Video killed the radio star

1 08 2011

On August 1, 1981 Music Television (cable network) launched with John Lack’s announcement “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll” followed by the famous theme song (a hard rockin’ guitar riff by Jonathan Elias and John Peterson) and equally famous scene of the Apollo 11</a> moon landing boasting astronaut (Neil Armstrong) pushing an American flag into the moon below his feet, of course for the hip theme it was an MTV flag.

It was the beginning of a new era in music.  VJ’s (video jockeys) were the answer to radio’s DJ’s (disc jockeys).  Five young, unique, fresh faces were hired to fill these shoes.  A different world than what the radio generation was used to.  The original VJ’s were; Martha Quinn – your cute and spunky punk rock girl, Alan Hunter –  the clean cut, hip blonde male, Mark Goodman – a hunky, suave, dark haired male, with the hot rockin’ blonde Nina Blackwood and J.J. Jackson, the most experienced member of the group, always smiling and probably the most talented host.

The original format offered something new and different to music fans, the music video.  A music video is basically a short film created to accompany a song mainly for the purpose of marketing.  Although music videos were actually in existence prior to the debut of MTV, they were far and few between.  Prior to MTV, these videos were considered promotional videos that artists used to generate interest among producers, record companies and on rare occasions to promote new records to fans.  These promotional videos somewhat paled in comparison to what followed after the birth of MTV and were rarely shown on television.  Videos on MTV required much more than a simple live act, they needed to be a short film that would cultivate more interest among fans.  For this, a wide range of styles in filming technique had to be exercised including animation, live action film, and basically storytelling within abstract films.  This heightened the competition in the music industry because not only did your music have to sell itself, but you’d best have a good video to back it up.  In fact, often the popularity of the video outshined the music itself but still enabled the song to be a best seller.  Because visibility was used as a promotional tool in the record industry, the network was criticized for devaluing the importance of music by replacing quality with pure visual entertainment.  Ironically, the first video to debut on MTV that early August morning was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.  It was their only real hit, but rather historical and revealing as the song was written about the end of an era; telling of the golden days of radio ruined by television. (included in video above.)

Since it’s premier, MTV has made an intense and long lasting impact on the music, entertainment and media industries.  Slogans such as “I want my MTV” became etched in the minds of the 80’s pop culture generation and remained throughout.  MTV has also been referenced countless times in song lyrics, movies, books, and shows on other television stations.  One of the best known music references to MTV is  Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” as the lyrics mock how the working man struggles to survive but the “yo-yos” on MTV “ain’t workin’” and are getting “Money for nothin’ and chicks for free.” Ironically, the video for this song became one of the most popular videos shown on the channel at that time.

The moral influence of MTV on young people has been debated throughout it’s existence. Parents Television Council (an American interest group formed to inform parents of television programming that is both beneficial and harmful to children) claims the network is a bad influence on it’s targeted audience.  The American Family Association (a non-profit organization that promotes conservative Christian values) has also criticized MTV for it’s negative moral influence.  In the 80’s the parent-media watchdog group, Parents Music Resource Center, fought MTV over certain music videos that were claimed to have explicit imagery of Satanism.  On the other side of these debates, the network was also under fire for being too politically correct and censoring too much of their programming.

Against all odds, MTV prevailed and in it’s early days was a catalyst to stardom for a large number of artists in the 80’s such as; Duran Duran, Def Leppard, Madonna, Culture Club, Mötley Crüe, Cydni Lauper, Adam Ant and countless other 80’s icons. MTV also played some famous classic rock acts heavily, placing them on a new plateau of popularity by reaching a wider spectrum such as; David Bowie, Journey, Genisis, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Van Halen, ZZ Top and many more.

In it’s early years on air, MTV featured very few black artists in rotation.  Many black artist’s videos were rejected because they didn’t fit the rock dominated format at the time. During the uproar of black artists and other supporters of the fight to break the color barrier on MTV, Michael Jackson was among those artists denied airplay on the network.  In an effort to pressure the network to re-think the format, the president of CBS records made a strong statement by threatening to remove the network’s ability to play any videos by artists under the CBS label.  MTV claims they chose to add Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video without being pressured, while CBS claims otherwise.  Regardless, “Billie Jean” seemed to be the video that broke the color barrier but is also claimed to be the video that brought the network out of struggle and into major popularity.  Jackson’s videos from the multi-platinum “Thriller” album (including “Billie Jean”) were credited for the mega success of MTV, thus causing the network to change the format to add R&B music.  This change also helped other black artists such as Prince and Whitney Houston enter the music revolution.

