Category Archives: MTV

Happy 37th Anniversary MTV!

Can you believe that MTV launched on this date in 1981—a mere 37 years ago???

I kept going back and redoing the math on that, because it just doesn’t seem possible. I can’t remember exactly when MTV arrived at my house. I know we had cable at some point, and I remember watching MTV for hours and hours. I just don’t know when we finally got it, although I’m sure it was before Live Aid in 1985.  What I do remember is that my friend Marsha had it as soon as it became available to residents in Covina, California.  I began spending many hours of my day planted in front of her TV as a result. (Thanks Mrs. W!!)

My musical tastes were formed by two things: playing clarinet, and MTV.  As a clarinet student, I learned far more about classical music than I ever thought possible. In the years before MTV, I knew more about classical composers than I did contemporary 1980’s-era artists on the radio. By then, I’d cultivated a deep appreciation for  Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart, along with many others. That list is long, my friends. Benny Goodman was and still is my hero and spirit animal, right alongside Pete Fountain and Artie Shaw.  On the other hand, I really didn’t know much about pop music. I discovered a local radio station – KROQ – before MTV came along, but once the videos got started, there was no stopping me. I relished every single video that came on the screen, along with juicy bits of music news and background information that VJ’s such as Martha Quinn and JJ Jackson diligently doled out in between.

I cut my New Wave and Alternative teeth on artists like Wall of Voodoo, Burning Sensations, The Motels, The Fixx, Visage, Soft Cell, Joy Division—I could go on and on and on, and you’d likely know every band and artist.

It blows my mind that this all began 37 years ago. Can it really be possible? Sadly, I know it is. Life goes by in the blink of an eye.

I wouldn’t mind sitting down in front of the TV to watch an MTV video marathon direct from 1981, even if only for a day. It is a shame we can’t step back in time, for even just one moment. The innocence of youth, hope for what the future might hold, and seemingly limitless energy all seem very appealing right now.

Yep, I’d take a little more of all that today.


Show Me My Youth

Yesterday, I found myself in a coffee shop with my former student teacher and a couple of students of mine.  As we sat, chatting, I found myself commenting on the songs being played as they were mostly songs from the 80s.  One of my students asked me how come I knew all the songs.  She assumed that I was someone with a beyond normal amount of knowledge about music.  I explained that I am nothing special and probably a ton of people my age could name the songs, too.

This statement, of course, led to more questions about why that would be the case.  I explained that in my generation we did not the options to pick and choose our music very much.  We had radio, video shows like Friday Night Videos and MTV.  In order to hear our favorite songs, we just had to tune in to one of those and wait.  This meant that we listened to a lot of songs/artists that we did not necessarily like but it also meant that our generation has a more unified cultural experience surrounding music.  We learned all of the songs being played at the time because we were a captive audience.  I explained to the kids that while this sounds terrible, it really wasn’t.  The music gave us something in common–a frame of reference, something to always talk about.  Now, as an adult, I feel like it unites me with others around my age.

As I left the coffee shop, I started to think about what my music would have been like if I had the choices to pick and choose the way kids today do.  Some people could just hear music right away and decide if they like it within seconds.  I have decided that I’m just not that way.  I need to hear songs a bunch before I really know whether or not I like it.  Then, of course, once I do decide that a song is fabulous–watch out because I will listen to it non-stop.  One example of this was Depeche Mode.  When I bought one of their albums as part of one of those Columbia House deals to buy 7 cassettes for a cent or whatever it was, I listened to it once and thought it was weird.  Too weird to listen to.  Then, I had a friend who talked about how cool Depeche was so I gave it a few more listens.  Soon enough, some of the songs got in my head.

Really, Duran Duran was no different even as a kid.  I probably heard a song like Save a Prayer at least twenty times before I got it in my head and decided it was fabulous.  It even took awhile before I would call myself a Duranie.  I liked a lot of their songs before I knew that I loved the band.  The same thing is true with new music of theirs that comes out today.  Sometimes, the first few listens don’t do it for me.  Whenever I try to respond too quickly, it doesn’t go well.  I think Rhonda would probably say the same.  This is one of the mistakes we made with the Paper Gods album.  We wanted to review the songs so badly, we forgot that we need time.  Now, in thinking about that conversation with my students, I have to wonder if the need for multiple listens is common among my generation.

