Saturday, July 30, 2011

MTV Celebrates 30 years of Music...sort of

Where it all began  Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles. Unbelievable what has changed in 30 years in music alone and what a force MTV WAS.
Yes, was. I don't count the recent MTV Video Music Awards or The Jersey Shore as marvels of pop culture as much I view them as train wrecks and bad attempts and being influential. I honestly wish Lady Gaga were around twenty years ago, but alas I recognize that we need her now more than ever.

MTV helped my music addiction. Although radio sufficed until we got cable - I know my music life would have been different had MTV not been created.Much of my life growing up was shaped by MTV (shock): what to wear, what to listen to, how to register to vote, even just background noise. I used to worship  MTV : Remote Control, House of Style, Denis Leary, Dial MTV, Club MTV (where I still cannot believe was filmed where I swim everyday),  Headbangers Ball - I could not get enough MTV.

Where did it all stop? Did the creation of the Real World ( the beginning of reality TV) become the beginning of the end of MTV? It is a joke now that MTV doesn't actually play music videos around the clock anymore. Think about it, MTV was so ground breaking and had such an impat on music culture that Dire Straits used their slogan I want my MTV in one of their songs.

Videos -- you waited for new releases or just seeing your favorites. Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper, INXS, U2, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Poison, Madonna - so much influence from them to me in a 4 minute video. I wanted to preach about apartheid, wear Jean Paul Gualtier clothes, walk the Sunset Strip, ride motorcycles and save the world thanks to them. I learned the best dance moves for the Friday night dance and still think of the videos to this day when I hear certain songs. Hysteria by Def Leppard, Losing My Religion by REM and Girls Girls Girls by Motley Crue  have visual cues in my mind when I hear them. To be honest, even though I love her, I can't picture Poker Face or Bad Romance when I hear Lady Gaga on the radio. Take a random survey and many people my age and older will describe a song though it's video.

I don't remember my first MTV experience. I do know that I HAD to watch Dial MTV and the Top 20 Countdown to see what videos were #1. I remember wanting to go to NY to audition to be a dancer on Club MTV. VIDEOS people, this was about videos. They played them all the time - with only night time shows like the Half Hour Comedy Hour, Remote Control or House of Style. I do remember my first Video Music Awards. Yes the VMA's to all of you acronymizers - the giving of the Moon Man Trophy. It was where people dared to be outspoken: Madonna and her crotch grabbing, the Axl Rose and Vince Neil saga, and Pee Wee Herman asking us if we had Heard any good jokes lately?
It was from one of these performances on the Video Music Awards that created buzz for a show to be titled Unplugged. Believe it or not, Jersey Boys Bon Jovi and Sambora's acoustic version of Wanted Dead or Alive caught people so off guard that they wanted more and demanded a show. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Alice in Chains were only a handful of artists that performed some of their greatest moments acoustically.

Late nights, before the Howard Stern show on WWOR, I would tune into the Headbangers Ball with Riki Rachtman. When I was weaning myself off Paula Abdul and New Kids on the Block (do you notice that when I grew up we spelled things out) I had to turn to late nights to get my fill of what metal was not top 20. Towards 1991, the vibe began to change as the top interviewees were Mother Love Bone and Alice in Chains. Sadly, every time Layne Staley appeared on the show, the more out there he was.

MTV also paid respects to legends when they dedicated weekends to them: Queen, U2, Madonna. You learned everything about the artists and more. When was the last time you turned on MTV and learned that Freddy mercury was from Zanzibar or watched U2 videos A-Z?

Kurt Loder did his best to bring us the news, which sadly also included some of  music's saddest moments: the loss of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddy Mercury, Michael Hutchence, Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain, Aliyah, Jeff Buckley just to name a few. And MTV news also pioneered with getting my generation involved in politics: Rock the Vote. I set up a voter registration booth for the 1996 election (but I was not allowed to don a flag, ala Madonna).We watched MTV broadcast the end of the Cold War and Heavy Metal Music breaking boundaries in the USSR:

And then IT happened. MTV created a new "reality" show where they put strangers into a loft in NYC and filmed them 24/7. I admit, I was hooked (and had a slight crush on Andre, who did call me by the way that summer). It was a novelty, but it was also pure - and no one "acted" for the cameras. But, as it became more popular, the call for shenanigans and craziness won and we had Road Rules and the Real World putting people in the Emergency Department with alcohol poisoning. It was the beginning of the end.

You cannot say that musicians make fewer videos now- or that people don't enjoy them as much. We all know the Internet probably had something to do with the downfall of the videos on MTV but not the downfall of the heart behind the channel. Yes, generations change and so do music tastes, but is it too hard to understand why MTV fails to be what it was. It is pure happiness for me to watch (how ironic) VH1 Classic promoting MTV's 30th anniversary. Maybe we are at the bottom of a curve and there will be a comeback. Now more than ever I WANT MY MTV!!!

1 comment:

  1. If there ever was a person (besides Pauly Shore) that immediately enters my mind when I think of the ORIGINAL MTV - it is you, Paula.

    My entire MIDDLE school memory of you is in this video! Even then, you were a music connoisseur; but, in the early 90's, you added the dance flair. I remember you knowing every move to Vogue, Rhythm Nation, Opposites Attract, and MANY others!