MTV is credited for turning music videos into both an art form and a marketing machine that became beneficial to artists.  Over time, MTV added several genres to the format and somewhat even created those genres such as alternative rock. Today, however, the general public seems to be disappointed with the ironic lack of music videos played on MTV.  While the original MTV network still broadcasts 24 hours a day, the actual showing of videos has (over time) dwindled to a maximum of only 3 hours per day.  The rest of the air time focuses on a completely different format, currently a large amount of reality shows and news programs about entertainment and politics.  However, today the network owns several sister channels that do broadcast more music videos though all pale in comparison to the original days of Music Television.  And to this, I say … I WANT MY MTV!!!

To see more of the early days of MTV, click here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LATTM7DkvWo
because TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH!!!

ABOUT THE ARTISTS MENTIONED IN THIS BLOG:

The Buggles:
An English New Wave band with only 2 studio albums and one hit single, “Video Killed the Radio Star”.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Buggles

Dire Straits:
British rock band active between 1977-1995 known for hits including “Sultans of Swing”, “Money for Nothing”, “Walk of Life” and “So Far Away”.  This band boasts one of the greatest yet most underrated guitar players in rock history, Mark Knopfler.  They’ve had 6 studio albums, all of which are very good.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dire_straits

Duran Duran:
An iconic 80’s new wave band from England who dominated the early days of MTV and were widely known as the “pretty boys of rock”.  They are still very popular today and have released 13 studio albums so far during their career with numerous top 40 hits.  In my opinion, this band represents the epitome of MTV in the 80’s.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duran_duran

Def Leppard:
Though their sound is mild by comparison today, Def Leppard was considered a British hard rock band when they crashed the scene on MTV and won the popularity contest with hits like “Photograph”, “Bringing on the Heartbreak”, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, and “Hysteria”.  Like Duran Duran, this band also has the gift of longevity and is still popular despite their rough history which includes the death of 2 guitar players and a crippling auto accident leaving their drummer with one arm.  They have 11 studio albums and also numerous top 40 hits.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Def_Leppard

Madonna:
Perhaps no star from MTV’s golden era knows more about longevity than Madonna.  This All-American 52 year old sex goddess still holds the throne of top rock diva for many reasons.  While her image is ever changing with the times, her music has been and remains hip, happening and chart topping.  She has a remarkable legacy not only in music but in film and entertainment in general.  She also has 11 studio albums and countless top 40 hits.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_%28entertainer%29

Culture Club:
The band Culture Club had one of the most controversial front men in music history, Boy George.  Another British new wave band to parade onto MTV and steal the hearts of many viewers, Culture Club had several popular dance hits including “Do Your Really Want to Hurt Me?”, “Time Clock of the Heart”, “Karma Chameleon”, and “Miss Me Blind”.  Though the band is no longer together, the music still remains popular and is featured in many films and documentaries based in the decade of decadence known as the 80’s.  In more recent years, Boy George has made the news in a negative light and has even dealt with criminal charges and remains recluse.  But, in their better days, the band 5 studio albums – 3 of which were big sellers.

Mötley Crüe:
Reminiscent of the glory days of Alice Cooper, the New York Dolls or Kiss this band brought back the theatrics of flashy rock music and they added a sound heavier than most on the market at this time.  Mötley Crüe were the true pioneers of what is labeled today as “hair metal” or “glam rock”, but in the 80’s this was considered a rather hard core sound and scene.  They were one of many up and coming metal bands from the Sunset Strip of L.A., California.  Still widely known and popular, they’ve sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide.  If any metal band has a colorful past it’s these guys.  They’re notorious for  bad behavior, bad reputations and just all around bad-ass-ness! Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%B6tley_Cr%C3%BCe

Cyndi Lauper:
Though she wasn’t quite Madonna’s nemesis and the two artists were very different, the uniqueness and charm of Cyndi Lauper made her tough competition … especially since she happens to be incredibly talented as well.  This American icon quickly rose to fame with her aptly titled debut album “She’s So Unusual” that including chart topping hits like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Time after Time”.  She has always been a stand out artist among her peers and still tours for sold out audiences today.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyndi_Lauper