My original belief that I am glad that I grew up when I did stands, at least when it comes to music.  While I am sure that there are a lot of songs and videos that I wished that I could have skipped to get to the next Duran track, I’m glad that I couldn’t.  I believed that I found a lot more songs and bands that way that I wouldn’t have otherwise.


Duran Duran Nominated for 2016 MTV EMA’s – Best World Stage

Duran Duran was nominated for the MTV EMA’s!  Those aren’t words I get to type every day, which makes this post especially fun.

No, awards don’t necessarily matter, nor do critics or poor reviews, but it’s nice to see the band review a few accolades every now and then.  Duran Duran is nominated for Best World Stage.  I looked this up because I wasn’t sure what the heck it meant, but then I remembered – the World Stage concert in the Piazza Del Duomo last year in Milan.  Ah, yes.

I think this is something we can get behind.

First of all, let’s refresh our memory.  I mean….to be fair about this voting thing we should at least remind ourselves, right??? It’s our due diligence!

There’s more…


I remember this show not because it was MTV…but because the setting was fabulous, and the band seemed like they were on fire. I remember seeing photos of the Piazza during the day and then that night. Stunning. Then the band came on stage and the Piazza was electrified. Shows like that are hard to top, no doubt.

At the time, I remember thinking that they’d been cheated out of performing on the actual show itself.  Another show of music industry age-ism, no doubt. In hindsight though, I think they had the better deal, playing for fans in the middle of that beautiful setting.

The following night, they earned the very first MTV EMA for Video Visionary. Again, not a bad deal.  Let’s remind ourselves of that grand moment!  (this clip is from YouTube and was filmed from the back because – there’s another clip on MTV if you want a better one but I couldn’t get it to post here, although the link is below)


MTV link (from the front!) 

And, let’s face it, being nominated for an EMA isn’t a terrible payoff either. But now, we have work to do, Duranies, if we want to see them actually win.

We have to vote.  A lot.

Here is the link to vote for Duran Duran to win Best World Stage at this year’s MTV EMA’s.  Just click on the picture and it’ll take you to the website!

2016 MTV EMA's

Now, I know many fans will scoff and say awards don’t matter, or that MTV doesn’t even play videos anymore…or that no one in the audience will even know who Duran Duran is, or better yet, that setting up and encouraging multiple votes lacks honesty and integrity.

Not with that attitude! It takes about two seconds and two clicks to vote for a band that we all love, and at the same time we are helping expose them to an international audience that might not know them as well as we do.  Besides, it’s cool to see them get an award for something that we already know: They are amazing live and put on one hell of a good show. Supporting that is easy.  Now go do it. Many, many times!




Duran Duran Awarded MTV EMA

Duran Duran was awarded an MTV EMA last night in Milan, Italy. The award was given in the new category of “Video Visionary”, and Duran Duran were the first recipients.

In a statement released by the band prior to the ceremony, Duran Duran embraced the award with pride, “It is no coincidence that our rise was paralleled by the growth and ultimate world domination of MTV. The birth of music videos as a way to simultaneously bring our music to a global audience revolutionized the business. We took this new short form of film making and tried to make it our own. We have had some incredible experiences over the years making our videos. We have worked with some of the most talented directors in the world – without whom we would not be honored here today. We are really proud to be the recipients of this new award. Thank you MTV.”

In August of 1981, as MTV was first broadcast, I wasn’t even quite yet a teenager. I’d already heard Duran Duran on my local KROQ radio station and first fell in love with them because of their music. I can’t remember the exact year MTV was actually broadcast in my small(ish) town of Covina, California (and it very well could have been that same year)- but I do know that when it began, Duran Duran were on heavy rotation, and I spent much of my time watching the channel, waiting for videos by Duran Duran and other bands I enjoyed to be shown. MTV continued to open a door to an entirely whole new world of escapism to me, Little Miss Sheltered Teenager. It wasn’t just about the music, it was the entire art – music and visual – brought to life, and I loved every minute.

Later, as tastes changed, and the MTV programming took a turn for the worse, and then coasted down into even much worse, I stopped watching. I prefer not to even give the network a passing glimpse now – an empty shell of what it once was. As much as I am immensely proud that Duran Duran was recognized last night, I am somewhat amused that MTV continues to have awards shows, given that they dropped the “Music” from the name years ago and the fact that they no longer even play music videos. How do they even have enough credibility to honor anyone?!?  Perhaps that’s actually the point. Even more frightening, many of the acts they awarded last night are completely unaware that the channel ever played an integral part in music history, unless they’ve bothered to pick up a music history book along the way.  That’s alarming.

