This. Is. It. Welcome to MTV – Music Television. The world’s first 24 hour stereo video music channel. Just moments ago, all of the VJs and the crew here at MTV collectively hit our executive producer, Sue Steinberg, over the head with a bottle of champagne, and behold, a new concept is born. The best of TV combined with the best of radio. And starting right now, you’ll never look at music the same way again. We’ll be back to introduce the other VJs, and the other folks who are gonna be with us on MTV.
Mark Goodman speaking the first words on MTV (after the classic rocket launch, of course) 38 years ago today.
I recently posted an article covering my favorite music videos as part of an ’80s Crossover event with the ’80s League. Now, Robert is sharing his favorite video. Please check out our fellow members of the ’80s League who participated in this event:
Recently (August 1) MTV celebrated its birthday. Thirty-six years ago the channel that changed pop culture and affected the way all of us listened to – and watched – music played the first notes of The Buggles Video Killed the Radio Star and followed that with Pat Benatar’s You Better Run. The rest, as they say, is history. The channel that many thought could never work definitely worked and influenced music sales for the next two decades. Not everyone liked the shows MTV would add later and not all of them were successful, but that beginning, that core of music videos, concerts, and interviews with the artists left an indelible impression on all of us who sat glued to that cable channel.
Personally, I did not truly watch MTV until I moved back to the United States after living on an army base in Frankfurt, (then) West Germany for six years. Music videos did become a very precious commodity, though. In those years before MTV Europe, friends and/or acquaintances would travel back to the United States for holidays and summer vacations. Whenever anyone came back to the U.S., they always returned to Germany with a six hour VHS tape full of MTV – commercials and all. Those tapes made the rounds and were dubbed and dubbed and dubbed. We watched these videos until the tapes broke. Do not forget that these were the days before YouTube and there was really no other way to get a hold of these sacred clips. I vividly remember the all night sessions of Atari video games (that would later evolve into Commodore 64) with these VHS tapes of MTV rolling in the background. We would be mashing the buttons on the joysticks and singing at the top of our lungs. And when it was not our turn to play, we turned around and watched those videos – and sing at the top of our lungs.
Like most teens in the ‘80s, MTV was a major part of my growing up and I do really miss it now. Just a month ago I was visiting my best friends in Louisville. We did not turn on MTV as that would be a futile effort today. We went to Youtube and found a playlist of ‘80s hair bands and feasted on those classics!
Simply put: MTV helped form me into the adult I am today. Now as I am faced with a crossover event with our fellow ‘80s brothers and sisters, I am able to write about my favorite ‘80s video. There are so many choices, but my choice is an easy one. To me, despite all of the possibilities, my favorite ‘80s video begins and ends with a-ha’s Take On Me.
Yes, I briefly considered a few others like, well, no I really didn’t. a-ha’s song was the first one that popped into my head and stayed there. Yes, I am an a-ha fan. Growing up in Germany in the ‘80s made this a natural. I saw the band in concert in November of 1986 at the Frankfurt Festhalle shortly after the release of their second album Scoundrel Days. I have always felt they have been unfortunately labeled as one-hit-wonders here in the U.S. I know it is true here, but they had twenty consecutive top ten hits on the European continent – just nothing else here. Despite their clearly European sound that is not a rousing success for many here in the States, the video propelled this song to number one for the week of October 19, 1985. I love the song, but there are better, for sure. In 1985 alone Money for Nothing, Power of Love, Shout, and Broken Wings all hit #1 and are all songs that are better. But the videos are not (although Money For Nothing is an extremely close second). Remind yourself and watch the video again:
The story is simple: lonely girl falls for a cute boy in a comic book; boy pulls the girl into the comic book; boy gets into trouble; boy helps girl get back to real world; girl sees boy get beat up; boy escapes the comic book and rejoins girl in real world – that old chestnut. The story is not a complex one, but I do have a preference for videos that tell a story. There is not much time to develop character or plot in three to four minutes, so the video’s creators must rely on archetypes and stock characters and situations, as this one does. It is the creative twist of enhancing a regular comic adventure and combining it with live action that makes this one stand out. The aspect that really makes this one jump out, though, is this combination of drawn scenes and live action scenes within each other – not just as clever cut away edits.