Adam Ant:
This British pretty boy’s career originally began with Adam and the Ants and later he went solo as Adam Ant.  A real heart throb for all the ladies during the 80’s, he seemed to bring a steamy sexuality to the small screen with his well known hit videos for “Goody Two Shoes” and “Strip”.  He was once voted the sexiest man in America by the MTV viewing audience.  Unfortunately, similar to Boy George, his almost come-back was shattered with criminal charges for bad behavior that landed him in a psychiatric hospital.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Ant

David Bowie:
It would be impossible to sum up this brilliant artist in a few sentences and I’m not even going to try! Bowie is best known for his work in the 70’s, but his hit making career spans from the late 60’s to current works.  He has released 24 studio albums, all of which are a must have for any avid music fan.  During MTV’s high point, Bowie released the album “Let’s Dance” which included popular videos for “Modern Love”, “China Girl”, and the title track “Let’s Dance”.  To learn more (and I suggest you do) click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bowie

Journey:
Journey boasted one of the most iconic lead vocalists ever to grace rock music, Steve Perry.  Though this All-American rock band debuted in the mid-70’s, the 80’s was their time to shine.  Their catalog of music is a catalog of top 40 hits and I struggle to think of a song they recorded in the 80’s that wasn’t a chart topper … I don’t think it exists.  While they didn’t share the theatrics and style of video making that many of their competitors did during the 80’s, they won audiences over with classic simple videos that displayed their talent lyrically, musically and vocally.  This band is always imitated and never duplicated.  In 1998 Perry left the band with no rumors of a reunion since and, though Journey still tours with numerous replacement singers, without Perry things have never been the same.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_%28band%29

Genisis:
Genisis formed in the late 60’s with Peter Gabriel as their lead singer.  And, much like Bowie, it would be hard to sum this band up in a few sentences.  But, in the 80’s they became famous with  Phil Collins as their lead singer as well as drummer.  Though they were considered progressive rock in their earlier days, during the 80’s I think they would be best described as controversial in some ways with their political lyrics and thought provoking music.  However, they were also know for some meaningful love songs.  Collins brought them into the mainstream and to the peak of their popularity, but left the band for an equally popular solo career in the mid 80’s which kept him as a familiar face on MTV.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genisis_%28band%29

Fleetwood Mac:
Like Genisis or Bowie, attempting to summarize the history of Fleetwood Mac is nearly impossible.  This was, however more of a 70’s band than 80’s though MTV did help keep their career in tact with a few hits like “Little Lies” and “Big Love”.  The band seemed to have a revolving door with members and their romances which included Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham who seemed to be more popular in the days of MTV with their solo works.  But, never the less, Fleetwood Mac is historically one of the best known bands in rock history with top selling albums and singles decade after decade and are touring today with all of the original band members… well, the 2nd wave original band members anyway.  Yeah, there’s no way to sum this history up so just learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleetwood_Mac

Heart:
This great band went through 2 major phases of popularity, or you could say it didn’t end.  In the 70’s they were a pleasant surprise or alternative to mainstream rock music because they were a sister power duo with the phenomenal lead vocals of Ann Wilson and the sultry lead guitar of Nancy Wilson.  In the 80’s they gained popularity on MTV with power ballads and videos showcasing their sex appeal such as “What about Love”, “These Dreams”, “Alone”, and “Nothing at All”.  But, most people will remember their iconic hits from the 70’s like “Barracuda”, “Magic Man”, and “Crazy on You”.  However, nobody was complaining about being able to see this vixens in video! They’re still popular and still touring… and their still kicking ass, take it from me cause I just saw them live a couple of months ago and was left feeling satisfied yet longing for more! Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_%28band%29

Van Halen:
I have to laugh because probably the main reason I can’t sum up this band in just a few sentences is because they are unequivically one of my all time favorite bands.  My opinions would be biased here and perhaps unfair to the reader… but here goes…
Van Halen has had 3 lead singers over the last 3 decades, but in my opinion only one that matters … the iconic and unmatched David Lee Roth (who recently reunited with the band and they are touring and doing a fantastic job!).  So, I have to warn you that I will  only be referring to the David Lee Roth era (even thought he Sammy Hagar era was very popular as well).  Van Halen burst into rock music fame in the late 70’s with their multi platinum self titled album that included the unforgettable hits “Running with the Devil” and “You Really Got Me”.   Now, I could comb over their entire history in fine detail here, but I’ll just cover the 80’s MTV era of popularity for Van Halen which is the height of their career.
“1984” was the album of the 80’s.  Everybody who’s anybody had that album! While this album brought the band ultimate success with chart topping hits such as “Hot for Teacher”, “Panama”, “I’ll Wait” and “Jump” it also brought the demise of the David Lee Roth era as egos began to outshine the talent and caused band members, namely David and namesake/lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen to butt heads until David left to persue a solo career which also brought him much fame in the 80’s/MTV era. Anyway, you can learn more from me personally (lol) or click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Halen