I didn’t watch the highlights show that was on MTV here in the US last night. I DVR’ed it, figuring that if I heard the band made an appearance on the air – I’d watch. Sadly, even with a two-hour “highlights” show and the first award given out in a brand new category, MTV didn’t find Duran Duran to be relevant enough to be televised, at least not here. However, I did find that it had been televised in other countries, so I am including a clip here that I found on Facebook (thank you to the Duran Duran Argentina board)



I am so incredibly proud of Duran Duran, and not for just the obvious things. They continue to have a fantastic career and they keep pushing themselves to do more, even when I suppose they could just stop and rest on their laurels (please don’t!). I don’t think I’m unlike any other fan out there when I wish rather loudly that they were more respected by their peers.  I was one of those teenage fans who screamed for them and hung their posters lovingly on the walls of my bedroom. I also scoured their albums, knew each of their songs note-by-note, and still work to learn as much about their recording process and production as possible. Yes, I was a fangirl. To a large extent, I suppose I still am, among many other titles I also own with pride. To equate an entire fan base as well as a band with not really mattering simply because they had a large female following continues to be an insult that myself and many others like me will keep fighting, because it simply is not true.

Eventually, Duran Duran WILL be respected purely because they cannot be ignored. History will lean heavily on the side of the band. In time that is far too long for my taste, music books will be written about the mark this band left, and continues to leave, on rock and pop history. Until then, they have the outpouring of pride, love, and affection from all of us who have stood beside them for the past thirty-plus years. Well done on your MTV EMA, boys. Very well done.


Today in Duran History – MTV Anniversary

On this date in 2001, MTV celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a Top 100 videos of all time show.  Wild Boys was featured at number 51.

Personally, I cannot believe that MTV started 33 years ago!  That makes me feel incredibly old!  I am sure that it goes without saying that MTV changed my life.  While my little suburb didn’t get the channel right away in 1981, by the end of 1982, we did.  I couldn’t get enough!  I was glued to the TV screen.  While I loved my Top 40 radio station, there was something about seeing the video clips that really hooked me, especially when it came to those videos by a certain British band.

Speaking of that band, I thought Wild Boys was an interesting choice.  Of all their videos, is Wild Boys their best?  They spent quite a lot on it and had grand plans with it and for it.  Is this why it was chosen?  Something to think about on this summer Friday!


That’s what makes it beautiful

I watched the VMA’s last night.  Even as I wrestled the TV remote from my youngest and switched the channel over her protests, I wondered if I really needed to bother.  The fact is, I am not a fan of 99% of the “pop” that is out there right now (although I like quite a few of the “indie” acts), and I knew I’d spend much of the night either cringing, or yelling at the TV.

I did both. Quite often, actually.

I’m not going to rehash the entire spectacle, primarily because I am still trying to bleach the images of Miley Cyrus from my head.  I had nightmares that included a foam finger chasing Robin Thicke….not something I ever wish to dream about again, and if I could slap Miley this morning, I would. The girl needs to find some class and maturity, quickly. It’s OK to be shocking.  The popularity of rock and roll has always been based on a certain amount of shock and envelope pushing. I’ve watched everything from Prince appearing in backless pants to Madonna and Britney smooching it up for publicity. I survived, and while those events were certainly shocking in their time – it just didn’t have whatever it was that I saw last night. Maybe I’m just old, and I own that…but I just think that if you’re going to go that route, it might be helpful to have some talent to back it up. Unfortunately, Miss Cyrus has neither talent nor class at this moment, and she doesn’t have the wisdom of age to let her know that she’s just being an ass. Sad.

There were relatively few highlights in the show for me last night (I will readily admit that I gave up and went to bed just before Katy Perry hit the stage.  By that time – I’d had more than my fair share.), but I will admit here for all to see that Justin Timberlake’s performance was *the* best part of the show. (well, actually Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video was my favorite part – but performance-wise, I’ll give it to not-the-real-JT.)  Yes, you read that right – I actually liked Justin’s performance.  That said, it would have been better had he not lip synched 90% of it and not relied on his backing track – but hey, you try dancing like that and singing at the same time.  No Simon, that “dancing” to Skin Trade or your Notorious karate-movements do not count.  Honestly though, the highlight for me came during a 45 second (or so it seemed) portion of his 20-minute performance when the members of NSYNC joined him onstage. I’m such a sucker for nostalgia, even when it comes by way of a boy group singing “Bye Bye Bye”.  There is no hope for me.

