If Video Killed the Radio Star and Reality TV Killed the Videos, Do You Still Want Your MTV?

Flickr image by Gnal

Happy 30th Anniversary MTV!!!

We all remember how it started with the footage of a Space Shuttle launch countdown and moon landing with the voice over, “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.”  There we sat, eyes locked to the center of our TV screens as The Buggles’s “Video Killed the Radio Star” began to play.  Oh it was a dreadful video.  One focused on an awkward looking lead singer muttering words along with an irritating melody, but it was new, innovative and ours. 

I was nine years old the summer of 1981.  I still thrilled in begging my mom for trips to the record store and getting my hands on the newest singles (45s back then) and albums.  We made mix tapes by holding our portable tape players up to the radio speakers and cursed when the DJs talked over the beginning of the songs.  And we watched American Bandstand and Soul Train to get a glimpse of what the singers looked like. 

Then along came music television where we could watch broadcasts of the newest videos every hour on the hour.  It was from MTV that I gained my knowledge about A Flock of Seagulls and the other techno British bands of the ’80s, Bon Jovi and a lady named Madonna.  Along the way, we’ve had a lot of fun.  Remember perky VJ Martha Quinn?  Madonna’s writhing “Like a Virgin” performance on the VMAs?  The screams to ban her “Like a Prayer” video?  “Beavis and Butt-head”?  The launch of “Thriller” and “The Making of Thriller”? 

While the music still reigns on MTV Jams and other related spin-offs, I can’t recall the last time I found a video on regular MTV.  While they birthed and spawned the modern reality TV genre, the blame for the removal of music cannot be left alone at their executives’ feet.  Trends and wants changed. 

I was tuned in when the first “The Real World” aired from New York.  I raise my hand and admit to watching every boring second–boring since this was pre-mug and wild out for the camera reality participants.  We had Kevin brooding and misunderstood, Julie awkward from her sheltered life and Heather B. who just wanted to get put on.  Yeah, pretty sad I still remember their names.  “The Real World” was my first taste of the sweet nectar of reality TV and I was hooked and ready to watch hours more.   Slowly the videos stopped and the very thing I wanted I taught the network to take away.

Thirty years later, we still want our MTV from the guilty pleasure (or torture) of seeing the “Jersey Shore” cast spin their 15 minutes of fame to new heights to watching The Gauntlet 100 (well not yet, but doesn’t it feel like we are headed that way?).  We still tune in for their movie and video award shows since everyone knows the artist performances on the VMA’s rock harder than on the Grammy’s.   And we log onto MTV online for the new millenium version of MTV News, podcasts and yes even videos. 

Who was your favorite MTV VJ?

What were some of your favorite music videos?

Do you still watch MTV now?

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12 Responses to If Video Killed the Radio Star and Reality TV Killed the Videos, Do You Still Want Your MTV?

  1. I thought all of the VJs were cool. I wanted their job!!!! MTV was on all the time at my place so we’d never miss a video. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a particular favorite, though as long as the men were strutting around in tight pants, I was good. Sebastian Bach from Skid Row was really nice to look at. His hair was fabulous!!!!!!

    • You are so right Diana! Thanks for commenting. Sebastian sure was hot. I loved Prince growing up so I could appreciate the makeup and hair teasing done by the glam bands. Their style and struts! And the rock songs had an anthem-like, cross-cultural appeal. That’s what I loved about MTV. As they progressed, they ended up having something for everyone.

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  3. Naomi Bulger says:

    Confession: I loved Video Killed the Radio Star. Still do. But we were not an MTV watching family, and I’d never seen the actual video before today. Woah!! I’m thinking that if Dr Who circa 1980 did a musical episode (kind of like the musical episode of Buffy), it would look a little something like this! I do remember going to a Bluelight Disco (did you have those in the US? Dance parties for kids, put on by local police), where they showed the Thriller video for the FIRST time, on a big, outdoor screen. That was pretty special, because even then, we knew this was pretty groundbreaking in the music video world.

    • Naomi, the Bluelight Disco parties sound awesome! What a great thing to do for neighborhood kids. They didn’t have them where I grew up so I’m not sure about the rest of the US. Funny about the Dr. Who musical episode. Yes, many of videos from the early days were abstract visions. You knew the artist and director were trying to do something really cool, but the concept didn’t transfer. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Kristal Lee says:

    OMG! I can’t believe it’s been 30 years. Happy Bday MTV.

  6. Hi Barbara!

    Man, has MTV been around that long? I feel OLD! You’ve got me wondering where my “Thriller” and “Off the Wall” albums and my old 45 discs are…

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