HomeMusicThe Launch of MTV: "Individuals's 'Really feel-Good Hub'"

The Launch of MTV: “Individuals’s ‘Really feel-Good Hub'”

It is exhausting to imagine that on August 1st, 41 years could have handed for the reason that preliminary launch of MTV within the US. And whereas the Cable channel would finally change into immensely well-liked and influential, initially, it wasn’t. In actual fact, for the primary 12 months it was solely proven in a really restricted quantity of markets (with it not even being out there in New York Metropolis – the place the channel was primarily based – till lengthy after its launch).

However as soon as it lastly made its manner into most properties, the shift within the music trade was obviously obvious (and proved long-lasting) – MTV was now the main tastemaker regarding introducing new artists and selling already-established ones, plus offering up-to-the-minute information, tour dates, and finally, would affect vogue, promoting, and even politics.

To mark this anniversary, beneath are excerpts from one in every of my books, MTV Dominated the World: The Early Years of Music Video, which particulars the channel’s preliminary launch, its immensely catchy theme tune (performed on the prime of every hour), and its gradual construct to success.

JONATHAN ELIAS [Co-writer of MTV’s theme song]: That was written completely for the MTV theme. There have been plenty of issues John [Petersen] and I had been writing for the MTV theme on the time. Some I wrote alone, and a few I wrote with him. They had been ten, twelve-second small items. So for a few weeks, we had been simply writing a bunch of issues, throwing them towards the wall. This was one thing that was pre-scored. We hadn’t gotten the movie of the moon touchdown but. And albeit, I would not have identified how one can synch it up again then, anyway. I did not also have a 24-track again then. I believe I used to be working off of a half-inch TASCAM deck. We went into this low cost little studio with a few buddies and simply knocked out a bunch of these items. They weren’t polished studio gamers … we weren’t polished studio gamers, John and I.

We did not make sufficient cash to pay anybody. All the fellows received 50 bucks or 100 bucks to play it. There was no cash concerned on this, as a result of none of us thought it was going to quantity to something. I believe in these days, they had been paying a thousand {dollars} a emblem. You get a author’s share [each time the song is played], which has been extraordinarily profitable over time. It was humorous getting a thousand {dollars} … and changing into an icon. But it surely gave you immediate credibility within the industrial market, which is what I went on to do, and changing into a rock producer. One of many bands I produced later was Sure, who had been outdated burnouts, even they knew the MTV stuff. Nobody knew it might change into an icon, particularly me. I believe all of us had been like, “Wow, a thousand {dollars}!” In these days, a bunch of us had been dwelling in a loft in Manhattan on seventeenth Avenue, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, which was the costume jewellery district. It was no man’s land after I was there, ’80/’81. It was sudden, and like plenty of stuff you do in your profession, some issues stick, and a few do not.

BOB PITTMAN [MTV CEO]: In case you return to the early promos, it was all about angle. “Do not watch that. Watch this!” It was all type of parodying different TV and MTV. Visually, the man I employed to be the pinnacle of the on-air look was Fred Seibert, who I employed from radio. And one in every of Fred’s nice contributions was, earlier than MTV, everyone reduce their video first, after which they rolled music underneath it. Fred and his guys reduce the audio observe first after which reduce the video to the beat of the music. Now, that would appear fairly fundamental in the present day, however imagine it or not, it wasn’t again then.

Again then, everybody was doing the type of Star Wars logos—large chrome logos popping out of a star-field, beginning small and changing into large—and we did not have the cash to do any of that. So Fred was the one who mentioned, “As a substitute of making an attempt to do an affordable model of what everyone else does, why do not we provide you with a complete new fashion that we are able to do cheaply, however as a result of there isn’t a level of reference, we’ll by no means look low cost. We’ll look revolutionary.” And, certainly, we had been. We broke all the foundations on the time of design—logos cannot change, they’ve to remain in the identical place, the colours cannot mutate. And we modified the brand shade on a regular basis, moved the brand on a regular basis. It was animated. Utterly new method, and folks picked up on that as an method.

ALAN HUNTER [MTV VJ]: When it got here time for the precise launch, all of us received right into a bus in Manhattan—as a result of they did not have it in Manhattan—and we needed to exit to somewhat restaurant/bar out in New Jersey [The Loft] to observe the precise kick-off. So we received on this bus, we received totted on the market, [and] there have been lots of of MTV employers and members of the family. My coronary heart racing a mile a minute. We had all been ingesting fairly closely the entire evening lengthy, and we needed to wait till 12:01/midnight. And at that time, the rocket blasted off, and it was drop-dead silence within the room. The man mentioned, “Women and gents, that is rock n’ roll,” or regardless of the line was. The rocket blasted off.

The humorous factor was the order we had been to look on digital camera was I believe Mark, Nina, JJ, Martha, after which me. I used to be alleged to be the final man. However the folks out on the technical middle in Lengthy Island that do the importing of all of the video footage—that actually load the tapes into the machines— they loaded the tapes backwards, so I used to be the primary one to come back on! That is the trivia query, “Who was the primary VJ on MTV?” That will be me, however it was alleged to be Mark Goodman. So after the Buggles got here on [the first-ever video played on MTV was the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”], all of us simply checked out one another and mentioned, “Holy shit! This would possibly simply get large … if we are able to final.” In fact, the subsequent day, all of us needed to get to work. In order that was fairly painful the subsequent day, I will inform ya.

GEOFF DOWNES [The Buggles, Yes, and Asia keyboardist]: We had been advised that “Video Killed the Radio Star” was used because the “launch observe.” I believe it was extra in hindsight. It was simply one thing that they chose on the time. The affect began to progress as time glided by. However no one knew that this MTV channel was going to be fairly vital.