Another point worth mentioning that should hit all the hearts and heads of Duranies ’round the world was during One Direction’s acceptance speech. They won the category of “Song of Summer” – which was an online voting category, and as any good boy group does – they had a legion of fans voting their way to victory.  Their song, entitled “Best Song Ever”, is not one I’ve actually heard before, but then – I try and avoid pop however possible.  My kids aren’t top 40 people, although my youngest is proving to be a bit of a traitor in that regard because as the group stood up to receive their award, my little one proudly announced that she’s “A really big fan of that group, mommy!”  Skeptic as I am, I asked about her favorite song.  She gave me a one-million watt grin, and sang “…that’s because you’re beautiful.”  in near-perfect tune.

I’m in big trouble…. but not in as much trouble as One Direction might have been last night with the VMA audience.

As they walked up to the stage, amongst the applause, I could hear booing.  Wait, booing??  This coming from the crowd who tolerated Miley’s lewd and lascivious molestation of Robin Thicke…as well as several teddy bears/dancers??  Really??  I perked up at this point, because just as I was shocked, I think it was clear that One Direction was just as surprised by the chilly reception. I will give the group credit, because while I think they were at least spooked, it could have gone so much worse had they commented on it, but instead they quickly got through their thank-yous and left the stage.  Not an easy night for the group.

The interesting point here is that the award was earned by voting, and it was their fans that won the award for them.  Like nearly any boy group/boy band I’ve ever heard of – One Direction has an army of young teen fans behind them.  Sound at all familiar?  The critics don’t like the group, and apparently – their peers (or whomever I would consider to be their peers at this point), aren’t in love with the group either.  Now, I’m not going to comment on their talent, or whether or not I believe in the virtues of a corporate-created group…there have been many before this group came along and I’m sure there will be many more to come, but I do have to talk about the fans, because let’s face it – if you’re reading this blog, you’ve been there.

I won’t lie, there was a part of me that felt for the group last night.  I did, because even IF the group is incredibly talented, and even IF they outdo every other boy group before them – the plain and simple fact is that because they have a young teenage following, no one will ever take them seriously.  Maybe they shouldn’t be taken seriously, I really don’t know – but they won’t ever be given the chance anyway. They might be a smashing financial success for Simon Cowell, but beyond that? I think we all know the way this is going to go. My goodness, Duran Duran even played instruments.  They were innovative beyond measure when it came to their sound, look and video, and to this day, critics either pan them or ignore them.  They’re coined a “nostalgia” act even when we all know that’s pretty far from reality.  My point really isn’t to say that they’re a great boy group and should be given credit, it’s that 1. They’ll never get credit no matter whether it’s deserved or not. 2. I know what it’s like to be one of those teenage fans.

Last night, Tyler Glenn from Neon Trees was tweeting during the VMA’s.  He tweeted that he’d never heard “Best Song Ever”, and was surprised that One Direction had won.  Fair enough, I was surprised as well until I understood HOW the voting was done.  Well, Tyler was apparently inundated after that comment with replies from One Direction fans – and let me just say – the ones he retweeted were not kind.  They were the kind of replies I’ve seen during times like a certain band being announced as performing during an Olympic Festival at Hyde Park and a reporter writing a story about such news, expressing her displeasure.  Mr. Glenn then responded, saying that he was going to delete his tweet about the award because “a certain bands fanbase is cray and I don’t have the time”.  I can’t blame him.  The responses to him WERE tinged with craziness, and a whole lot of disrespect as well.

Funny how it all looks when you’re an innocent bystander.  Someone responded back to him saying that they weren’t at all “cray”…just very devoted and loyal.

Oh, I have no doubt.  None.  Let’s face it, had it been Duran Duran up there on stage last night – after we’d all finished having heart attacks from the shock of the band getting an award again – we’d have taken to social media ready to take down any dissenter in our path. I’ve seen it too many times over the years to think it’d be any different.  So while I’m no One Direction fan, there is a part of me that understands….and I’m almost willing to go see their movie (I said almost!), just to see how much of that insanity reminds me of my own.

I’m really not sure how many more years I’ll decide to endure the MTV VMA’s.  I saw many, many comments on twitter last night about the award show’s lack of relevance…and I must agree. For a channel that is so bent on NOT being a music channel to continue an award show that is dangerously teetering on the edge of being more of a circus than a genuine award show makes no real sense, and only continues to make the channel more of a pop culture joke.  It is that fact, not Miley Cyrus, not NSYNC, and certainly not One Direction that continues to bruise the industry.


Destroyed by MTV

This past week, I read VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s first wave by Gavin Edwards. As what seems to be the accepted format with each book written about MTV, this was basically an oral history, then edited by the author into something cohesive. With finishing this book, I believe I’ve read nearly (if not all) the books on MTV. I suppose at this point you could say I’m obsessed with the topic – and I really don’t have one clear reason why this is the case. I think part of it is that MTV played a huge part in my adolescence, second only to probably Duran Duran. MTV allowed me to hone in on my musical tastes, and see music in a completely different way than any other generation prior. I don’t believe it’s overreaching to say that MTV did change music. I still don’t quite understand how or why MTV went from being a video channel to being…well…whatever it is today…but no one dares deny (at least in front of me) that it changed lives. It changed mine.

I didn’t grow up in middle America, I grew up right on the border of Glendora and Covina, California in an area that is now called Charter Oak – named after the school district and high school for the area, I guess. My house on Payson Street was my address up until the time I graduated from high school. I think it was your basic not-quite-comfortable middle class area.  We didn’t have new cars, and none of my friends ever went on lavish vacations. This was an area where kids got drivers licenses and borrowed parents cars on special occasion. I lived in a small 1200 square foot house (I am not joking – there were three bedrooms and two very tiny bathrooms. My own bedroom was 11ft x 11 ft.) – my dad mowed our lawn and washed our cars on his own each weekend. Gardeners and car washes were a thing for the “rich”…until my dad finally got too sick to do it himself just a few months before he died.  My point being that we lived paycheck to paycheck like nearly everyone else. Each extra expense was discussed as a family, typically over our family dinner table, and usually – extra expenses were met with the same response from my dad: “I don’t. have. the money!”  Extra emphasis on the “don’t” and “have”, please…and then rush through “the money”.  Yep, that was it.  Guess how many times I heard that sentence as a teenager??

I can’t tell you the exact date my father finally agreed to get cable TV. I only remember it being a hotly debated topic, somewhat like the one that took place before we finally got a VHS player. (as opposed to Beta, of course.)  I can remember neighbors having things called “On TV” or “Z channel” and coming home to speak of their glory, usually to the somewhat deaf ears of my parents…and somewhere along the line, my dad finally agreed to cable. Miraculous. I could not believe our luck! I remember not long after the cable installation that I saw something about MTV, and the ability to watch…all…day…long. And I did.

My life was sheltered to a large extent. I’ve mentioned before that unlike the UK and other places – we really did not and still do not have good public transportation. My mom was not the kind of parent to let me roam the city on my bike (I still joke that my mom walked me across the street by the hand until I was 11 years old…), and as such, my world was very small – especially by California standards. I don’t even think I ever saw someone with brightly dyed hair or technicolor make-up until MTV came along. I mean, aside from seeing Nick Rhodes or John Taylor in magazines, anyway. MTV, along with my favorite Video One with Richard Blade in the afternoons (I would run like a crazy person home from Sunflower Intermediate School – on Sunflower Boulevard of course – in time to get there before it started), were my refuge from my nerdy reality. My parents were fairly strict with me. (and to some extent my mom still is – just the other day she announced that she doesn’t like the candy apple red streaks in my hair and wants me to get them dyed back “to normal”.)  Haircuts were to be kept utterly boring and “normal”…meaning my mom told the lady how to cut my hair (take pity!!), and my clothes were suspect to my father’s standards, meaning my skirts (keep in mind this is the 80s) were to be at or below the knee. Miniskirts? Are you kidding me??  Pumps with cute little lacy socks?  “Rhonda, you are only twelve years old.  You may not wear heels!”  So as you can see, MTV was my fantasy life in many ways that went way beyond imagining Roger Taylor coming to my front door.  Videos were magical for me. They transported me beyond the lyrics into this fantasy world where the music came to life. I was able to “see” one version of what the lyrics may have meant in some respects – and in others I was able to see the bands who were performing the songs.  Mostly, I was able to escape being my awkward teenage self, and vanish into the videos.  I loved MTV.

