Thirty-three years ago today, on August 1, 1981, MTV was born.
And where were Alan, Mark, Nina, Martha, and J.J. on that fateful night? They were in a basement in Fort Lee, New Jersey, huddled around a television set probably no larger than the one that was in your own home in 1981. According to the fantastic book VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave, Mark Goodman recounted that the launch party took place in an old restaurant called The Loft. Ironically, the cast and crew of MTV had to head over the Hudson to watch their debut because Manhattan cable didn’t carry the channel!
Alan Hunter said: “We bonded that night. The rocket blasted off, and we looked at each other and realized we were the only five people on the planet doing what we were doing.”
We all know that the first video played on the station was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”, but what other videos helped to round out that first hour of broadcasting? Thanks to the VJ’s book we can list the first 15 videos that aired on the network.
1. The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star”
2. Pat Benatar, “You Better Run”
3. Rod Stewart, “She Won’t Dance With Me”
4. The Who, “You Better You Bet”
5. Ph.D., “Little Susie’s on the Top”
6. Cliff Richard, “We Don’t Talk Anymore”
7. The Prentenders, “Brass In Pocket”
8. Todd Rundgren, “Time Heals”
9. REO Speedwagon, “Take It On The Run”
10. Styx, “Rockin’ the Paradise”
11. Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, “When Things Go Wrong”
12. Splitz Enz, “History Never Repeats”
13. .38 Special, “Hold On Loosely”
14. April Wine, “Just Between You and Me”
15. Rod Stewart, “Sailing”
Man, TWO Rod Stewart videos in the same block. The ‘80s were a magical time!
Of course I know I’m not the only individual to ever look back upon that special day, and thankfully someone more enterprising that I has already grouped all of these videos together for our collective consumption on Youtube. So thank you, Youtube user Ronnie Forscgeb! You’ve made my life about half and hour easier and more entertaining than if I went and did this myself.
I notice that two videos were removed or unplayable from the playlist: Rod Stewart’s “She Won’t Dance With Me” and Cliff Richard’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore”; if you feel it necessary to see them in order to fully relive the first hour of MTV, I found them, separately, for you:
Rod is really rocking that asymmetrical pantsuit! Honestly, if I wasn’t wearing my glasses, I would wonder when Kathy Lee Crosby took a detour into rock and roll.
This is definitely not the official video for the Cliff Richard tune, but it’s such a good song, that I thought you should listen to it. Plus, the sound quality is really good.
Finally, here’s Rod again, who is “Sailing”…in the Hudson River? Dressed like Popeye, this video is either an homage to “New York, New York” from On the Town, or maybe Rod was on his way to the MTV launch party.
For even more awesome footage from the first day of MTV, including the pre-recorded clips of the VJ’s throwing to a new video or coming back from an old video, head over to Platypuscomix, which has amazing-quality clips from the first day, including the original commercials that aired between the videos (I always love to see old commercials on the VHS tapes that I kept from when I was a kid), and the original slight technical gaffes that the MTV crew experienced during the broadcast.
These days you can still hear Alan, Martha, Mark, and Nina on Sirius XM’s “80s on 8” channel.