Did video really kill the radio star?

posted at 12:40 pm on August 1, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

One of the most easily overlooked anniversaries in the midst of all the sound and fury over the debt fight is doubtless this one. It passed at precisely one minute past midnight, eastern standard time. Thirty years ago from that moment, MTV took to the air for the first time and their premiere offering – doubtless intended as a preemptive declaration of victory – was Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles.

For better or worse, it launched a new era in entertainment which quickly became an obsession in American culture. DJs had previously been able to hide behind microphones, often in lonely broadcast towers up on hilltops. If you ever saw them at all, it was likely just a press release head shot photo, possibly from their earlier, golden days. It didn’t matter if they were older, fat, balding or wearing a grease stained t-shirt. So long as the voice was right, they determined the fate of musicians across the land. (At least until the payola scandals hit.)

With the launch of MTV, a new generation of VJs became the fascination of young music fans. They had to be bright, glossy and dressed in the hippest way possible. (And now I just realized that nobody says “hip” any more. Dear God, I’ve gotten old.) But that craze just didn’t have the legs of the radio stars they sought to replace. While preparing this column I realized that I couldn’t recall the name of a single one of the original VJs except that there were two girls with the same name. (Don’t bother Googling it. They were Julie Brown and “Downtown” Julie Brown.)

In the end, MTV and their later competitor VH1 seemed to fall by the wayside, choosing to hitch their wagons to an endless stream of reality shows and other pop culture pablum. One frequent joke among folks of my age group includes the phrase, “back when MTV still played music videos.”

But what really killed these entertainment delivery systems, along with many others, was the endless march of technology. The audience is not only fickle, but they have grown into an instant gratification society. They want to hear the songs they’re craving now, not when some DJ or VJ chooses to play them. And with MP3 technology and the entire musical history of man available for download, storage and delivery into their ear buds, there is no need for entertainment gatekeepers any longer.

But let’s look back, either with nostalgia or nausea. (Your choice.) Here’s the music video that started it all.

EDIT: Yes, the originally posted video was a later version. The horror may now end. Here’s the original.

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Comment pages: 1 2

MTV and their later competitor VH1

Aren’t both owned by Viacom?

CurtZHP on August 1, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Storybec on August 1, 2011 at 2:12 PM

My wife and I were big fans of Video Concert Hall back in the days before MTV. I still enjoy a good music video, like the one for Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave”.

flipflop on August 1, 2011 at 2:24 PM

annoyinglittletwerp on August 1, 2011 at 1:25 PM

OMG You get a shiny new dime, ALT.

Fallon on August 1, 2011 at 2:26 PM

(And now I just realized that nobody says “hip” any more. Dear God, I’ve gotten old.)

.
The term “hipster,” however, is newly in vogue again. Snooty kids!

ExpressoBold on August 1, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Yes, video killed the radio star. Before MTV people didn’t usually even know what the singer of a popular song looked like. Before MTV, a group would just play their instruments on stage and sing. After MTV, they had to put on a whole show jumping through hoops and ladders. Music became more a visual medium than a listening experience.

LODGE4 on August 1, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Slow Down ther…

Alice Cooper

Yes

The Who

Pink Floyd

Elton John

All put on spectacular shows (some even “rock operas”).

Way before videos appeared.

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 2:27 PM

annoyinglittletwerp on August 1, 2011 at 1:25 PM

Here’s Part 1 of 3…

Fallon on August 1, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Wrong video link? instead it should be: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0

mathewsjw on August 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM

mathewsjw on August 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM

I knew one of those was coming in this thread. I considered doing it myself for a second.

NotCoach on August 1, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Ah, the 80′s. My favorite decade – especially 80 to 84. Those were the days, my friend!

Watched LOTS and LOTS of MTV back in the day – what greatness.

Alan Hunter
J.J. Jackson (R.I.P.)
Martha Quinn
Nina Blackwood
Mark Goodman

Those were the original five, BTW, Jazz.

Ah, to be a kid again in the Reagan 80′s. Heaven.

:_)

RedNewEnglander on August 1, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Second videos for $200, Alex.

Who was Pat Benatar, You Better Run?

Everyone knows the Buggles…

And, I thought Martha Quinn and Nina something or other were original VJs… (To the Google!)

Fallon on August 1, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Huh. I always thought “Time Heals” was the 2nd video – nope!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_music_videos_aired_on_MTV

Wow. Some great tunes on there and some I don’t even recall ever seeing or hearing!

And, yes, Brown was not one of the originals (see my other post).

RedNewEnglander on August 1, 2011 at 2:44 PM

J.J. Jackson (R.I.P.)

RedNewEnglander on August 1, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Loved the man – he really knew his Rock & Roll and was extrememly connected w/in the industry.

He was drafted to MTV from K-WEST in Los Angeles.

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 2:44 PM

Or Deep Purple’s Lazy.

Ward Cleaver on August 1, 2011 at 1:09 PM

.
I nominate Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

ExpressoBold on August 1, 2011 at 2:51 PM

…but they have grown into an instant gratification society. They want to hear the songs they’re craving now, not when some DJ or VJ chooses to play them.

I’m old enough to have purchased vinyl, 8-track, cassette and CD’s and in every instance I wanted the same thing. It’s the only reason we purchase music…to hear the songs when we want to hear them, not when they want to play them. I’m always baffled by the old-guy mindset that sees their generation as intellectually or morally superior to the present.

Yes, the delivery system is different but it is far superior to any of the previous methods for both the artist and consumer.

Leonard210 on August 1, 2011 at 2:54 PM

I could go on and on about this time period and old MTV in general, as it’s one of my favotite topics.

But, as a parting shot, I give you one of the videos that defined the genre – “Fish Heads” by Barnes and Barnes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTpUVAcvWfU

RedNewEnglander on August 1, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Dire Straits “Money For Nothing” should be looped all day today on MTV.

To be a child growing up in the 80′s with MTV, and a President who genuinely loved the United States of America!

I hated the video Land of Confusion by Genesis for mocking President Reagan. Even then I knew Liberals were wrong about him.

RedRobin145 on August 1, 2011 at 3:06 PM

RedNewEnglander on August 1, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Oh, boy…fish head, fish heads, roly-poly fish heads. Barnes and Barnes also did one called “Party In My Pants”. What wonderfully schlocky stuff.

flipflop on August 1, 2011 at 3:09 PM

Tim, did you ever listen the World Famous KROQ? I was a 2nd generation Reaganite who loved rock ‘n’ roll, including punk and new wave. The 80s were indeed a wonderful time to be young.

MTV was very punk and new wave friendly. They played a lot of Blondie, The Clash, Lene Lovich, Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Rockpile, Squeeze, X, Talking Heads, et al. These were not top 40 artists, but MTV gave them great exposure.

Terrie on August 1, 2011 at 3:12 PM

But, as a parting shot, I give you one of the videos that defined the genre – “Fish Heads” by Barnes and Barnes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTpUVAcvWfU

RedNewEnglander on August 1, 2011 at 3:06 PM

You Evil B@stard….It tskes decades to get that song out of your head!!

If you’re under 30…..DON”T CLICK.

(lmao)

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 3:13 PM

I am a product of the 80′s – graduated from high school in Houston in 1987. Ahhh, the good years…
Anyway, I think the biggest loser in the whole technology boom has been the Record Store. I used to spend hours browsing albums (rarer ones) at the Record Rack. I’d save my money from babysitting and spend every last dime on the latest Duran Duran single, Police, Cure, Depeche Mode, etc. Now, if my kids want the latest song, it’s just a 99 cent download from iTunes. All the fun is gone from buying music, IMHO.

pullingmyhairout on August 1, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Tim, did you ever listen the World Famous KROQ? I was a 2nd generation Reaganite who loved rock ‘n’ roll, including punk and new wave. The 80s were indeed a wonderful time to be young.

MTV was very punk and new wave friendly. They played a lot of Blondie, The Clash, Lene Lovich, Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Rockpile, Squeeze, X, Talking Heads, et al. These were not top 40 artists, but MTV gave them great exposure.

Terrie on August 1, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Absolutely….KROQ almost exclusively ushered in the “New Wave” Genre…..during the AOR wars they captured a huge chunk of the KMET/KLOS audience.

KROQ was copied around the nation – there was even an East of the Misissippi “W” station that started calling itself KROQ.

Good days!

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 3:18 PM

I like being able to instantly download whatever I want, but sometimes I do miss browsing racks and racks of tapes/records in order to be pleasantly surprised by a cool find, or a new release I didn’t know was out. Mostly it’s the social experience of a good record store or book store I will miss.

gator70 on August 1, 2011 at 3:26 PM

OMG You get a shiny new dime, ALT.

Fallon on August 1, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Animal Stories 2. Funniest comedy album evah! Get all 3 if you can find them on e-bay, or download them somewhere.

And yes, I used to deliver papers in the morning…and used to time my trips back to the car precisely when Ole Uncle Lar and Little Snotnosed Tommy came on. :-)

MNHawk on August 1, 2011 at 3:26 PM

In fact, I always thought Rush’s Animal Rights updates, were directly inspired (to use a charitable term) from Animal Stories.

MNHawk on August 1, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Let’s not forget the Psyscedelic Furs… In HEAVY rotation due to the lack of any videos out there…

I saw the first video on MTV and British MTV (“Money for nothing…”)

My favorite: Van Halen’s “Hot for teacher”… “I don’t feel tardy… CLASS DISMISSED!!” Even better live on the 1984 (album) tour…

Khun Joe on August 1, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Owner of a Lonely Heart was a product of the Buggles/YES collaboration, one of the best tracks of the day.

leftnomore on August 1, 2011 at 3:42 PM

In SoCal we are truly spoiled by a glut of radio stations and used record shops like Amoeba in L.A. and Second Spin here in Costa Mesa (in the OC). But we don’t have as many as we used to, either.

I know you can shop Second Spin online and maybe Amoeba, too. One reason I still buy CDs is to read the liner notes and credits.

Terrie on August 1, 2011 at 4:18 PM

I’m old enough to remember those early days of Mtv and it really was fun. For most people back then, the only time they saw the bands they liked was on the rare midnight shows that usually came on only on weekends or in concert once a year or so if they were lucky, but Mtv gave them the chance to see them every day and it really was ground breaking at the time.

But the reality is, Mtv really only had a few good years, about ’82-’86 and then the reality shows crept in and it’s been losing relevancy ever since, it was fun for those few years though.

clearbluesky on August 1, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Anyway, I think the biggest loser in the whole technology boom has been the Record Store. I used to spend hours browsing albums (rarer ones) at the Record Rack. I’d save my money from babysitting and spend every last dime on the latest Duran Duran single, Police, Cure, Depeche Mode, etc. Now, if my kids want the latest song, it’s just a 99 cent download from iTunes. All the fun is gone from buying music, IMHO.

+1000

clearbluesky on August 1, 2011 at 4:32 PM

You Evil B@stard….It tskes decades to get that song out of your head!!

If you’re under 30…..DON”T CLICK.

(lmao)

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 3:13 PM

I didn’t even click on it and now that…SONG…is lodged in my brain.
Drat you, RNE!

annoyinglittletwerp on August 1, 2011 at 4:40 PM

Animal Stories 2. Funniest comedy album evah! Get all 3 if you can find them on e-bay, or download them somewhere.

And yes, I used to deliver papers in the morning…and used to time my trips back to the car precisely when Ole Uncle Lar and Little Snotnosed Tommy came on. :-)

MNHawk on August 1, 2011 at 3:26 PM

What’s really really funny is that Uncle Lar’s old station is now the moat listened to talk-radio station in the Country.

annoyinglittletwerp on August 1, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Owner of a Lonely Heart was a product of the Buggles/YES collaboration, one of the best tracks of the day.

leftnomore on August 1, 2011 at 3:42 PM

Sort of. Downes had left for Asia by then, and Jon Anderson was back singing. Trevor Horn did produce that, though.

Drama is the true Yuggles album, Horn singing, Downes on keys.

MNHawk on August 1, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Did you never listen to Dr. Demento’s radio show? He introduced a lot of wonderfully warped songs like Fish Heads and this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd0WOD9yw0E&sns=tw

Terrie on August 1, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Auto tune and porn killed the radio star.

teacherman on August 1, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Auto tune and porn killed the radio star.

teacherman on August 1, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Auto-tune Definititely.

Porn’s been around for decades….In Grampa’s time it was playboy and stag-films.

Then:

VHS & Beta

Then:

DVD

Then:
Porn on Demand (cable / Internet).

There will always be porn.

now ‘scuse me while I click this link……

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Terrie: Dr. D. also used to play this(very popular in Chicago because of the ‘Lincoln Park Pirates’) one.

annoyinglittletwerp on August 1, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Auto tune is the absolute worst. I blame Cher.

Terrie on August 1, 2011 at 6:11 PM

One frequent joke among folks of my age group includes the phrase, “back when MTV still played music videos.”

I usually say “When the ‘M’ in MTV stood for ‘Music’ and not ‘Moronic.’”

L.N. Smithee on August 1, 2011 at 6:36 PM

You Evil B@stard….It tskes decades to get that song out of your head!!

If you’re under 30…..DON”T CLICK.

(lmao)

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 3:13 PM

I didn’t even click on it and now that…SONG…is lodged in my brain.
Drat you, RNE!

annoyinglittletwerp on August 1, 2011 at 4:40 PM

Au contraire! Click! Click again! That’s what good pop music used to sound like, maddoggit! Yeah, “Video…Star” has a computerized feel to it, but like the works of Thomas Dolby, Gary Numan, and Kraftwerk, it beats with the soul of a human being! There are living, breathing entities making the music, not a sliver of audio DNA programmed by a code monkey to simulate musical talent!