In reading the books I’ve read on MTV, one thing is crystal clear: the VJs were never to be the “stars” of the network. Just as I suppose it is on radio – their job was simply to introduce the next video. I think that had the MTV execs had it their way, the audience was never meant to really know them. They weren’t meant to be a personality, per se. They were just the engine…the avenue…of getting the videos announced. What I believe the execs got wrong (among many, many other things), is that for me and probably thousands of other teenagers just like me, the VJs WERE MTV. They helped make that channel. They mattered.  I listened to what they said, and I really did learn from them. I wanted to BE one of them. I don’t know about all of you readers out there – but I wanted to be Martha Quinn. (Ok, just between you and me I really wanted to be Nina Blackwood but I was never that blatantly sexy. Yes, I know she says she’s really shy and I have no doubt she tells the truth about that…but I still secretly wished I could be like her. Still do, and I still can’t!)

I think that’s kind of the point though – we all thought there was a possibility that we could be one of those VJs because they were so much like us. They weren’t already celebrities when the station started (at least not most of them, and I’m very sorry Mark Goodman but I didn’t know who you were until MTV came along…to me you were just like one of the rest of them…as was J.J. Jackson, to be honest.  But I loved all of you anyway.), and they never looked so glamorous that I thought it was impossible to be one of them. They seemed normal. At least to this nerdy clarinet player from Glendora California, they did.

That’s why when I read the book (which I wholeheartedly recommend), I found myself grinning and almost in tears at times, because when it came down to it – they were like us.  Dear Martha Quinn really WAS one of us…although her fangirl moments were more for Paul McCartney than John Taylor. (Which is really fine, because let’s face it – there are more than enough John-girls out there, aren’t there?!?)  “During our interview, Paul sat drinking a cup of tea. When the interview was over and autographs gotten, he and Linda said goodbye and left. While packing up my gear,I looked down and saw Paul’s teacup – still half full. I froze, staring at that tea. Paul McCartney’s tea. The tea Paul himself had actually been drinking. I picked up the cup and drank the rest of Paul McCartney’s tea – I didn’t care if got a bacterial infection, if I got it from Paul. I looked around, saw nobody was looking, and put the spoon, the saucer, and the teacup into my bag. Today, it sits behind glass in my dining room – and has never been washed.” (page 388)

Come on now. Who doesn’t love Martha Quinn just a little bit more after that confession??  Bless you AND your Boy Scout shirt, Martha Quinn.

I’ve read a few MTV books now. For me, MTV has an important place in my personal history. It’s like knowing all about the California Missions, or my Sicilian heritage. MTV is truly a part of what makes me…well, me. Having read a few books on MTV, I was surprised to see some of the reviews for this one. A fair amount of reviews called this a lackluster book, saying that the VJs downplayed the real story, or glossed over a lot. To be fair I don’t know what they glossed over – I was young at the time anyway, and I didn’t get the book to read the juicy gossip crap To call this book lackluster though? I disagree.

Here’s the real deal: this is the book from the point(s) of view I cared about most – straight from the VJs. Yeah, I think it’s fantastic that all of the executives had their say in a book, and to be sure – it’s valuable, even though it seems to me as though most of them were wasted all the way through about 1995. I think its marvelous that so many musicians even remember that much of the 80s, given all of the cocaine that everyone seemed to have done along the way. However, I think it’s time to inject a little honesty into the equation: the VJs mattered to me all the way up until the time of Downtown Julie Brown…and I suppose to some degree I cared just a little bit following. I really did want to know what those first VJs thought. I wanted to know if they really got along, and I wanted to know if hindsight provided clarity for them. I didn’t care about reading whether or not they like Duran Duran, or whether or not they thought the hair bands were really all that wild – I just wanted to know what they thought of the network historically speaking. They were a part of something supremely special that will never, ever be duplicated. That’s amazing. I guess I really wanted to know what being a VJ was like. This book did all of that, and then some. The book has real heart, and that alone made it a much better and more interesting read than some of the other books I’ve read on the subject (that may or may not have been written by some rather famous Rolling Stone columnists…and I don’t apologize for my opinion on that).