The hero (Hartek), after winking at the girl, reaches out and brings her into his comic book world.
In the above scene lead singer live action Morten Hartek sings the chorus to the comic book version of the girl.
Now reverse the scene as the girl looks amazed at a comic book Hartek. Note that in both stills the panels of the comic book remain, giving the viewer the sense of remaining in the comic book with the characters.
Here, the hero Hartek breaks out of the comic book and into the real world.
Clearly, technology today is way better than it was in 1985, but the creativity used in the creation of this video is a clear hallmark of what videos could be and what they will become. I give the slight edge to a-ha’s video over Dire Straits’ Money for Nothingbecause of the lack of the burgeoning computer technology. I absolutely love both the Dire Straits video and You Might Think by the Cars and the way computer graphics are used. Both are clever and original, but both are also missing the clear story and characterization. Neither have a clear series of events that lead to a true climax. To me, Take On Mecombines the “story-ness” that I love in videos with comic book cartoonish graphics, and live action that is cleanly originally blended in to heighten the overall video experience. All of this packed into a whopping 3 minutes and 43 seconds. It will always be my favorite video of all time.
It’s time for another ’80s crossover event! This time we are talking/writing about some of our favorite music videos. Here are the entries from the rest of the ’80s League. Please check all of these people out, and leave comments.
We were fortunate enough to grow up in a time where we saw the birth of MTV, and watch it become one of the most influential entities of the decade. Before cable TV arrived, we had 3 major networks (and some UHF channels, that only had a little static if we were lucky). Then cable TV opened up a whole new world for us. I loved having HBO and Showtime. Being a sports fan, ESPN was great. You Can’t Do That on Television on Nickelodeon became one of my favorite television shows.
However, most of my television viewing went to MTV. The day I came home from school, and cable was newly installed in our home, the first station I put on was MTV. The first video I saw was “Little Red Corvette” by Prince. I don’t think I was the only person glued to MTV at the time. It was so different than anything else we watched. And if there was a song you loved, if you watched long enough, the video would come back on within a couple of hours. MTV helped out several artists who arrived on the scene at the perfect time – Michael Jackson, Prince, Duran Duran, Madonna. Unfortunately, it ruined some artists who were huge before MTV – buh-bye Christopher Cross and Billy Squier.
Now, for this #Fave80sMusicVideos crossover event, I’ll present some videos that stand out to me. There are many, many more. But, it would take days for this page to finish loading on your screen if I listed all my favorite, and groundbreaking videos. So, we’ll start from the beginning:
As any ’80s fan knows, this is the one that started it all. Not only is the song title appropriate for the first video to ever air on MTV, but it has that perfect ’80s sound. I still love this song to this day. The video itself isn’t too bad either. It doesn’t have that movie production value. There were some really cheesy and cheap videos in those early days, and this was above most of them.
ZZ Top Eliminator trilogy
While a lot of great acts from the ’60s and ’70s faded away with the dawn of the MTV generation, ZZ Top adapted extremely well. There was no mistaking their signature guitar sound of the ’70s, which made them wildly successful. But, instead of riding off in the sunset, they rode a customized 1930s Ford coupe, called the Eliminator, all the way to the stratosphere. They took advantage of the music video age, and made a marketing coup. While they weren’t the only singles released from the Eliminator album, these trilogy of videos are the most memorable. There is a storyline that runs through all three of these videos. First up…
Great introduction to this series! I love how the first thing we see, even before the music starts) is the Eliminator. The car pulls up to a gas station, where we meet our protagonist dude, and we are introduced to the 3 Eliminator babes. The dude is a gas station attendant, who has a boss that’s a prick. The band tosses the keys, on the iconic ZZ Top keychain, to the dude, and he goes for a ride, while we listen to this awesome song! At the end, it appears the whole thing was a dream…or was it???
