Happy Birthday, MTV

1 Aug

Was video gonna kill the radio star? That was the question when MTV: Music Television premiered on August 1, 1981. The “first ever 24-hour video music channel.” Soon to be known simply as MTV, it modestly introduced itself with the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The famous guitar riff – go ahead, you know it’s in your head now! – with the man in the moon planting the flag with the now also famous logo, heralded a new era for the music industry.

MTV.shockleewebpic.8.1.13The first video from an English band called The Buggles begged that question. But it ended up a moot point. MTV introduced an outlet for creativity. Visionaries such as Robert Palmer and Peter Gabriel saw its possibilities and made visual masterpieces, five-minute works of cinematography still remembered, still revered. Marrying music with that kind of creativity ended up to be a boon for musicians who now saw far-reaching ways to promote themselves. New outlets were open to them. And more and more would follow in the years to come.

That MTV proved to be influential is clear. Think about these milestones: Michael Jackson’s 14-minute Thriller, the Live Aid benefit concerts, YO! MTV Raps that introduced mainstream America to rap and hip-hop, and Unplugged, the acoustic music series (a premise, if I may be allowed a plug, that was predated by your humble blogger’s acoustic college radio series, Soho Natural Sessions). Its influence went on to fashion, movies, TV shows, and the definition of celebrity itself. And it made a huge impact in corporate marketing, branding, and advertising – new techniques and new motifs had endless promise. Pop culture would never be the same.

“I want my MTV.” It was all about the music. Although after 1992, MTV started to steer away from music video to pursue reality programming, it still leaves us with a rich legacy of music. Ultimately, that is the really cool thing to remember.

 

Source:
MTV logo: MTV

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