If you wanna know why pop music made lately sucks, watch this.

L.N. Smithee on August 1, 2011 at 6:45 PM

Terrie: Next time, mark it “NSFW.”

L.N. Smithee on August 1, 2011 at 6:47 PM

My point about porn is that it has been so mainstreamed that you need to only auto tune your skanky “artist”, and you have a star. Think Flo and Eddie, or Three Dog Night, Bette Midler, or, hell, any of those fugly (but talented!) guys (and gals!) from the ’60′s or ’70′s could catch a chance today ? Today the formula is simple: Take a piece of ass (male or female, and preferably a teen for the Tween and/or pedophilia market) auto tune to some mindless dreck, and market that sh!t. Once being a porno star ceased to be the bottom of the show biz barrel, all was lost.

teacherman on August 1, 2011 at 9:10 PM

teacherman on August 1, 2011 at 9:10 PM

LMAO!

In that regard…you’re completely correct.

Not so though with the “Early” pioneers of music videos….

Remember DEVO….a bunch of skinny dorky looking white guys with planter pots on their heads.

Remeber the cars?

Meatloaf?

Cindy Lauper?

Even the Buggles.

Some of those eraly videos were pretty hard to look at!

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 9:39 PM

eraly even

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 9:42 PM

aaaaaa key screwed up….time for a cn of air……caaan of air

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 9:44 PM

L.N. Smithee on August 1, 2011 at 6:45 PM

I graduated from high school in ’88. I hear ya loud and clear!

annoyinglittletwerp on August 1, 2011 at 10:32 PM

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 9:39pm
Agree 100% but I think you’ll also agree that the era you speak of (extremely early ’80′s) talent, or at least originality, was still in vogue. Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Clash etc. Porn still pretty underground, no studio computer hijinks just yet to cover talentless twits. I will say that at least at the beginning of the “Piece ‘o Ass” era, you had to be good looking and talented, like most of the pretty boy hair bands, Wham, Flock of Nuts Breakfast Club type of stuff. Ah, well, these kids today. Hey !! Get off my lawn !

teacherman on August 1, 2011 at 10:59 PM

Oh, the flash flood of memories. Growing up in the 70s in LA. Cruising Van Nuys, or running the PCH up to County Line, listening to KMET(“Little bit o’ heaven, 94.7, KMET, tweedle-dee”), KROQ, KLOS, and yes, even 93-KHJ (AM).

Charlie Tuna, Shotgun Tom Kelly (still on KRTH in LA), Wolfman Jack, Jack Snyder aka Jackson B. Snyderfish, “The Burner” Mary Turner, Jeff “The Gonzer”, Shadoe Stevens, Jim Ladd, Dr. Demento, Cynthia Fox, Uncle Joe, Pat “Paraquat” Kelley, Bob Coburn, and the one and only Crazy Fraze, Frazier Smith…

MT-what?

Freelancer on August 1, 2011 at 11:04 PM

Freelancer on August 1, 2011 at 11:04 PM

Another Local!!!!

Remember the upside down KMET billboards?

The KLOS ‘Rainbow Stickers”?

Shadoe Stevens as “Fred Rated” for Federated Stereo?

The “Fish report with a beat”?

L.A. used to Rock…..now it’s a toilet.

Tim_CA on August 1, 2011 at 11:24 PM

Yepper. I remember the morning fish report, featuring Jackson B. Snyderfish. Dirtiest stuff you could get away with back then, other than Fraze’s rants. I even had my “Too hip…gotta go!” card. I never put bumper stickers on cars, but I had one, and certainly it would have gone on “in distress”. That alone could get you free parking at the Forum for shows sponsored by KMET (so could placing one upside down inside the driver-side window).

I saw Shadoe Stevens on TV about a week ago. Dude used to have a hard time passing a mirror without taking a look. Now he’d likely shatter the poor thing. The Fred Rated shtick is what later spawned David Leisure as the lying “Joe Isuzu”. You know that most of the old Federated stores either became WalMarts, Targets or Fry’s. Well, Incredible Universe first, then Fry’s.

Later Daze…

Freelancer on August 2, 2011 at 12:39 AM

teacherman on August 1, 2011 at 10:59 PM

I refer to the Ramones as the ‘Ramone’-since there’s now only one of them.
Yeah-I’m weird.

annoyinglittletwerp on August 2, 2011 at 1:09 AM

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