to my first visit to the UGA campus, where I wound up spending the best 5 years of my life. So other than fantasies about Martha Quinn, MTV really did provide me with something meaningful).

    When I think back, I still recall groundbreaking videos like Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” Billy Idol fighting zombies in “Dancing with Myself” and Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” And of course, when everyone on campus gathered in the TV rooms at the appointed time each hour to watch “Thriller” for the umpteenth time. And like some have mentioned above, it wasn’t just the music or this new art form, it was also being introduced to bands and performers (and the stories behind them) for the first time that you never would have heard played on your local stations.

    And now? It’s a channel I never watch, filled with dimwits and douchebags all looking for their 15 minutes of fame in the most vapid ways possible. Sigh, there’s always VH1 Classic and youtube.

    Nice post, and thanks for the stroll down the avenues of the past.

    • Thanks so much for reading and for your comment! I too remember watching MTV in the television room in my dorm. Seems like it was one of the few channels everyone could agree on.

      Duran Duran, they were in heavy rotation on MTV back in the early days! I was in high school then and there wasn’t a girl I knew who did not have a crush on one of them. Now I am remembering how big the Frankie Goes To Hollywood song Relax was! People even wore tee shirts with “Frankie Says Relax” written on them. I think that too can be traced back to MTV. And we can’t forget Madonna. She started several fashion trends because of the way she dressed in her videos.

      The more I think about it, the more I wonder if MTV’s decision not to play videos (however many years ago that happened) started what will some day soon be the demise of the music industry as we once knew it. It really does feel like a shame to me when I think back to the way it was. I know my kids turn to Youtube to watch some videos and my daughter, who is 16, will watch music videos on Fuse, but maybe the audience did dry up–who knows.

    • That is nice to hear. I can’t even tell you how much working at that station meant to me. It was a tremendous experience. Thanks so much for checking out my blog and for leaving a comment! As one Bulldog in exile to another–I appreciate it!

  5. Please allow me to chime in once more….

    For all the positive impact MTV had on music it should be noted their were drawbacks.

    As is my custom, on Fridays I like to “get my drink on” and listen to my tunes, not I tunes.

    Many, if not most of the albums, wax artifacts, I pull out bring to life great music, genuine pleasure to the ear, mind and soul. These RECORDS that I speak of were the creation of that may not have been created by “Radio Stars” but were never the less amazing artists.

    Video also killed many a talented singer/song-writer and genuine rock-n-roll band that did not have the telegenic presence MTV required.

    I will not go into the examples of which I am referring, but I would like to remind everyone of the awesome image buster delivered by one Billy Squier.

    I liked a few of Billy’s songs but the “pink” video he produced ended his career.

    Lesser bands were made of video, greater were destroyed by it.

  6. FYI, on first weekend in August 2006 VH1 Classic played the entire first and second days of MTV. There weren’t that many videos in their catalog at the time so the same ones came up several times. We even went up to a sports bar to grab a beer and eat, and had the mgr turn the big screen to VH1 Classic to watch and listen, since there wasn’t much on sports wise that day. Great to see that and glad I did b/c those days are fading memories unfortunately.

    Lots of Pat Benatar and also Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass album songs like Rough Boys and Let My Love Open the Door. My favorite video, mainly b/c of its strangeness was “Close to the Edit” by Art of Noise. That little girl with the funky makeup banging on the piano with the big monkey wrench???

    I used to have a VHS tape I made with mostly recorded videos from MTV’s 120 minutes show which came on Sunday nites from 11 – 1 am. Got to see the ‘new’ acts. A real hard to find (or remember) video was Boy/Go by the Golden Palominos with M. Stipe on vocals. Also loved U2s New Years Day video.

    Better stop b/c I could go on forever. Great topic.

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