Monday, 5 September 2011

For MTV's 30th Anniversary, the first 20 videos MTV ever played

Aug. 1 was the 30th anniversary of MTV's first broadcast and here is the list of the first twenty video ever played on air;


1. The Buggles ~ Video killed the radio star
2. Pat Benatar ~ You better run
3. Rod Stewart ~ She won't dance
4. The Who ~ You better you bet
5. PHD ~ Little Susie's on the up
6. Cliff Richard ~ We don't talk anymore
7. The Pretenders ~ Brass in pocket
8. Tod Rundgren ~ Time heals
9. REO Speedwagon ~ Take it on the run
10. Styx ~ Rockin in the Paradise
11. Robin Lane & The Chartbusters ~ When things go wrong
12. Split Enz ~ History never repeats
13. 38 Special ~ Hold on loosely
14. April Wine ~ Just between you and me
15. Rod Stewart ~ Sailing
16. Iron Maiden ~ Iron Maiden
17. REO Speedwagon ~ Keep on loving you
18. The Pretenders ~ Message of love
19. Lee Ritenour ~ Mr. Briefcase
20. The Cars ~ Double life

(The final video of the first day was "Carouselambra" by Led Zeppelin)


The generational breakdown was;

From The Old Guard; Rod Stewart (twice), Cliff Richard, Todd Rundgren, The Who (4)

From The New Wave; The Pretenders (twice), The Cars, The Buggles, Split Enz, Pat Benatar, Robin Lane & The Chartbusters, PHD (7)

From The Stadium Rockers; REO Speedwagon (twice), April Wine, 38 Special, Styx

Plus one from Metal (Iron Maiden) and one from Jazz Fusion (Lee Ritenour).

Geographically the breakdown is;

From the USA ~ REO Speedwagon (twice), Pat Benatar, Todd Rundgren, The Cars, 38 Special, Styx, Robin Lane, Lee Ritenour (8, or 9 if we count REO twice)

From the UK ~ The Who, Rod Stewart (twice), Cliff Richard, The Pretenders (twice), PHD (5, or 7 if we count the Pretenders and Rod Stewart twice)

Plus one from New Zealand (Split Enz) and one from Canada (April Wine).

Gender wise there is less balance with only three females (unless we count The Pretenders).


The biggest lack of balance though can be seen in one area. The list is completely lilly white, with not one black artist in the bunch. This is no anomaly either, the policy of MTV in the early years was too play as little black music as possible so as to not offend middle America. There were a few acceptable black black artists of course; Stevie Wonder, Lionel Ritchie, Dinah Ross, Donna Summer, The Commodores, Pointer Sisters along with some vintage footage of Motown artists and Jimi Hendrix. But that's about it. Hip Hop? Forget it. Hip Hop actually had been around for a few years by then, mostly in New York and a few other urban centers in the North East, however most black neighbourhoods didn't have cable yet and would not be seeing MTV anyway (most rural areas wouldn't be getting it either), and the MTV brass were desperate not offend their mostly white suburban viewers and the advertisers who love them.


This Lilly White policy started to get them flack from some in the media fairly quickly and during one interview David Bowie once caused a scene when he dared to ask one of MTV's unctuous hosts ON THE AIR why they didn't play more black music. What blasted the white wall of MTV though was Micheal Jackson and "Thriller".


Micheal Jackson had actually been on MTV's "acceptable" list already for his previous "Off the wall" album as well as for his older Jackson 5 videos. However the "Off the wall" Jacko was a young, clean cut, smiling boy next door type. "Thriller" Jacko wore a leather jacket, a sneer borrowed from Elvis and dance steps borrowed from James Brown and MTV was reluctant to touch that one until Jackson's record company and management threatened to boycott all their artists from MTV until MTV caved in. Which they did with whatever dignity they could manage. As we all know "Thriller" only turned out to be the biggest selling album of all time a wielded a series of number one hit videos. Suddenly MTV looked like geniuses and just as suddenly they were looking around for the next Jacko.


And then up popped Prince. Actually he had also been around for awhile and even recorded a couple of albums which sold quite well on the black music charts and got good reviews from both black and white critics. However white top 40 radio wouldn't touch him. Partly due to his X-rated lyrics but also due to his dirty-old-man costume of raincoat, heels, lipstick and speedos. After seeing the squeaky clean Jacko dominate the charts and airwaves Prince went back to his closet and came back with a look that combined James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Adam Ant along with a slightly more slick sound that would take him to the top as well, not only with black audiences but white one too. Thus did MTV contribute to the breaking down of racial barriers on the American airwaves, even if they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the alter.


Later MTV's latent conservatism (born of caution not politics) would cause them to completely miss out on the new post-punk American underground of the 1980's and 90's to the fury of the likes of The Dead Kennedys and others. It would be hard to deny that by then they deserved it too. I have written elsewhere on here comparing MTV with Canada's Much Music (who had their 25th anniversary last year) and there's no doubt that we got the better deal even before MTV gave up on music entirely and started turning out comedy jams and those loathsome reality TV shows. Still there was once a few years when MTV was the most powerful music broadcaster on the planet. And it wasn't always a bad thing.


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