Happy 35th birthday MTV. The date was August 1, 1981, and a new era in television was born when MTV debuted their first program. One thing that always changes throughout history is technology and in the ’80s, MTV was the hottest, newest form of advanced technology. Promising to revolutionize the way people listened to music, MTV debuted on the screen with 24-hour music videos. Up until that time, live music wasn’t regularly seen on television, nor was it available in a non-stop format. Combining the best in radio with the best in TV, MTV replaced DJs with VJs and introduced the world to a new way to enjoy music that involved visual and auditory senses. The first MTV music video to air was “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The song was most fitting as MTV saw itself as being the next big thing in music and would surpass the experience of listening to your favorite artists on the radio.
In the video above that shows the first MTV broadcast, a number of original VJs (video jockeys) introduce themselves to the public. ABC News published a report that provided an update on the original VJs. Included in the ABC report were updates on Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, J.J. Jackson, and Alan Hunter. As MTV has expanded to global markets, the number of MTV VJs has expanded greatly, and there are former VJs who have gone on to pursue acting careers, such as former MTV VJ Ruby Rose. There is a Facebook page that follows the original MTV VJs where you can find updated information about their careers. You can also see a playlist of videos that appeared during the first day and weeks of MTV below.
Martha Quinn spoke to Yahoo and described what it’s like for her every time she hears the song “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
“Whenever I hear the Buggles’ ‘Video Killed the Radio Star,’ I get goosebumps. I practically want to cry, every time. Every. Single. Time.”
Martha Quinn continued to give an inside look at the first day of MTV in her Yahoo interview.
“I remember waiting for a school bus. When MTV started, we didn’t have a big budget at all — no budget for limousines or anything like that — so they rented a literal yellow school bus that drove the crew and VJs out to this little bar in New Jersey, because there weren’t many places that carried MTV. You couldn’t even get it in Manhattan then. [Original VJ] Mark Goodman, I believe, took a limo, because he did not want to ride with these ‘little people,’ because he was the WPLJ disc jockey at that time, which was a big New York rock station. Anyway, as we watched the launch that night, we were all sobbing. It was the most emotional night. It was like having a baby being born.”
Martha Quinn gave a shout out on Twitter to her former and original MTV VJ cast members.
MTV has evolved greatly over the past 35 years. There have been groundbreaking changes that pushed MTV to the forefront. Since August 1, 1981, new music categories and genres have been formed. History was made when MTV played the video “Walk This Way” by rock band Aerosmith and the group Run DMC. MTV began playing rock videos but slowly integrated more rap and hip hop videos in a move that helped bring down the stereotypes and walls that separated many people across the nation. The merging of hip-hop, rap, and rock in one video was a revolutionary move for MTV.
By 1984, allegations that MTV was a white, rock only video station were quieted as there was a heavy play of videos by Michael Jackson, Run-DMC, Diana Ross, and Kool and the Gang. The first video by black artists played on MTV was from the British group Musical Youth, and the song was “Pass the Dutchie.” According to the book I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, the song and video were given the go ahead for rotation because the band was deemed non-threating and non-black.
“Because they were little and spoke in funny British accents, Musical Youth were deemed as non-threatening and therefore non-black.”
MTV has come a long way in 35 years, and it is doubtful anyone would accuse the network of hindering a particular genre of music based on race.
Happy Birthday, MTV!
[Image via Gil C/Shutterstock]