When I was about 14, my whole family got together to celebrate my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. Music was playing while we decorated the hall, and somehow my cousin and I got to naming the songs as they came on the radio. I guess she’s about 10 years older than me, and she knew a lot of them. But it’s one of those silly memories that has stuck with me, that she was so impressed because I knew every. single. one. Title, artist, album…and most of the words too.
It was only because I stayed up half the nights most weekends watching music videos. First it was Friday Night Videos – remember that? – and then it was all MTV, when it finally came to my neck of the woods.
I was the MTV Generation.
MTV ain’t what it used to be, but then neither am I for that matter. Of course, I don’t guess either one of us would have benefited from staying the same all these years. But I can still keep a place in my heart for those late nights, sitting in the good chair, one leg kicked over the arm, watching 3-minute movies set to music.
Here are some of the videos I remember most, and you might remember too:
The Buggles, Video Killed the Radio Star, 1981
This is the first video played on MTV when it debuted at 12:01 am, August 1st 1981.
Duran Duran, Hungry Like the Wolf, 1983
Duran Duran probably owes their US success to MTV, which put this video on heavy rotation at a time when the band was not getting radio air play. They became known for their highly stylized music videos and exotic locals, and in 1984 this video won the first Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.
Wham!, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, 1984
“You put the boom-boom into my heart.” If this song doesn’t take you back to the 80’s I don’t know what will. It’s still catchy – you know you remember most of the words. And neon everywhere!! Love those fingerless gloves there, Michael.
The Cars, You Might Think, 1984
This was one of the first music videos to use computer graphics, and maybe that’s why it made an impression on my brain. Even though it seems pretty simple and rudimentary now. It won Video of the Year at the first ever MTV Video Music Awards, and five awards at Billboard’s 1984 Video Music Awards.
Twisted Sister, We’re Not Gonna Take It, 1984
“WHAT is that? A Twisted Sister pin! On your uniform!”
A-ha, Take On Me, 1985
I always liked this awesome video, and I’ll probably never forget it exists. Well, maybe some day I’ll forget. Anyway, it was cutting edge at the time, and made this song A-ha’s most successful recording in the US.
Dire Straits, Money for Nothing, 1985
Considered ground-breaking at the time, this video was one of the first uses of computer-animated human characters. Ironically, Dire Straits founder/lead singer Mark Knopfler was anti-video and thought that videos “would destroy the purity of songwriters and performers”. But MTV loved the song and wanted a concept video or they wouldn’t play it. Knopfler eventually gave in, and the video went on to win Video of the Year at the third annual MTV Video Music Awards.
Robert Palmer, Addicted to Love, 1986
Remember these girls? This video was ranked number 3 on VH1’s Top 20 Videos of the 1980s; pretty memorable video for such a simple concept. Palmer went on to copy the idea in three subsequent music videos as well. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Michael Jackson, Thriller, 1983
I’m out of order, but sometimes you’ve got to save the best for last. Directed by John Landis, this 13 minute video was MTV’s first “world premier video”. It’s hard to exagerate its influence on the music video industry, not to mention how many times the Thriller dance shows up in movies and television. In 2006, Guinness World Records listed Thriller as the “most successful music video”, with over nine million copies sold. And in 2009, it was the first music video to ever be inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Pretty impressive.
So that’s just a few of the videos that stick out in my memory.
What about you?
Were you a part of the original MTV Generation?
What was your favorite music video of the 1980’s?