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MTV’s First Hour

At the stroke of midnight on August 1st, 1981, a new cable channel was launched that promised to bring “the best of radio” to “the best of TV”. That channel is, of course, MTV. What began as a never-ending stream of music videos and news would eventually devolve into drunk, naked co-eds, brooding teenagers and a bunch of guys trying to get themselves maimed or killed in the most entertaining way possible. At least we can look back with fond memories.

VH1 Classic, picking up the discards of it’s parent station, is celebrating MTV’s 30th Anniversary by rebroadcasting the original first hour of MTV, commercials and glitches intact. It’s a bittersweet viewing experience. On the one hand, you get a look into what the music world was like before MTV changed everything. On the other, you start wishing MTV was still like this: commentating on music trends instead of dictating them (during the five minutes a day it steps away from pseudo-reality programming, that is.)

MTV Launch

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Rock and Roll"

(It should be noted that VH1 Classic scaled back it’s MTV anniversary celebration somewhat from five years ago when it actually re-aired the first 24 Hours of MTV.)

Mark Goodman

Mark Goodman, your first VJ, was accidentally introduced last due to a sequencing error.

When MTV first came to life, the few viewers actually able to see this fledgling little station were treated to stock footage of a shuttle launch that lasts about fifteen minutes, after which the iconic “Moon Man” plants a colorful MTV flag over the announcer’s triumphant declaration, “ladies and gentleman, rock and roll.” Then the first video comes on: “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Buggles, a song that would have otherwise been forgotten in the annals of late-70’s New Wave had it lyrics not been so fitting. Over the top, “space-aged” visuals accompany the keyboard-driven piece of pop – perhaps the first glimpse of this artform for many.

Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star

"Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles kicking things off with a little ode to the death of radio and the birth of strange visuals.

The videos rotating MTV’s inaugural 60 minutes were quite eclectic to say the least. You had popular rock favorites of the time such as The Who (“You Better You Bet”), The Pretenders (“Brass in Pocket”) and Styx (“Rockin’ the Paradise” – that MTV erroneously labeled “Rockin’ Paradaise”). Then you had some rather obscure but interesting entries such as Ph.D (“Little Suzie’s on the Up”) and Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (“When Things Go Wrong”). Some of these videos were actually quite terrible, spending more time with cheesy video effects than just giving viewers a glimpse at the performer (I’m looking at you there Todd Rundgren).

"Time Heals" by Todd Rundgren

Video for "Time Heals" by Todd Rundgren - a video so bad, it's awful.

As an added little bonus, the first hour of MTV is being broadcast with all the little technical glitches that plagued the station’s birth. I suppose it’s like driving a stick shift for the first time: you’re moving forward, but you stall out a couple of times. Also included, original commercials. Don’t go mailing MTV for your dial sticker, though. No one there will know what you’re talking about.

If you are unable to catch this historic event being replayed for you, don’t fret. Thanks to the dedication of others, you can pretty much find MTV’s First Hour on YouTube (that’s where I got the screen shots, by the way).

I just find it odd this isn’t airing on MTV proper. I suppose they just stopped caring about music long ago.


About DaveMMR

An avid collector of vinyl records and old video games, and a sometimes fan of talking about same.


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