NINA BLACKWOOD [MTV VJ]: It wasn’t simply the VJs. It was everyone that labored on MTV. The workplace folks, the fits, the crew. After which the time got here— that notorious rocket—that also provides me butterflies in my abdomen. When that rocket went off, we had been simply … I’ve by no means skilled every part like that. It was like a collective child being born. There have been tears, hugs, screaming, simply such superb power. It was simply an “Oh my God … it is actual!” feeling.

ALAN HUNTER: The opposite fascinating factor concerning the channel that rather a lot folks did not perceive is we did not have any commercials the primary 12 months. MTV was actually not promoting any advert house, as a result of nobody needed to purchase. The filler was inventory footage of astronauts floating in house. And folks thought that was nice. “Wow, no commercials, and this interstitial materials of cool graphics and simply house folks.” After which a few 12 months into it, after we began promoting adverts, folks would come as much as us within the streets and say, “MTV is promoting out.” I am identical to, “No … they’re simply making an attempt to make my wage!”

I do not know what the others had been making. I will not quote a determine, however my solely standards for a superb job was to get as a lot cash as a superb refrain boy makes on Broadway. That was my dream. I lived in an residence on fifty fifth and Broadway. I used to look out down Broadway and dream about being on Broadway some day. I needed to be in musical theater. If I may simply make 550 bucks per week, which was the going union fee for an fairness actor, that will be simply nice. If I may make that, I am residence free. I made higher than that. However I used to be not getting wealthy on MTV for the primary 12 months or two. I renegotiated my contract with them a 12 months into it. We prolonged issues, and I began doing rather a lot higher. However I will let you know … we had been just like the early sports activities stars. We performed exhausting, we received plenty of fame, and we began the entire enterprise of MTV. However we didn’t take pleasure in enormous salaries.

NINA BLACKWOOD: We did not have a complete lot of movies. I believe the quantity was about 300. I appear to recollect round that quantity. Which, while you’re operating a 24-hour video channel, you burn by means of these fairly rapidly. I bear in mind plenty of Rod Stewart, Pat Benatar, the Buggles, Nick Lowe, Carlene Carter, Aldo Nova, Iron Maiden, Lene Lovich. [Lovich] was one of many first folks I ever noticed a video of, and I simply cherished her. I believe we had been taking part in Blondie initially, “Coronary heart of Glass.” After we play one of many songs that we performed again then on Sirius, it simply all comes flooding again.

ALAN HUNTER: All people else had dropped no matter job that they had, however I saved my bartending job a month or two into the gig. I actually went and taped the present throughout the day, after which I would go to a spot referred to as the Magic Pan—it was on 57th and Sixth Avenue—and I had a nighttime bartending job. I did not let go of it at first. I do not know why. I simply thought, “We’ll see how this MTV factor works out.” So about possibly two months into it, I used to be mixing a daiquiri, and this man was sitting on the bar, two sheets to the wind, taking a look at me. He mentioned, “You look acquainted,” and it nonetheless did not daybreak on me. He mentioned, “Aren’t you ‘Mark someone,’ on this music channel?” And it dawned on me that he was speaking concerning the gig I used to be doing throughout the day. I corrected him, and mentioned, “No, I am Alan Hunter.” Just about, the subsequent day or two, I put my discover in and give up the job, as a result of I assumed, “I do not need to be right here making drinks whereas individuals are checking me out.” It was form of exhausting to let go of that gig. I used to be going to be an actor, if not a TV host, so for me, I took a diversion in my profession. I believe I made the appropriate selection.

KATHY VALENTINE [The Go-Go’s bassist]: What stands out rather a lot to me is MTV used to throw these large events, New Yr’s events. It was an enormous deal. For just a few years, it was simply the spotlight of the 12 months. They had been superb, nice events. There was one in New York that was actually cool. I bear in mind being there with John Belushi. I simply bear in mind getting a message at my lodge [from Belushi]—”Are we on for tonight?”—and going collectively.

ROBIN ZORN [MTV producer]: My favourite New Yr’s of my whole life was the primary New Yr’s live performance. I used to be an affiliate producer within the truck, and I bear in mind, at one level, folks mentioned, “Robin, go on the market and see who’s there.” It was the primary time we did a New Yr’s present. We did not know if we might get anyone there. And I bear in mind I walked exterior, and John Belushi was simply stoned out of his thoughts, sitting at a desk along with his head on the desk. I used to be all excited, like, “John Belushi’s right here!” And, after all, he was stoned, and we could not even get him on digital camera.

Additionally about that first New Yr’s present, I used to be answerable for preserving us on observe time-wise. We needed to hit 4 midnights. The primary midnight was proper on, the second midnight was somewhat off, and the third and fourth we weren’t even near being midnight. Once more, it was MTV, so we simply had the VJs announce that it was midnight. That was very typical for us. We had been manner off, and but, we had been on the air going, “Yeah, Completely happy New Yr, it is midnight on the market on the west coast,” and in the meantime, it wasn’t midnight. We simply flew by the seat of our pants.

ALAN HUNTER: MTV crammed an enormous void. And it was not like all these different packages. It was on as folks’s “pleasant firm,” in any respect hours of the evening, for faculty dorms or housewives within the morning. That was folks’s “feel-good hub.”

Greg Prato is a longtime AllMusic contributor. MTV Dominated the World: The Early Years of Music Video tells the entire story of the channel’s formative period, and is obtainable as paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and audio variations.

MTV Book



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments