MTV debuted thirty years ago -- and I was there. The cable system in my conservative hometown of Grand Junction began airing the net on day one -- and my friends and I were instant converts. We used the wall-to-wall music clips as near-constant background media even though many, if not most, of them were terrible -- as is clear from the first ten videos, on view below.
In the beginning, there were so few promotional videos available that MTV aired the same ones over and over (and over) whether they were good, bad or indifferent. In particular, I remember the frequent screenings of the dreadfully cheap and unimaginative clip for .38 Special's "Hold on Loosely" -- which the net somehow managed to wait until the thirteenth slot to air. To bad it wasn't the last time...
For the most part, videos by British acts were far more watchable during that nascent period than those from their American counterparts, largely because the video movement in the U.K. had started earlier there. It'd take most U.S. bands months, if not years, to perfect some of the early clichés of the genre: glass items breaking in slow motion, midgets, buxom women who seemed thrillingly undressed back then, but now like schoolmarms in comparison with the dental-floss-clad trollops on current hip-hop videos. Those were the days.
Look below to see MTV's first ten videos, led by the well-remembered Buggles ditty "Video Killed the Radio Star," as well as clips from superstars of the day (Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, the Who) and one all-but-forgotten obscurity: "Little Suzi's on the Up" by Ph.D. Afterward, will you still want your MTV?
More from our Television & Film archive: "American Idol wannabes in Denver did more before noon than you will do all day."