I can remember when I got cable television. First off, I was finally able to stop screwing around with rabbit ear antennas that today look positively prehistoric. Second, I finally got my MTV.
There is a lot of talk about MTV today, and for good reason. MTV turned 30 years old today. If that makes you feel old, you’re not alone. If not, look at it this way; if Marty McFly jumped into a time-traveling DeLorean today and went back 30 years, he would not end up in a time where Coca-Cola came in bottles, all cars were made in Detroit, and dorks walked around with 3D glasses, he would land in a time where Ronald Reagan (yes, the movie actor) was President, Disco was dying, and he would witness a group called The Buggles kick off Viacom’s MTV with a weird “music video” declaring that Video Killed the Radio Star.
I have many found memories of MTV. I remember when I decided I would marry Martha Quinn. I remember watching the World Premiere Video, with much anticipation, for Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” video. I grew up watching Madonna shock parents in a way Laddy GaGa will never match, and Prince and Michael Jackson introduce the world to a whole never style of pop music.
Over the years MTV and I grew up together, we had many changes. At 12 I was able to go to awesome New Years eve parties with amazing musicians, like The Divinyls and Charlie Sexton, thanks to MTV’s New Years Eve party. At 15 I was able to tap my inner teen angst and explore new music with Andy Warhol’s 120 Minute show.
In my later teens years, things changed up a bit, but I went with it. MTV had party shows from Florida during the summers, which would be on in the background while I had my own parties. And at 19 I was introduced to The Real World and got to see a show about how people my age, but a little slower, lived in a big, very cool house.
I always felt like the perfect age for MTV, like we really had grown up together. But that changed at one point. I’ll admit to liking Beavis and Butthead more than I should have, but that wasn’t the problem. The real problem was the reality television. No disrespect to Kurt Loader, who I always relied on for my authentic music news, and I really appreciated his work on Tina Turner’s bio, but all of a sudden these special reports with his voice, that were really just early versions of reality television started to appear. MTV was looking for more, but cheaper original content.
MTV made a division for us Gen X people at VH1, but it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t a grown up, I was still cool. But evidently “cool” changed. Over the next 10 years MTV started playing videos only at night, or when part of another show. By the time TRL (Total Request Live) with the talentless Carson Daly, I wasn’t sure how they picked these videos. They didn’t seem to play videos at any other time, so how would they know which were the best? I’m guessing the record labels helped them out with that part.
In 2004 a member of the MTV family, JJ Jackson died. He was always like the older RA to the cool college-type kids of the original VJ’s. I remember that day well. I put on MTV to see what was airing, and it was some douche bags playing out some drama. Keep in mind that this was before MTV discovered that the Jersey Shore was the optimal place to find douche baggery.
It occurred to me then that reality TV killed the video star. On behalf of Gen X, I offer up these cross-generational lyrics as an olive branch to the new MTV generation.
Way before Nirvana
There was U2 and Blondie
And music still on MTV
I have XM in my car, so I enjoy listening to Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman and Nina Blackwood. They are like the cool older siblings I never had. Except Martha, she is my first love, and I will forever measure a girlfriends cool factor next to hers. And no one has bested her yet!
Now I’m off to play some J. Geiles Band “Centerfold” on of my favorites from the early days.