ZZ Top:
Was well known for their classic videos of the 80’s, even though they were a very popular 70’s band.  ZZ Top videos told a story, and because they were so downright cool the songs behind them became wildly popular such as “Legs”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Gimmie All Your Lovin”.  This Texas Based Southern Rock band has a bluesy rock sound backed by legendary musicians Billy Gibbens, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.  Though MTV may have given this band commercial success, ZZ Top had been a success for many years before and has remained a success to this day.  Unfortunately, time has not been kind to the band and even though they still have music in their hearts Billy Gibbens’ health issues has crippled touring and any new projects.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zz_top

Michael Jackson:
In all seriousness, I’m sure I haven’t had to define who any of these artists are in this blog but at the very least I know I don’t have to explain Michael Jackson.  He is, after all, “The King of Pop” and one of the most well known artists in the history of music… ever… only to compete with Elvis Presley or the Beatles, but in all seriousness… probably more known.  I have to say I feel it would be a waste of my time to try to summarize his career or life at all in this blog or anywhere else.  There are countless movies, documentaries, news articles and so fourth about him and he is particularly in the current news as the world mourns the anniversary of this death one year ago this week.  I doubt I even need to offer you a link to learn more about him, but here it is anyway: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jackson

Prince:
In my opinion, no truer an artist (musically) by definition than this man.  He can and will do anything… anything… and do it amazingly well.  He writes, composes, plays every instrument, acts, and just downright shines at everything he even attempts! He spews sex appeal, emotion and passion in all of his works.  He’s controversial, political, and phenomenal at all times.  His career began in the 70’s and was an underground success that overtook the 80’s with steamy videos and unforgettable movies of his own as well as his work with other artists (song writing, record producing…etc…).  A real genius in my opinion and yet another artist I couldn’t possibly summarize.  Prince manipulates multiple genres of music including rock and R&B (an incredible feat).  Some of his more notable MTV era hits are “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry”.  But, really, summarizing Prince just does him and you a real injustice so please, learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_%28musician%29

Whitney Houston:
Actress, model and notable performer, Whitney Houston had a million dollar act the moment she danced onto the small screen with her first hit “How Will I Know”.  America fell in love with this knock out vocalist who had all the elements missing from the 80’s female R&B scene.  Once MTV got a hold of her, there was no turning back on one of the most notable careers any female artist could ever hope for.  She seemed to be a hit making machine and as her career grew she also dominated the big screen.  Recognized as one of the best known divas in music history, Whitney became a multi-millionaire almost overnight with hit after hit, but behind the scenes she led a very troubled life that would end up crippling her career and today she struggles to make a comeback.  However, she still has the talent so I suspect that once she gets her act together she can have a very strong return to the industry.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitney_Houston

Who do you remember most from the MTV era? Did you love it or hate it? What are your thoughts on this topic? What do you think of MTV today?

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Teenage Lament 80’s Style

2 04 2010

Sherrie came from Hancock County High School, a different world. She transferred to my school in the mid 80s. Something about misbehaving got her booted out of Hancock.  She was seated next to me in English class and we instantly became friends. We had everything in common. Sherrie had stunning big hair and heavy eyeliner. She smoked Marlboro Reds and had her driver’s license! She knew of a place much better than us Bay High School folk and she knew of a people that were way cooler.

Step into the wonderful world of Bea’s Arcade and meet the kids from Hancock. Video games, pool tables, juke box playing Def Leppard… It was the best of times. The teens of this area were totally different than what I knew. The girls all wore big hair, tight jeans and tank tops. The guys were all rough and gruff,  yet handsome and friendly. It was much like a bar scene, but there was no alcohol … well, not sold there anyway. Unlike the Bay crowd, these were the real people.  No cliques, no judging, just always about having a good time.