I would have loved to read more about MTV incorporating more R&B, Rap and other “black music” (as the book calls it) into the rotation. I would have also loved to read more of the decision making behind going from being MTV to whatever they think they’re doing now. (because I can’t really tell for sure) Naturally – none of that is within the scope of this VJ book (but boy would I loved to have been a fly on the wall if they had ever gotten into such a discussion about things like that), and that makes complete sense. I’m just saying that someone should write books about those things, because I’d read them!

In some respects, I felt as though the VJs really wondered if they made a difference to people out there. I almost thought that they felt like they didn’t matter, and perhaps going through some of the experiences they did made them feel that way. It is in these kinds of moments where I wish this blog could reach a larger audience, because if I could say anything to them it would honestly be two words: Thank you. Sure, MTV would have probably done very well with any number of people as VJs. The thing is, the universe put these wonderful five people there for a reason, and I’m very glad they were there. I loved Nina’s vamp-ness; Martha’s bright eyed innocence, J.J’s coolness, Mark’s knowledge and Alan flat out made me laugh.  They were all the things I wanted to be at 14 or 15…and when I think back on being a teenager, it is these faces I recall, right alongside those of Duran Duran.  Yes, I know all of that and $3.50 might buy you a cup of coffee these days, but I hope they know they mattered to kids like me.

Bottom line: if you were an MTV kid – get the book. I think you’ll like it and you might even learn something.  Besides, they do mention Duran Duran in there from time to time…and there’s even a chapter using a familiar line from a song we should all know.

Long blog…I hope you had refreshments before reading!!  Sorry!


I Miss My MTV

I’ve just started reading another book – I Want My MTV by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum.  I’ve had it on my iPad to read for a while now, and I’m finally just getting to it.  It’s one of those books that I felt like I needed to be in the right frame of mind to read, primarily because MTV completely shaped my teenage years, and like a lot of the MTV generation – I’m completely PISSED that it’s gone to hell in a handbasket.  I’m not just nostalgic, I’m annoyed that it’s been watered down and ruined.

Not sure if anyone has noticed yet because it might be difficult to tell, (that’s sarcasm right there) but I’m pretty damn opinionated.  🙂  In particular, I have strong opinions on the music industry.  It’s frustrating to be a fan (and not just of Duran Duran, but of music in general) and see what has happened since the 1980’s. It’s not just about the labels failing, or about the fact that radio plays crappy music 24 hours a day, or even about the lack of record sales….it’s not just about any one specific thing.  It’s the whole lot!  The way I see it, all of those things, plus a plethora of others that I don’t dare even get into for fear I’ll end up writing an entire book in one blog post, fell down like dominoes. One on top of the other, and the real pisser being that each thing: sales, radio, labels, etc. all depend to some degree on one another to make it all work.  (work WELL, that is)  I could write volumes and volumes just from the fan perspective.

So, while reading this book, and I’m only up to about chapter 4 at this point, I find myself highlighting and making a LOT of notes that may or may not end up in my own book or my own blog some day.  I’d really love to write something about how MTV changed me as a person, and make no mistake, it did.  I used to be fairly obedient and boring before August 1, 1981 came along!  The one item I come back to, over and over again (aside from the chapter on Girls on Film, because it’s still funny to read about those guys falling all over themselves while making the video)…is that MTV woke up a sleepy recording industry.

I had to think about that for a long while yesterday.  In August of 1981 I was 10 years old…I didn’t turn 11 until November, but I was going into junior high school that year.  (we started junior high in 6th grade)  I have very few memories of music before MTV.  If that’s not dating myself, I just don’t know!  I can remember The Beach Boys being played in my house quite often (hence my name: Rhonda), Elvis was my parents favorite (thank god they went with Rhonda…), and as for me – I seem to recall Shaun Cassidy, a bunch of Disney records, and Rick Springfield before Duran Duran came along.  Oh, I also remember the year I received a clock radio alarm for Christmas.  It seemed like every single morning “My Sharona” by the Knack was being played as my alarm went off.  I still jump up in some sort of sick Pavlovian response when I hear the familiar chords.  My point being of course that I didn’t realize the music industry was really failing much at the time – but at 10, who pays that much attention?  All I do remember is that at some point on or around August 1st of that year, I found MTV.

