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Happy Birthday MTV

You don't even look bad for 40. Wow, I don't remember when we got MTV in Columbus, but I don't remember not having it. When cable tv came to our neighborhood in Westerville, it was like coolest thing I can remember. I have always been a fan of technology, and when we went from 3 channels and PBS (come on, no kid thought of PBS as a channel), it was fantastic. The variety of stuff we could watch. Not to mention HBO being on for like 8-12 hours a day (I remember when it went 24). There was nothing better than the HBO guide coming out and seeing what was going to be on the next month.

Suddenly MTV was there though. It was music all the time, just like the radio, but with video. Later in the 80s it would become the best marketing a movie could have, through its soundtrack videos, but the original concept was great.

Granted the early music was kinda terrible. The early 80s top 40 list was a mix of dying disco, some country cross-overs, some yacht-rock and some other random stuff, with a tiny bit of the New Wave that would soon fill the screens.

Here is a list of the first couple videos aired that day:

  1. "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles

  2. "You Better Run" by Pat Benetar

  3. "She Won't Dance With Me" by Rod Stewart

  4. "You Better You Bet" by The Who

  5. "Little Suzi's on the Up" by Ph.D

  6. "We Don't Talk Anymore" by Cliff Richard

  7. "Brass in Pocket" by the Pretenders

  8. "Time Heals" by Todd Rundgren

  9. "Take It on the Run" by REO Speedwagon

  10. "Rockin' the Paradise" by Styx

Clearly the first ten were a mish mash, but they were really who had videos ready to go. In an interview on SiriusXM, Rick Springfield said he was given $1500 to go make a video for "Jessie's Girl" which was number 1 when MTV launched. He threw one together, not even understanding what he was doing or why. Further, some of the first bands would never be heard from again on MTV, or put out stuff in the US. A couple songs into the next 10 were terrible songs, and then there were some videos that just happened to be concert footage.

I know that if nothing was on tv, MTV was on in our downstairs rec-room. It was background noise. Occasionally, there would be a song you pay attention to, but it was there. One of the original VJs summed it up best

"Mtv was the wallpaper of our lives" - Alan Hunter (SiriusXM MTV at 40 special, Aug 31, 2021).

It is true, it was always there, on, playing music. The VJs went from local celebrity or obscurity to names we all knew. There was Alan Hunter who was cast to be the charming Southern boy. Mark Goodman who was the good-looking one, and the one with the most music knowledge and background when he was hired. There was Nina Blackwood, a classical harpist, who knew the scene. Martha Quinn, the cutie-patootie. Finally there was the late JJ Jackson, who knew the club scene and music scene.


(MTV Ultrasound - I Was An MTV VJ (1998) (December 2000 re-airing)Watch

Uploaded by: The Original MTV VJs, Feb 15, 2016)

I loved this channel. I can remember as the channel grew, these five continued to frame what I saw with trivia and behind the scenes snippets and facts. Then there were the contests, I never entered because of course I wouldn't have won, but it was cool contests. Then the new years shows, awards shows, in-studio interviews, the concerts (in the beginning) WORLD PREMIER VIDEOS. Those were awesome.

Then there were some great shows like Remote Control, Making the Video (much later), and shows like that. The Real World broke ground too. What a great channel it was. I say was, because I don't even know why the channel name is there anymore. It stopped being interesting and relevant when they started being stupid shows about pregnant teens and no music.

Music news with Kurt Loder was great, you always got concert updates and facts and it was THE source. The only reason to listen to the radio was when you were driving and Kasey Casem for the countdown (but they had a countdown on MTV too).

Those were the days. It will never come again. I would totally watch a channel with 80s videos and these guys hosting. OR even more radical. MTV make MTV80s and replay the stuff you have. The shows, the cuts, the interviews, everything. Thanks for the memories.


If you want to hear the surviving VJs: Mark, Nina, and Alan host a weekly top 40 on Sirius XM for a given year in the decade as well as the entire 80s on 8 channel. They also host shows on other Sirius XM channels. Martha Quinn is currently on I Heart Radio on an 80s station. Also, there is a great book I read written by the four of them that came out in 2013, called VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave which was a fantastic read. Also there is a pod cast that they put out on Sirius MTV called I want my 80s. Fantastic all around.


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