Protagonist dude is changing into a tuxedo. He must make a lot of money at the gas station! Oh, wait. He’s a valet who gets treated like crap by coworkers and snooty, rich patrons. Then the Eliminator and Eliminator girls arrive, and the dude goes on another drive. He comes back in a new suit, and parties with the snoots, putting on the dance moves.
The third and final video of the Eliminator series features a woman as the main protagonist. She’s a mousy girl with glasses who goes to a burger joint, and is harassed by everyone there except for one guy, the cook, who is also harassed. She escapes the joint, leaving behind a food container and her glasses. The cook grabs the stuff and goes after her. She arrives at the shoe store where she works, where she is treated pretty much the same as at the burger joint. The cook gives the poor woman her stuff, then he is unceremoniously thrown out the the door by an asshole. But, he is thrown right in front of the arriving Eliminator. The Eliminator girls step out of the car, help the guy out, and go in the store, and exact revenge on the assholes in the store. Then our protagonist girl gets a makeover. After her makeover, the ladies all head over to the burger joint and rescue the guy, again, exacting revenge on the assholes in that place. The Eliminator drives off into nothing, and ZZ Top waves goodbye to us and fades away.
Sit down, Waldo! As with several of David Lee Roth’s solo videos, this Van Halen video begins with a kooky skit before it gets into the song. As much as I love Sammy Hagar, there have been very few showmen like David Lee Roth. The whole band was at the top of their game right here. The song starts with that iconic drumbeat, and of course when you have a legend on guitar, you can’t go wrong. Not only is the song awesome, but as a teenage boy when this song came out, I did not mind the hot bikini clad teachers. At all. Looking at it now, it seems just as creepy as Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” video where a boy watches Madonna strip and dance. I also liked how they got kid versions of the band members who liked just like them. This was a very fun and funny video.
Another great song accompanied by an awesome video. Even though this video got constant airplay, I never got sick of it. This was my introduction to the caricature puppets by the British television show Spitting Image. I know that Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” are heavily promoted as innovative videos. But, this is the one that fascinated me. In the age of CGI, I doubt we’ll see the likes of this again.
What were some of your favorite music videos? And don’t forget to visit the other pages and podcasts of my fellow 80s League (soon to be Banzai Club) members .
Welcome to another ’80s crossover event. Every month, we collaborate with some other ’80s blogs and podcasts, and discuss a specific topic. This month will be a fun one – ’80s innovations. We each picked 3 items to discuss. In addition to technology, there were several other awesome innovations in the ’80s. There were many toys, movies, fashion, and food created or came to prominence in the ’80s. My three choices are here. Return to the ’80s’ own Robert Mishou wrote this article, and mine will follow next week. In addition to our picks, be sure to check out these other participating sites: ’80s Reboot OverdrivePodcast and Blog Rediscover the ’80s Weegiemidget Killer Kitsch
Here are Robert’s three picks:
Charter. Time Warner. Direct TV. Today, we take for granted the number of television stations available as well as the wide variety of programming we can watch. But it wasn’t always this way. Growing up most of us had three channels to choose from – ABC, NBC, and CBS (no one really wanted to watch PBS). In the late ‘70s I would toggle back and forth through these three networks looking for something to watch on my new portable black and white TV that my parents bought me for my tenth birthday. I found a few shows I liked, but never really spent too much time watching TV (this is probably why I started listening to music so much). All of this changed when cable showed up! There were only a few new stations that came with our newly acquired cable package when we lived at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas in 1980, but I watched them constantly. By far, my favorite channel was MSG the Madison Square Garden network that showed sports from New York all of the time. I was on a hockey high having just watched the Miracle on Ice. Yes, I watched all of the U.S. hockey games live – even the victory over Russia which would be replayed later in prime time for to let all Americans bask in the glory of defeating the evil hockey giants from the U.S.S.R. At the time I could not get enough hockey and I watch every Rangers game that was on MSG.
Adding to my burgeoning interest in sports, the cable company in San Antonio broadcast San Antonio Spurs games – the road games as least. Usually, the home games were blacked out so I stared at the THIS GAME IS UNAVAILABLE IN YOUR AREA screen in abject disappointment. This was a minor bump in my road to following the Iceman George Gervin in every other NBA city.
My love for cable TV came to an abrupt halt in 1981 when my U.S. Army father was rotated out of San Antonio and to Frankfurt, (West) Germany. I narrowly missed the debut of what would eventually become my most sought after station: MTV . . .
BUT . . .
Yes, the Video Cassette Recorder saved me – it really saved me! I loved living in Germany – I was close to my grandparents who were Dutch and lived just a three hour drive from Frankfurt in a small town in Holland called Valkenburg a/d Guel. I also met my best friends LeRoyce and Marvin in Germany, and together we pined for the lack of cable and (based on what we heard and read) the amazingly awesome MTV. There was one American TV station that we had access to (American Forces Network) and it broadcast from six in the morning until midnight. It would show a sampling of programs from the three big networks, but they were always a season behind. To combat this lack of visual programming, nearly every American family overseas owned a VCR – we had to! There was so little on TV that you had to watch movies on the VCR to fill in the gaps.
We went to almost every movie that showed in the American theaters. I have fond memories of watching Ghostbusters, E.T., and Beverly Hills Cop in theaters about seven months after each premiered in the U.S. Even though we were lucky enough to have access to these theaters, it did not really solve the problem of not much to watch at home.
This is where the VCR come in. Since nearly everyone owned a VCR, we were always trading video cassettes – dubbing movie after movie – renting from American video stores – very rarely purchasing a coveted movie (they were VERY expensive in the ‘80s) – all in the attempt to stay entertained. One summer I watched Superman II every single day in June and July! Classics like Stripes, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Karate Kid, and 48 Hours made the rounds. If you got a hold of a new movie, you were obliged to put it in the rotation. All of your friends got to have it for a few days and then they passed it on to someone else. This is the reason why movies were dubbed all of the time. I had some very poor quality movies on video cassette that were dubbed and dubbed and dubbed – I did not care, I needed something to watch.
Wait. You say I started this VCR bit with a reference to MTV and I have made no connection to MTV at all! Ok, here it is. All of the teens who lived in Germany in the ‘80s knew about MTV. We read about it and we saw it on news reports – but we could not watch it. We had music videos on Video Jukeboxes that were in every American bowling alley. We loved this but could not watch music videos in the comfort of our own homes. Enter the VCR. Many Americans returned to the United States for the Christmas holidays. When any of these lucky people returned to Germany for the start of school, they would have with them a video cassette with hours of MTV! These tapes were lent, traded, stolen – whatever – we literally WANTED our MTV.
I dubbed the crap out of these. I had five video cassettes – six hours each – full of music videos, MTV concerts, interviews – anything that was on MTV. I watched these again and again and again and . . . These tapes were my lifeline to American music and it solidified my love of music. I loved these tapes, but it did not fully quench my desire for MTV – I still had never seen it live. In 1987 I moved back to the United States – Kearney, Nebraska, specifically, for college. During my first weekend of school (the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before classes started) I watch MTV in the dorm lounge for about thirty-five hours! I marvelled wide eyed at what I was looking at. Cable TV had once again had a profound impact my life.
