Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music

Back When MTV Was “Music Television”

Once a person hits a certain age, they start to partake in what I like to call “The Nostalgic Lament”.  The lament usually starts off with the words “Back in my day…” and then what follows is a long and drawn out story about how things were better back when music was vinyl and clothes were polyester.

The older I get – and the more time I spend around “the young crowd” (which was more prevalent when I used to work in retail) – the more I hear myself falling into The Nostalgic Lament.  I’m not saying that I prefer cassette tapes to iPods or French-rolled jeans to boot-cut jeans, but there are certain things that were indeed better in the 1980s and 1990s.

Like MTV.

Kids these days may not realize it, but that channel where you watch those shows about teens being pregnant at 16 and privileged girls shopping in Laguna Beach?  That channel used to play nothing but MUSIC VIDEOS.  Yeah, you know, like really short movies set to songs.  Or as Wikipedia puts it:

 “Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings. Although the origins of music videos date back much further, they came into prominence in the 1980s, when MTV based their format around the medium.”

Oh, wait…did you catch that?  They mentioned MTV!!!  PROOF that music videos were once the main format of MTV.  Besides the occasional game show (“Remote Control” anyone?), one reality show (“The Real World” started in 1991…back when it was really real), and a show about how to dress (Cindy Crawford’s painfully hosted “House of Style”), all MTV did was play music videos.  And in MTV’s heyday, the video was inconic.  The video was more important than the actual song.  To this day, when people think of certain songs (like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”), they think of the video first.

I started watching MTV (and then VH-1 when I didn’t like the video MTV was playing, even though back then VH-1 was geared toward the older crowd) when I was about nine years old.  To some that may seem young, but “back in my day” in the summers it was just me and my older brother, and watching music videos was just what we did.  I mainly watched to see videos from people like New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, and The Jets (yep, those were my faves back in 1988).  You want to know how weird I was?  I would turn on the radio (my dad had a pretty sweet sound system back then [re: ginormous]) that was programmed to my local pop music stations KDWB and WLOL, and then have MTV / VH-1 on mute so if I saw a video I wanted to see, I could put the radio on mute and watch the video.

Yes, I started multi-tasking when I was nine years old.  I was a very advanced child.

But you see, back then we weren’t able to just turn on the computer and go on iTunes and find the song we want to hear at that particular moment.  If I wanted to hear the new Debbie Gibson song before her “Electric Youth” album came out, I had to sit and wait for it to miraculously come on, either via radio or TV.  You had to be determined to get the things you wanted back then – there was no instant gratification that we now all demand.

Yes, I am part of the Electric Youth.

As I got older – I’m talking around 11 and 12 years old – I began branching out when it came to music taste, so I would actually sit and watch pretty much every music video that came on.  I didn’t watch TV shows back then.  My TV shows were music videos.  When I think of my childhood in terms of music, I think of some of my favorite videos.  Videos like George Michael’s “Freedom” (the supermodels!), Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” (the animation!), Madonna’s “Borderline” (the beret!), Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” (the sexy dancing!) and A-ha’s “Take on Me” (the EVERYTHING!!!).  Pretty much everything I learned about music I learned from watching the video first.

Take me on…

As time went by and MTV began to start playing more shows as opposed to music videos, my viewership went down.  I began to get involved in other shows on TV and I began to lose interest in music television.  Not because I didn’t like the actual videos, but because they were getting more and more difficult to catch on TV.  Every time I turned on MTV, there was some other weird show on instead of music videos.  Pretty soon it seemed that they only time I was able to watch a lot of videos at one time was at my annual New Years’ Eve party where my friends and I would have on MTV’s Top 100 Videos of the Year countdown.

Apart from that, it had seemed like MTV and I had broken up.

We briefly got back together in the late 1990s when MTV brought back the video countdown with “Total Request Live” (aka TRL).  Of course this was during much-needed revival of pop music, and also during the whole Backstreet Boys/’N Sync/Britney/Christina obsession that the world was going through at the moment.  Suddenly music videos were hot again, and I watched Carson Daly count down those videos every afternoon during a portion of my college years.

I am so, so guilty.

But even that didn’t last long.  TV shows once again took over music television, and even VH-1 was jumping on the reality TV show wagon.  So I did what any girl would have done in my situation.

I stopped watching music videos altogether.

Seriously, I went years without seeing a single music video.  I didn’t even bother turning the channel to MTV because I knew it wasn’t worth it.  It was like the term “music videos” had fallen right out of the dictionary, never to be found again.  It didn’t even make sense for MTV to have their annual Music Video Awards anymore because, well, what would they award?  Worst impersonation of a music video television channel?

I grew resentful and angry at the MTV I used to know and love.

Luckily now we have something that we didn’t have “back in my day”.  The internet.  And that means instant access to sites like You Tube, and even the sites for MTV and VH-1 where you can actually chose what you want to see (like music videos!!).  And if you have expanded cable TV packages, you also get channels like MTV2 and VH-1 Classic (among others) that tend to play mostly videos.  So even if CEO’s MTV and VH-1 aren’t playing the videos, at least their Regional Managers are doing their part to bring the video back to us.

I’m dedicating this one to you, MTV.

And recently I’ve discovered an awesome new app for my iPad called Vevo, which is just like Pandora Radio with its playlists, but instead of just songs you get music videos.  For instance, I just told my brother (also a music video fan) that this morning I typed in Paula Abdul and got a totally awesome early ’90s dance song video playlist that included Adbul’s “Forever Your Girl”, Martika’s “More Than You Know”, and Jody Watley’s “Real Love” (and then I had to go to work).

The playlists also show you what videos are coming up, and you can actually skip ahead to certain ones if you so chose.  The app has thousands of artists to chose from, even people like Amanda Palmer (who my husband and I spent most of last Saturday night watching live perfomances of via Vevo), and it seems the videos are never-ending.

The golden era of MTV may be over, but if you look in the right places, you can still get your music video kicks – and now complete with INSTANT GRATIFICATION.  No more sitting around all way waiting for the “Hangin’ Tough” video to come on (that was a very long day).

So here’s to another 30 years of MTV – er, other music video outlets (ovmo?)!

Here’s to OMVO!

And just for fun…here are some other music videos that have stuck in my head over the years…

  • “November Rain” – Guns ‘n’ Roses (the church!)
  • “Jeremy” – Pearl Jam (the boy!)
  • “Smooth Criminal” – Michael Jackson (the lean!)
  • “Rush, Rush” – Paula Abdul (the Keanu!)
  • “Baby, One More Time” – Britney Spears (the dance!)
  • “Janie’s Got a Gun” – Aerosmith (the crime!)
  • “Enter Sandman” – Metallica (the head-banging!)
  • “Cradle of Love” – Billy Idol (the apartment!)
  • “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinead O’Connor (the face!)

…and so much more.



I have way too much information floating around in my head, which is why I write things down. I find that books, movies, music, and television are much more interesting than my local news.

4 thoughts on “Back When MTV Was “Music Television”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s