I Want My MTV!

Beavis-Butthead.jpgImagine a world without Headbangers
Ball, Beavis and Butt-head, Yo! MTV Raps, the Tom Green Show, The
Osbournes, Jackass, Punk’d, Newlyweds,
or Pimp My
. Now, brace yourselves: It was 25 years ago, on August 1,
1981, that MTV first went on the air, and the influence the network
has had on all aspects of pop culture can hardly be overstated. In
MTV’s early days, videos ruled, and made style icons out of
Madonna, Michael Jackson, and, god help us, Boy George. Painted-on
moles and black lace became ubiquitous among teenage girls, while
teenage boys became … confused. It didn’t take long for major
recording industry execs to become hip to the make-or-break
marketing potential of the music video, hiring up-and-coming
directors like Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and David Fincher to
create them. While it’s tough to say which came first — Adam Curry
or the mullet — it’s indisputable that images from MTV spawned
trend after trend, and made the small matter of taste beside the
point. As viewership rose, MTV began diversifying its programming,
with videos taking a backseat; by 1992, MTV was encouraging kids to
“rock the vote,” and Bill Clinton was campaigning for the
presidency of the United States in between episodes of Liquid
and MTV’s then brand-new hit, The Real
. What a long, strange trip it’s been.

MTV Trivia: •  MTV went on the air with the
words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll!” •  The first music
video aired on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the
Buggles. •  The five original VJs were Nina Blackwood, Mark
Goodman, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson, and Martha Quinn. •  Dire
Straits’ 1985 song “Money for Nothing” began with Sting singing “I
Want My MTV.” •  Not everyone was a fan: witness the Dead Kennedys’
“MTV — Get Off the Air,” Beck’s “MTV Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack,”
or Sublime’s “Don’t Wanna Be No MTV Motherfucker.”  

— Shannon Kelley Gould


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