Video Killed the Radio Star, But What Can Kill Video? Apparently Nothing.

Although my generation may no longer be shouting, “I Want My MTV,” the effect the launch of Music Television had on us 30 years ago today, as far as I can tell, is permanent.

I remember the build up to MTV’s launch and watching in awe that first day, August 1, 1981. I was almost 8-years-old and I thought it was the coolest thing ever, because let's face it, it was.

Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing", or anything by Madonna, the videos, as much as the songs, would become a part of my adolescence. 

I don’t know exactly why I stopped watching—probably because I didn’t have cable in my dorm room at college and I never got into Beavis and Butthead. But I do know what has changed, and I think it’s exciting and I think it’s good. Today, rather than sit around for hours hoping Wham!’s video for “The Careless Whisper” will come on—I can catch what I want anytime I want. I can pause it and replay it, as well as “Like It” or share it with a friend.

Our craving for music and videos has never been greater. How else do you explain the popularity of YouTube, where reportedly 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute? Many of them contain, or are related to, music.

YouTube is one of my favorite sites on the Internet, where I go for entertainment for myself and my children on practically a daily basis. I put on music videos to pass the time while I’m on the treadmill. I play children’s music for my boys and we sing along.  

No matter how many times it has happened, I am always amazed when I find the videos I am looking for on YouTube; I am grateful that someone put them there. Feeling a little nostalgic, this weekend I typed in "De La Soul," a favorite group from the early 90s, and there they were on Letterman doing their hippie/hip-hop thing. 

To commemorate three decades of MTV, I watched the introduction from August 1, 1981, 12:01 a.m. The first minute showed real footage of a rocket lifting off followed by an animated astronaut planting an MTV flag on the moon. Then you hear a man’s voice say, “Ladies and Gentlemen…rock 'n' roll.” The MTV logo flashes in different patterns, which would become a trademark of the cable channel along with the catchy guitar riff.

But it’s MTV’s birthday and I want to watch a music video, on MTV. Rather than turning on the television, however, I clicked over to www.mtv.com. I was sort of surprised to find a great deal of content, from the latest music news and entertainment gossip to a gallery of shark tattoo images in honor of Shark Week. You can also watch clips of the various reality shows, which in the broadcast version of MTV have largely replaced videos—much to the dismay of old-school MTV-viewers like myself.

Under MTV’s Hot Picks for Videos, I chose No. 6, Beyonce’s “Best Thing I Never Had,” a single from her new album, 4. I was happy to find that it was classic video storytelling. In other words, I got it.  

Back on YouTube, I found The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the cleverly selected first video played on MTV. “In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far,” are among the lyrics. And I disagree.

I guess I don’t just want my MTV anymore, now I demand it.

Tom Halvorson August 01, 2011 at 07:49 PM
What can kill video? Reality TV Shows.


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