As amazing as it is that I didn’t talk about shitty drivers until recently, it’s downright appalling that I haven’t broached the subject of music until now. While reading books is my favorite pastime, listening to music would be a very close second, and during difficult times in my life music would have leapfrogged reading for the number one spot. Music, like books, has the ability to whisk someone away to places that can’t be visited without it. It also has a way of sloughing off the external shit that listeners are going through in their lives, covering them in its warm glow, if only for a short time.
Prior to finding MTV, I was pretty sheltered from “good” music. Local radio stations focused mainly on country music, oldies, and talk radio. My parents played a lot of their favorite music – The Beatles, The Doors, etc. – but I didn’t like it back then. My family had an 8-track player with a few cassettes, but options were limited. I remember loving “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys, of all things, but that was about the extent of my library.
[Giddy-up, oom-poppa, oom-poppa, mow-mow!]
The only exposure I had to music I actually *wanted* to listen to would have been the old-school television commercials which advertised greatest-hits albums from famous bands of the time. One such compilation that grabbed my attention was by Led Zeppelin (which I didn’t get) and another was from Credence Clearwater Revival, which may have been my very first purchase in what would eventually become a massive collection of music. Boy oh boy, did I love that cassette.
[Oh Susie Q, baby I love you, Susie Q.]
Then came MTV, and everything changed forever.
My first exposure to MTV would have been when I was seven years old. Michael Jackson’s Thriller (probably the second purchase of music in my short life) was all the craze, and the music video of the titular song was fucking *amazing*. Thirteen minutes of a perfect marriage between music and Hollywood. I must have watched the video, along with the accompanying hour-long documentary, hundreds of times. It was video gold to a young boy like myself.
[Best. Video. Evah.]
That being said, I didn’t become an MTV-oholic until I was around ten years old. By then I was hearing and watching music that was more to my taste. Early on it would have been Def Leppard and Motley Crue. Then came Guns ‘n’ Roses with songs like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City.” Then Metallica’s “One.” And then the Holy Grail that would form my taste in music from age fourteen to the present day: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. When I heard that song it was like I’d finally found the sound I was searching for. I fell in love with many other grunge bands of that era – Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, to name a few – but Nirvana has always been and always will be my favorite band. As stated above, I was fourteen years old when Nevermind came out, and I cannot sufficiently put into words the impact it had on me. I was, quite simply, a nut for all things Nirvana (and grunge in general).
Without MTV and the videos that bands started using as a way to get their songs in front of a new audience, I never would have heard this music at such a young age. There just wasn’t any other way for me to get at it. And so, over a stretch of at least a half-dozen upcoming blog posts (maybe more), I’ll discuss all of the aspects of MTV that I remember and cherish – the veejays, the shows that focused on a specific slice of music, the game shows, but most importantly, the music and the videos themselves. I’ll create lists of the five best overall videos or the five sexiest videos. I’ll talk about the countdowns and the late nights spent watching videos that couldn’t be played during “normal” hours. Mostly, I’ll wax nostalgic about the good times when the “M” in MTV stood for “Music” (as opposed to these days, when it might be mistaken for “Moms” of the sixteen-years-old-and-pregnant variety, or “Morons” who are a part of the [un]Real World). I’m hoping you’ll come along for the ride, whether it’s to reminisce with me or to experience for the first time what was perhaps the most influential channel on television for well over a decade.
Until we meet again…