At the stroke of midnight 30 years ago today — August 1, 1981 — MTV, known as Music Television, aired its first broadcast and its first music video for a song called Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles. At that moment, history was made and the face of pop culture was changed forever. Today, 30 years later, MTV (no longer referred to as “Music Television“) is completely unrecognizable as the channel it was when it debuted … but it’s influence on the modern world can still be felt (if, at the very least, in other ways). Click below to watch the first minutes of MTV when it debuted 30 years ago and reminisce about what one was … and remember how mothereffing cool MTV used to be.
MTV launched on August 1st, 1981 at 12:01 a.m. The first images broadcast were the launch of the Apollo 11, followed by a video for the Buggles song “Video Killed The Radio Star.” The network has gone through countless permutations since then, but this weekend VH1 Classic will commemorate MTV’s founding with a three-day marathon of footage from the 1980s, including a re-broadcast of the network’s first hour … In the earliest days, MTV was only available in a limited number of cities. When they launched, the VJs had to travel to New Jersey to watch it because even New York cable companies didn’t offer it. “Part of the job was to hang out with cable operators and convince them to pick up MTV,” Goodman says. “Within six months we started getting these stories back from small towns in the Midwest and in the South where people were going into record stores and asking for the Buggles, who had been off the shelves for about three years by 1981. I also remember doing an appearance in Cheyenne, Wyoming at a record store where thousands of people showed up. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘You.’ I was completely blown away, and I said, ‘Okay, it’s working.’” It took a little while for all the major artists to begin making videos. “I think we only had 300 videos at first,” Goodman says. “Which is why you saw Andrew Gold every few hours. We also had lots of Rod Stewart, and even acts like Charlie Daniels. One of the early success stories was Duran Duran. We started playing ‘Planet Earth’ early on and it got them wide exposure. We started to hear about British bands coming to the States and being shocked by how many people showed up.” The new platform served as a tremendous boost to the record industry. “We sort of propped it up when there was kind of an indulgence in the industry,” says Goodman. “We were coming off Saturday Night Fever in 1979 and the industry had this gigantic bubble and then things got awful quiet. We came along just in time and revitalized things, or at least opened people up to more music.”
Those of us who remember fondly the glory days of Music Television are very lucky … because young kids today have NO idea what an amazing impact the music video channel had on us … on the world. If I were to compare it to a phenomenon today, I’d say that the impact and cool factor of MTV in its prime is arguably comparable to the impact of Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and You Tube altogether today. It is such a shame that MTV no longer exists in the format that it once did … but today, on it’s 30th anniversary, we can look back, remember and LOVE what once was. Happy Birthday, MTV. I will always love you, no question, but I deffo miss your amazing glory days.
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