Sherrie and I had many meetings in the ladies room to discuss boys and gossip about girls. Bunching together over the sink, freshening our faces in a tiny mirror. The line of girls outside grows and they bang on the door. We would prance across the floor like vixen. They all did. I was actually kinda awkward with it. We’d sit at a table and chain smoke with Dawn and Pam. There was a group of guys we ran with, the bad boys of course, and they were beautiful. They all had mullets, wore tight jeans and rock shirts and had bad ass rides. They were totally awesome!

Later in the evening, the girls and boys would split up and pile in cars, driving around acquiring liquor. While this sounds a bit much for a teen, it wasn’t actually that severe. We never got into any major trouble. It was good times back then, before so much crime and drugs and thugs and such.

Derek had a boyish grin and a sports car. He also had the hottest girl in school. Your classic John Hughes story unfolds here.  I remember sitting with him in the parking lot of Todd’s mini-mart. That’s where everyone with cars would hang pretty much and walk from car to car. Being the girl in his car was the coolest. I was almost like a part of his double life. He had this girlfriend, but he was always driving around with me. He listened to cool stuff like Ratt, and he had a blonde curly mullet and big blue eyes. He was the guy Heart warned you about in “Magic Man”. He would talk a lot of talk, but only tease me and I was way too awkward and nervous to even think he would really have an interest in me. Sometimes Joe would ride with us and the three of us would be crammed in a two seater and then it was a double whammy cause he was a doll too. Those nights made the days of Bay High more tolerable.

It’s so hard to fit in when you’re a teen and I had found my nitch.

On weekends I practically lived with Sherrie. We enjoyed each other’s company so much, that even just riding around listening to music in her Dad’s truck was a good time. I remember listening to Ozzy and jumping the rail road tracks with Sherrie speeding behind the wheel, over and over. In the country, people hung out a lot and you could always find something to do. Being that it was the country, the police did not patrol the area. I don’t know if Bay folk just hadn’t tapped into this secret or if the rivalry would not work. Probably it was the latter of the two. There were a lot of scenes reminiscent to the movie “Dazed and Confused“. Cars lined the beach and kids would just walk from car to car. Everyone was jamming their rockin’ stereos, mostly classic rock which wasn’t as classic back then. 5 Gallon drums flowed Jungle Juice and people were friendly.

On the fourth of July there was always a big party, a bonfire and fireworks. Everybody who was anybody was there. Sherrie and I were inseparable staggering around, holding each other up. This is our youth on the cusp of its innocence. Pure fun. If only we had known then what we know now. Could we have made it last a little longer? I know we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The world has changed so much since then. We certainly did go from a sleepy town to a hopping town with legalized gambling. But, still, I think the youth of today is very different from then also. That was such a simple time. The Ronald Regan generation. A time of pop angels like Debbie Gibson, unlike today’s idols Britney Spears. PG movies didn’t have nudity and if you wanted to see any T&A you’d have to sneak in an R movie.  Video games weren’t realistic, they were about campy aliens and such.  Television was fun and moral.  Music still held on to it’s last chances at having real meaning or talent.  Life just wasn’t commercialized yet.

Sometimes on a Saturday night I wish I was sliding into a booth at Bea’s Arcade, Sherrie seated across from me. We’re sharing fries and drinking Barq’s root beer. Journey’s playing in the background. Boys with mullets bearing concert t’s on either side of us. We plan a Galaga challenge, right after this cigarette…

References:
Def Leppard: A popular 80’s rock band.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ5bS3_BCDs
Mullet: A popular 80’s hair style for men.  View here:  http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&tbo=1&gbv=2&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=mullets+of+the+80s&btnG=Search&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=
John Hughes: Movie writer/producer/director best known for popular teen stories in the 80’s. Read more here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hughes_%28filmmaker%29
“Magic Man”: A song by the popular rock group Heart. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYjgh-znxB4
Ozzy: Ozzy Osbourne is a well known hard rock musician. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRbPWcLode0
Ratt: A popular 80’s Hard Rock band.  Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCzO-DJBC9Y

“Dazed and Confused”: A movie about teen life in the 70’s. Learn more here:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106677/Ratt: Ratt was a popular 80’s Hard Rock Band.  Listen hereDebbie Gibson: Popular 80’s teen idol/singer.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h2fxAaXN5c
Brittney Spiers: Currently know pop-star.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4FF6MpcsRw
Journey: A popular 70’s & 80’s rock band. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=barLaHrtvoM
Galaga: A popular 80’s video arcade game.  Learn more here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaga