MTV’s first ever broadcast on August 1st, 1981 begins with footage of the Apollo 11 rocket launch. Because the rocket lifts off, the footage cuts to an astronaut leaping on the moon, an acid-pop coloured flag standing proud because the basic MTV brand shimmered. A music video for The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star” performs.
It’s an iconic scene, and one which I’ve watched numerous occasions over the previous couple of days due to a current upload on the Internet Archive. Tens of hours of footage, spanning from that very first broadcast in 1981 by way of the top of the last decade in 1989, are streaming at no cost on the web site. Every add, which began in early April and is being constantly added to, comes with descriptions about which VJ was internet hosting that exact day: Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, JJ Jackson, Nina Blackwood. There are even Christmas episodes.
“That is my private assortment of 80’s MTV VHS recordings,” the uploader notes. “I’ve been amassing recordings of full, unedited, with commercials & particularly the VJs for years. I’ve discovered these movies from previous web sites, torrent websites, sharing issues, The Unique MTV VJs fb web page, and naturally the Archive.”
All of it’s new for me. I wasn’t born within the ‘80s, and I didn’t begin watching MTV till the early ‘00s. By then, music movies have been changed with actuality stars, and perception into music’s affect on popular culture was swapped out for the most recent gossip on celeb feuds or no matter Britney Spears was as much as that day. MTV’s preliminary idea had all however disappeared. (In 2014, comic Seth Meyers roasted MTV for nonetheless having the Video Music Awards contemplating its community now not performed music movies.)
It’s comprehensible. MTV’s unique premise is an antiquated instrument. One channel, armed with a band of younger, music-obsessed programmers, would curate a endless playlist of movies for youngsters mendacity down in entrance of TV units of their lounge. MTV didn’t have YouTube’s self-building playlist characteristic that robotically bundles 50 or extra movies collectively for individuals primarily based on their pursuits (a characteristic I take advantage of usually), providing it up on a silver platter.
Individuals aren’t spending their time mendacity down on the sofa ready for his or her favourite VJ to return on and debut the brand new Prince music video. Music movies are uploaded to YouTube by musicians at random hours of the evening, or teased in clips on TikTok and Instagram. MTV, like different tv channels, was pressured to adapt to speedy modifications going through the trade introduced on by the web and social media. That meant much less huge video premieres (Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” debuted on December 2nd, 1983, changing into an immediate sensation) and extra emphasis on exhibits like Jersey Shore, The Hills, and Teen Mother.
MTV now not resembles MTV. It’s that nostalgia — even for somebody like me, who was by no means round to expertise the heyday of the channel — that makes the previous VHS-quality streams on Web Archive such a pleasure to look at. These aren’t simply music movies served up through an algorithm. Watching old-school MTV feels heat; the distinction between a curated album and a playlist generated by a faceless algorithm.
Plus, the commercials are a visit. The primary ever MTV broadcast performed adverts for Mountain Dew, Superman II and, my private favourite, cable.
“Quickly tv got here alongside and gave us the reward of sight, nevertheless it was cable that gave us the liberty of alternative,” a narrator introducing the community could be heard saying in MTV’s first broadcast.
In 1981, primary cable was nonetheless comparatively new. The mid to late 1970s noticed a few early cable corporations discover methods to deliver specialised leisure to tv viewers in the USA who have been largely reliant on the foremost broadcasters for leisure — NBC, CBS, and ABC. Fundamental cable channels (MTV, TBS, Nickelodeon, CNN) have been the tantalizing new entrant within the tv house; specialised and cooler than its broadcaster predecessors, however not costly like premium cable service HBO.
MTV’s early broadcasts included quite a few commercials selling the concept of cable to keen audiences tuning in. For sure, cable grew to become a staple in American households. As Ron Miller wrote in The Washington Post in 1989, “the overriding message from the 1980s is that TV bought higher.”
“Within the 1980s, the foremost industrial networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — started to lose their monopoly on the TV viewers within the face of competitors from an ever-expanding TV universe,” Miller famous.
MTV was on the entrance of that cost. Watching these segments helps to reiterate why it was such a juggernaut within the 1980s — a interval the place tradition focused at teenagers, like John Hughes films and the formation of the Brat Pack, reigned supreme. Within the midst of every part occurring proper now, it’s turn into my new consolation to throw on a few hours of basic MTV.