“Come on feel the noise!” By far one of my favorite innovations from the ‘80s was the rise of the Hair Bands. I started the decade as a huge REO Speedwagon and Billy Joel fan and my musical love for them continued as I entered my teendom. I loved the sounds that emanated from the electric guitar and I found myself wanting more of this. I did not really feel the heavy stuff like Iron Maiden, frankly it made me a bit nervous. I wanted more guitars, but I did not want the overly savage, aggressive sound. The rise of the hair bands offered me what I was looking for: guitar driven rhythms, searing solos, and calmer lyrics. I loved the outfits, the overproduced rock sound, and the enjoy life sentiments. For a time, it did not matter who the band was – if they had big hair and guitars, I gave them a chance. Bands like Quiet Riot, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Warrant, Winger, Poison, Danger Danger, and Whitesnake all came into heavy rotation on my record player and tape deck. I completely bought into every aspect of what these bands had to offer. I stayed with them all the way through college, always on the lookout for another new rocking band. Once the grunge movement came, I knew that it would be the end of the prominence of my teased hair heroes. It would be the end of spandex laden women (and men); the end of big haired guitarist who could lay out a blistering solo with unexpected talent and verve; the end of sleek, alluring women with way too much make up. It would also be the end of monster ballads – easily my favorite thing about the genre. I am a complete sucker for songs like Skid Row’s “I Remember You”, Winger’s “Without the Nights”, Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You”, and Warrant’s “Heaven” – I still listen to them today – I cannot forget the first time I heard Poison’s “Every Rose Has a Thorn” – I was so overcome that I had to sit down.
Thanks to XM radio, I am able to feed my fond memories of this music any day. There is not a Friday afternoon that passes without a little Hair Nation filling my car with the heavy beats, strong bass, and impassioned guitar solos of songs like “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, or “Cherry Pie.” I love my Hair Bands and I miss warm summer days driving with the windows down and my car cassette stereo blasting, “Bang, bang, what’s that sound / I gave you my love and you shot me down / Bang, bang you’re so cool / Playing the game someday you’re gonna lose!”
Do you have any favorite innovations? Also, please check out the following blogs and podcasts:
This was originally written one year after Michael Jackson died. This was only 6 months into my blogging career. So, many of you may not have seen this yet. Now, let’s remember “The King of Pop” and ’80s icon, Michael Jackson 5 years after his death.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy. 9/11. The death of Michael Jackson. These are all events that people remember exactly where they were when they heard the news. On this 5 years ago, I got the news that Farrah Fawcett had died. Not too long after that, I got an email alert that Michael Jackson had been hospitalized. Then from work, I went to get my hair cut. While waiting, somebody came in asked if we had heard that Michael Jackson died. Then we were inundated with the news on TV and radio. There were people gathering all over the world to mourn the loss of the pop star. Jackson had 9 of the top 10 (if not the entire top 10) selling albums on iTunes.
It wasn’t too long before his death that Michael Jackson was shunned by most of the entertainment industry. After all, he was looking less and less like a human being, and more like an alien:
In 1993, a 13-year-old boy accused Michael Jackson of sexual molestation. On January 25, 1994, Michael Jackson settled the civil lawsuit paying an undisclosed amount to his accuser. It was believed to be millions of dollars. People didn’t know if Jackson was a child molester, or if somebody was just looking for a big payday.
British journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Michael Jackson over a span of eight months, from May 2002 to January 2003, filiming the documentary Living with Michael Jackson. The documentary aired in 2003, and stirred up major controversy. Jackson revealed to Bashir that not only does he invite disadvantaged children to his Neverland ranch, he lets them stay in his bed while he sleeps on the floor. Bashir questioned Jackson why he invites children into his room. Jackson defended himself stating that such activity is natural when the children are of close friends or family, and that “many children,” including the Culkin family children (including Macaulay and Kieran) have slept in the same bed as him. Jackson strongly denied that there was any sexual motivation for this.
Not surprisingly, in 2005, Michael Jackson went to trial for child molestation. On June 13th Jackson was found not guilty of all charges against him.
After the trial Michael Jackson left the country, and lived in Bahrain.
In March 2009, Jackson held a press conference at London’s O2 arena and announced a series of comeback concerts titled “This Is It.”
