MTV's 120 Minutes changed my life

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There is a point at which, I think, we all start to discover music on our own. I was around twelve or thirteen when the shift from pre-teen radio sex jams to discovering albums I would fawn over (and eventually learn to play) occurred. Up to then, I was listening to music that I loved, but it wasn't always mine.

The cassette tapes I purchased with my allowance were mine, but they came to me so hapazardly. Maybe I had heard a Bel Biv Devoe song on KS 104's "Top eight at eight" and decided to buy the album, or my best friend had a Shakespear's Sister tape that I started to like because she liked it. But when I found MTV's 120 Minutes, everything changed.

My discovery of the show that ran from 1986 to 2003 couldn't have come at a better time. It was 1994 and the summer before my freshman year in high school, that defining time when everything about who you are and what you like is on display. I built my teenage identity around the videos I saw on 120 Minutes -- from Courtney Love's baby doll dresses and white make-up to Kim Deal's striped tube socks and Miki Berenyi from Lush's red hair, I embodied it all.

The two-hour program ran from 10 to midnight every Sunday and featured videos, performances and interviews by the likes of Beck, Kate Bush, Afghan Whigs and Pulp. The show was where, for possibly the first time, I saw women doing more than just holding a microphone. From 120 Minutes, I learned about Deal and The Breeders before I knew who Pixies were.

Long before I knew who or what Television was, I was introduced to Tom Verlaine through the Red Hot Organization compilation No Alternative, and the record's live performances and subsequent push the album received on the show. I saw Thurston Moore for the first time and in turn, picked up my first Sonic Youth record, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.

120 Minutes was also where I first witnessed D'arcy Wretzky play bass guitar in the Smashing Pumpkins' video for "Cherub Rock." I then begged my parents for my own instrument, and I promptly received a blue left-handed Fender Precision bass that fall for my fourteenth birthday. I have been playing in bands with that same guitar ever since.

But beyond the personal style and instrument influence, 120 Minutes also introduced me to what would become a lifelong obsession: Possum Dixon. I first found the California band through a very '90s, not so one-of-a-kind video for "Watch That Girl Destroy Me." For whatever reason, I became hooked on Possum Dixon, an infatuation that has far outlasted my love affair with the Smashing Pumpkins.

The band's first two records inspired a short fiction series I am still working on to this day, centered around a handful of characters --like Lucy, John and Regina -- found in the band's songs. Sixteen years later, I'm still not quite sure what it is about Possum Dixon that keeps me occupied. But it's art. You can't question why you like it and expect a logical answer.

The Possum Dixon infatuation runs deep in my creative life, and a few years ago when I was working as a part-time manager and photography assistant for my friend Sarah Cass, I weaseled my way into meeting lead singer Rob Zabrecky. I found him through the good graces of the Internet and he was nice enough to let Cass photograph him in his home in Pasadena -- and in turn, I got to meet an idol in real life that I only knew from 120 Minutes.

It is easy to wax nostalgically about that time when "MTV played music videos" -- but I am in not in denial. In fact, the show made its re-debut this past weekend on MTV2 (, which had other potentially interested parties like me questioning the program's relevancy), but I didn't watch it. Not because I didn't care or didn't think I needed to, but because I didn't want to. I love Matt Pinfield, and I love new music videos as much now as I did when they were my only trusted, pre-Internet source for new music, fashion and everything between.

And while I can't say I won't ever check out a new episode of 120 Minutes, it sounds about as likely as me digging up that cute goth-skater boyfriend I had in 1994, and asking him if he wants to make-out at a party to the background glow of Marilyn Manson videos all over again. You can try to re-create a moment, but the '90s only happened once. And I like my 120 Minutes just the way they are -- over.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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