Saturday, August 1, 2015

MTV At 34

Screen capture from the MTV premiere broadcast in 1981

Yes, indeed. MTV made its debut 34 years ago today. This is how it started:

And this is the first music video to appear on the premiere show: had this to say about MTV on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary:

Bucks Fizz had exploded after winning the Eurovision Song Contest, Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” hogged the radio airwaves and the popularity of Adam Ant and the other New Romantics meant men were parading around in their girlfriends’ make-up. Then on 1 August, just after midnight, a new television channel aimed at teens and 20-somethings launched with the words: “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” It was called MTV.
Set up with the intention of playing music videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week, MTV quickly catapulted them into the mainstream. Not only did the channel encourage videos to be viewed as an art form, they also became a marketing tool for record companies. Artists were forced to embrace the medium or risk retirement. Madonna and Duran Duran were just some of the stars that benefited in the early years. Of course, it had its detractors and many thought the channel was devaluing the industry by placing the entire emphasis on the visual aesthetic rather than the music.
MTV’s viewers, a generation desperate to disassociate themselves from their baby-boomer parents, had no unifying identity: the civil-rights movement and Vietnam were their parents’ struggles. These cynical and dissatisfied youths came together, however, by tuning into this eclectic new channel. The MTV Generation was born.

But Buggles was right in the long run. Just as video killed the radio star, so the Internet killed the MTV format in just a few years. The channel resorted to some of the earliest versions of "reality programming," almost always low-rent and often provocative, but it sold the soap and brought in young audiences. The channel survives today as "entertainment" for teens. One could say MTV is Nickelodeon's tatted, pierced, and "recovering" sibling who occasionally has flashbacks about its glory days in the music industry.




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