Once upon a time, before reality TV cheapened television programming as a whole, MTV (thirty years old today) was a bastion of music culture that actually showcased cutting edge artists for the sake of art. Because the network was free to give air time to bands, rappers and interesting figures who weren't always guaranteed advertiser-appeasers, a lot of unscripted awesomeness happened, and it often happened live. In honor of the network turning thirty this week, we picked our top five favorite segments from when the music channel was still about the music.
5. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth on MTV Beach House
Simply put, this segment would never happen on MTV in 2011. It is amazing that they even gave air time to one of Kim Gordon's non-Sonic Youth projects, let alone the fact that they interviewed her while she was pregnant. Along with Free Kitten bandmate Julie Cafritz, the duo keeps Kennedy and the MTV Beach House so cool, we wish it was 1994 all over again.
4. Courtney Love hijacks Madonna interview
Oh, Kurt Loder. How we miss your actual displays of music journalism and your engaging interviews with artists. In this sort-of behind the scenes look at the famous Madonna interview (who else but) Courtney Love interrupts, Loder and the Queen of Pop share a look of exhaustion as the tatty attention-grabber climbs her way into their space. Even when perched high above the rest of the MTV Video Music Awards happenings, Love manages to weasel her way in for some entertaining face time.
3. MTV trails ODB as he cashes his welfare check
There once was a man named Russell Jones, and he did not give a fuck. Better known as the Wu's Ol' Dirty Bastard (one his many, many stage names), Jones took MTV on a trip to cash his welfare check -- in a limo. All of this before walking down the street with a microphone, just to serenade a very lucky camera crew. This barely one-minute clip might be the key to understanding why ODB will forever be one of the most entertaining figures in not just hip hop, but music history.
2. Gwen Stefani on House of Style
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Music and fashion have always maintained a deep, creative connection, and no show on MTV showcased this union better than House of Style. Originally hosted by Cindy Crawford and featuring segments by a then up-and-coming designer named Todd Oldham, the show ran for over a decade with an array of hosts, including Amber Valetta and Shalom Harlow, pictured in this clip with Gwen Stefani. New to the mainstream spotlight, a pre-L.A.M.B., pre-megastar Stefani shows off her insanely gorgeous collection of handmade, fairy tale-inspired stage costumes.
1. Nirvana Headbanger's Ball interview
Not one to ever enjoy the spotlight, Kurt Cobain still seemed to take the best kind of advantage of it, simply by challenging hosts and off-camera interviewers by calling attention to the tension. Here we see Riki Rachtman try to navigate the most awkward conversation of his life, in what looks like the episode of Headbanger's Ball that should have put the final nail in the coffin for outdated rock and roll norms. 1991 was the year that punk broke, indeed.