Sadly, Jackson died just before the first concert. But in October 2009, the documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It was released. It showed rehearsals for all of the songs he was to perform, and it showed a little bit of his process in preparing the routines. It became the highest grossing documentary or concert movie of all time, with the earnings of more than $260 million worldwide.
I saw the documentary in the theater, and sadly, this would have been a great concert.
But Michael Jackson’s lifestyle got the best of him. Nobody tried to set him straight, or if they did, he did not listen.
While Michael Jackson is known for his controversies and his music, he was also an incredible philanthropist. The Millennium-Issue of the “Guinness Book Of Records” names Michael as the “Pop Star who supports the most charity organizations”.
Michael Jackson wrote “We Are The World” with Lionel Richie in 1985 and performed it as part of an all-star single to raise money for Africa in 1985.
In 1984, Jackson equiped a 19-bed-unit at Mount Senai New York Medical Center. This center is part of the T.J. Martell-Foundation for leukemia and cancer research.
He donated the proceeds from the sales of The Man In The Mirror to Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, a camp for children who suffer from cancer.
Jackson donated tickets to shows in is 1989 Bad Tour to underprivileged children. The proceeds from one of his shows in Los Angeles were donated to Childhelp USA, the biggest charity-organization against child-abuse. Childhelp of Southern California then established the “Michael Jackson International Institute for Research On Child Abuse”.
In 1992, he established the Heal The World Foundation, whose work has included airlifting 6 tons of supplies to Sarajevo, instituting drug and alcohol abuse education and donating millions of dollars to less fortunate children.
My Top 5 Michael Jackson Songs/Videos
I will end this on what Michael Jackson is and should be known for – his music and groundbreaking videos. Here are my top 5 videos:
5. Black or White
I love the guitar riff in this song. This was also kind of ironic because at the time people were questioning whether Michael knoew if he was Black or White. The end of the video was groundbreaking at the time with the shape-shifting between the people singing:
4. Smooth Criminal
This is a very cool song, and the choreography is great. The end of the video features the Anti-gravity lean.
3. You Are Not Alone
This is my favorite Michael Jackson ballad. It is a nice simple song, and he puts a lot of feeling into it.
2. Beat It
At the time that this came out, I was more into rock than pop. I listened to Van Halen, AC/DC, and Ozzy. But when this song came out, it made Michael Jackson seem cool to me. After all, it can’t be do bad with Eddie Van Halen performing the guitar solo.
But, of course the song got overplayed. Then I preferred Weird Al Yankovic’s parody, “Eat It”. However, I’m digging this song again.
This is often regarded as the best music video of all time. And who could argue? This was a big event for MTV. It was released on December 2, 1983, and it was a “must see” event. It did not disappoint. It was directed by John Landis (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places), and co-starred Ola Ray.
The choreography with all of the zombies was great. Oh, by the way, the song is pretty good too. How can you go wrong when Vincent Price narrates?
So what are your thoughts? Should Michael Jackson be getting praised and honored as much as he is? Do you have a list of favorite Michael Jackson songs or videos? Any memories you’d like to share? Has anybody seen him in concert?
Yo! MTV Raps ran from August 1988 to August 1995 through its original Yo! MTV Raps name and later by Yo! until 1999. The show featured a mix of rap videos, interviews with rap stars, live in studio performances and comedy.
Question: In 1986, who became the first new MTV VJ since the original five?
Last Question: What 1984 movie about skiing featured a “Chinese downhill” race?
Answer: Hot Dog…The Movie
Hot Dog…The Movie was set in Squaw Valley and revolving around a freestyle skiing competition. The movie starred Patrick Houser as Harkin Banks, a young and ambitious freestyle skiier from Idaho who is determined to prove himself in the competition. The movie was also one of the first major film roles for Playboy Playmate (and future Mrs. Gene Simmons) Shannon Tweed.