MTV, you’ve lost me


On August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m., MTV: Music Television launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by John Lack.

Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching guitar riff written by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over a montage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a conceit, associating MTV with the most famous moment in world television history.[5] At the moment of its launch, only a few thousand people on a single cable system in northern New Jersey could see it.[6]
Appropriately, the first music video shown on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. The second video shown was Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run”. Sporadically, the screen would go black when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR.[7]

(From Wikipedia)

So, what was it all about?

This was the cutting edge network to end all networks, that sounded the death knell to mainstream Television.  We wanted our MTV, and we wanted it now.

It was the network that gave MOBO a voice, with the single ‘Walk This Way’ – Run DMC and Aerosmith officially got the first ever rap video on air.  It created the idea of a VJ, and there were some very beautiful ones too.  It let shit fly, and fall where it may, but mostly it was about music.


It also pioneered a new wave of irreverand stings and channel idents, that seemed to take a whimsical look at the brand and what it may mean, many of which still live in compartementalised boxes in my head, and introduced the style of fast-paced editing that had parents complaining that they couldn’t cope with the kids 3 second attention span,  a side-effect of the MTV generation.

Why would we stomach this? Why would we watch vaguely homosexual-looking Dutch VJ’s with unnaturally symmetrical teeth giving 10 year olds safe sex advice?  Because it was all punctuated with MUSIC.  And by music I of course mean RELIGION.  Because that’s how important music was to me as a kid, and even more so as a teenager.  There was something for everyone, and you’d watch 2 hours of stuff you just didn’t get to see your video again.  So many videos.  Such wonderous videos, from the banal to the sublime, the pictures did just as much talking as the music.

I don’t know when exactly MTV sold out.  I never had much TV at home, as the folks only wanted Irish channels (of which there were 2) so it was a rare treat to get to consume MTV.  I used to babysit my sisters kids, and they were practically raised on it.  Beavis & Butthead were like family members to my nephew, niece and I.  They turned out OK too, in case you’re wondering.  Great, in fact, and you can see a video on my nephew elsewhere on this very blog.  So, what happened?


As far as I can recall, it all began with ‘The Real World’.  This was the dawn of reality TV.  I can’t  think of an earlier one, but am open to correction.  How detestable.  Some shitwit somewhere decided that it would be a really good idea to take narcissistic unknowns who were selected seemingly for their ability to be instantly detestable, put them all in a penthouse, and let the good times roll.  I know it sounds crazy, I know it sounds wild, etc.  Jade Goody is the logical conclusion of where that has got us.  Cheap and nasty TV, wherein the popularity contest is won by the empty vessels that do make the most noise, and we’re all supposed to not notice in the new climate of Idiocracy that there’s no more fucking music.

What’s wrong with that?

Well a couple of things.  In days of yore, and in the Channel’s original guise, it gave many voices a chance to be heard.  Yes, these voices were selected by A&R types for big record labels who all wanted to make money, but many different messages managed to slip through.  Music that discovered me through MTV included Pearl Jam, Crash Test Dummies, Sinead O Connor, Prince, Seal on and on.  I’d never have heard it anywhere else.  Also guys like The Underwolves and Zero 7, on their latter Chill-Out late night shows.  All good things.  Simple point here, it wasn’t all the Spice Girls and C&C Music Factory.  There was some smart bombs, but some dumb ones too, to borrow from Gill Scott Heron.  But there sure was a lot going on.  An explosion of voices, ideas, messages, ads, a culture, basically, that MTV had a fairly avuncular final say over.

Tonight I’m watching Criss Angel getting hit by a car and disappointingly surviving.  I don’t get it.  I don’t want to see how much more of an asshole Bam can be to his dad.  He looks about mid 30’s now, and its just embarrassing.  The whole value system of the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ franchise has made me seriously consider not bringing kids of my own into the world.  ‘Dismissed’, again shithead teens go on prudish chaporoned dates and try to outcool each other.  These are the very first people I’d put against the wall come the revolution.  But, as E-Smoove has noted, maybe this is the revolution.  Maybe all that’s left is materialism, how much attention I can get, how soon and at whatever cost.  MTV has quietly bowed out to the Brands that used to leave blood sacrifices on their alter just to ‘get to the kids’.  I think we’re seeing what happens when too many cash-orientated morons do just that.  MTV will eat their young.  I hope all their excutives have children who want a sweet 16 party like they see on TV.  Every fucking day till they die of obisity and stupidity at 31.

I also hope I become relevent again one day, and find another voice other than this humble blog.  MTV you’re turning me off.


11 thoughts on “MTV, you’ve lost me

  1. This site expresses every thought in my head of late! Fair-fooking -play!!! Agreed, on every word!

  2. sadsense says:

    Ah, thanks a mill for that S.
    Hope you’re keeping well!

  3. forlorncow says:

    I’ve long given up on questioning the integrity of MTV. I did have MTV on a daily basis when I was growing up, and I can tell you that it’s been a good 10 to 12 years – if not more – since they’ve focused on videos. VH1 is no better.

    I will admit I actually enjoyed the first few seasons of The Real World – because it was so different at the time. However, it has spun out of control into what we have today. There were also plenty of good shows that weren’t music related – Liquid Television and The State as two of the better

    If you want videos now, you have to get the extra MTV genre based channels. So yes, they still play videos – but not where you want them. One would think that perhaps they should have an MTV program channel, and keep the music on the original MTV – but that would mean reaching less people, and less advertising dollars.

    At the end of the day, MTV is a business. And while some of you growing up saw music as a religion because that’s what there was. Kids have more toys today than ever and their religions is made up of reality TV, $200 jeans, $400 handbags, BlackBerries, and Nintendo Wiis. So while MTV has sold out to the music enthusiasts, one cannot fault them for making a buck. They are, unfortunately, delivering what their audience wants to see.

  4. sadsense says:

    Interesting reply Forlorncow…
    I suppose I find this hard to chew as I aspire to the Arnoldian idea of culture, being:
    The very best examples of Culture available in the world at the present time.

    I feel that if MTV up the game in terms of what the audience gets, people will respond by wanting better things. Having said that, I concede that you could initially lose a lot of people to more Lowest Common Denominator programming, but it shouldn’t get in the way of being a flag-barer of an ethos, defined by something other than $$$.

    I also concede that this is in some ways a lament of values that are disappearing and outmoded ideas as materialism / consumerism has really taken hold, but it doesn’t take a Prophet to see that not every kid in the world can own an iPod or a Rug Rats lunchbox, and there did used to be more voices that would at least be conscious of this disparity if not directly addressing it.

    Lastly, I was also referring to the fact that MTV scheduling was defined by a very mixed bag, so you had to take the rough with the smooth, in terms of what you got.
    If you look at the network now, all channels are divided into streams, MTV Base, MTV Dance, whatever.

    This only serves to create a narrowband specialist audience for your material, and you’re suddenly only competing to get heard in a pond of similar acts, rather than across the board. You won’t see too much in the way of Rock/Hip Hop crossover, as this wouldn’t fit any particular channel.

    Surely this has an effect on the type of music artists make?

  5. wade says:

    One last test!

  6. johne says:

    Very nice site!

  7. Im new to blogging and find this post very useful. I neverthought of how your profile is viewed by others.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Your blog is so informative … keep up the good work!!!!

  9. […] MTV, you’ve lost me March 2009 9 comments […]

  10. Brandon medical says:

    I’ve gone ahead and bookmarked on so that i could share it with some peeps. Anyway i like the post “MTV, you’ve lost me digital slander” I just used it as the entry title in my bookmark, Kudos!.

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