According to the book, “MTV did a lot for record labels, helping to revive a slumping industry, but it was bands who benefitted most.” (page 17)  I wouldn’t dare argue against that, especially since as part of their audience, MTV introduced me to bands that I would have never heard of otherwise, particularly the more obscure British artists that I grew accustomed to love during the first few years of MTV’s existence.  In a lot of ways, I really feel that this is where the beginning of radio’s real failing.  While those radio guys were busily playing Top 40, MTV dared to break beyond those boundaries – whether by design or by fault – giving this not-yet-a-teenager much more to think about than Michael Jackson, The Police, or Madonna. My eyes became increasingly widened to just how much talent there was in the world, and I soaked it up like a water-starved sponge.

In turn, I bought records.  Oh boy did I buy records.  My garage plays constant witness to the buying that I did back in the 80’s, and that I’m still doing now as a blatant attempt to own “all the vinyl in the world”.  (Ok, it’s an exaggeration…but one entire wall from top to bottom in our garage is covered with shelves of vinyl….and not all the buying was done by me!)  So yes, I really do believe that MTV helped both label and band.

I stopped watching MTV with any kind of regularity the year I started college.  That was in Fall of 1988 for those of you counting. (I stopped.  It’s too depressing.)  I know we had cable in my dorm at Cal State Fullerton, but I was too busy….studying (in case my mom is reading)….or socializing (the reality) to watch much.  By that time, my favorites had started to fade, and by 1992, MTV had changed significantly.  No more was it videos 24/7…there was a new show in town called The Real World, which was trashy at best to begin with and sunk deeper into dumpsville as time wore on.  I gave up on MTV completely after that, and my own “golden era” had ended.

What I do wonder, sometimes aloud when I’m busily talking to myself (no one else really listens and my youngest doesn’t know much music beyond Duran Duran….she’s a huge fan at 3 and a half!), is just how much different the industry would be today if MTV had stayed their course.  It wasn’t just The Real World that changed things though.  I think the real changes came almost immediately with MTV, as they do with nearly anything.  Lets be honest, the goal of MTV was always to make money.  It’s a business, it’s what is done, and we should recognize that up front.  MTV desperately needed to sell advertising to keep going – by some accounts MTV lost almost 50 million dollars before it ever made a dime, and my assertion is that MTV was only pure during that period where they were losing money.  Funny how making money will do that.  Prior to that point, they only had to answer to themselves, and it didn’t matter how much the on-air talent screwed up or rubbed their noses on air.  They could play the videos they wished (actually, they could ONLY play the videos they were able to obtain, which were precious few for quite some time!), and during that time I saw plenty of fantastic, tasty obscurities I’d have never seen otherwise.  So for me, that time was golden and pure.  After they started selling that ad space, that’s when they started having to answer for themselves, and to labels…and to corporations, and once again we’re back to the men in suits being able to tell the rest of us what music is good, and what music is awful…and that music doesn’t need to have a place on MTV at all.  “MTV created the video music industry, then abandoned it, leaving behind a trail of tears -disgruntled music-video fans have stamped the phrase ‘MTV sucks’ and ‘Bring back music videos’ all over the comments pages of YouTube.” (page 20)

Here’s the funny thing: a lot of those statements are probably mine.  If video did so well to SELL records, to make bands famous, to change the industry – why on earth aren’t we still using it??  YouTube is great because I can go on there at any time of day and find the videos I want to watch….but the reality is, I would much rather watch Reach up for the Sunrise, or The Reflex….or even the video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller on my big TV.  I miss my MTV.  I liked being surprised by the little gems they’d pull out, I enjoyed watching Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman and little Martha Quinn.  I liked yelling “I’ve seen this stupid video 50,000 times – play something else for a damn change!!!”  when they’d play “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, or better yet “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!  (I love both bands so spare me the hate mail…I’m sick of Hungry Like the Wolf, as well.  Did I mention that?)  Those things are what made MTV.

I don’t know for sure what really changed MTV into the watered down kool-aide it is today.  As I’ve said numerous times, I’m just a fan who happened to grow up during the 80’s. Maybe my generation just grew up, and they didn’t know what to show us anymore.  Maybe rap really did become king and the only viable videos were those showing mostly unclad women, baggy jeans, baseball caps and cars.  I’ve read that every great idea for video has already been done so it got boring.  I call BS on that one.  I think it’s more to do with the fact that no one wants to work hard anymore.  No one wants to be unique or creative when you can just dress up any wanna-be-Britney, Kanye, Justin or Beyonce and put them in front of a camera and microphone and get a hit, thanks to autotune, smoke and some mirrors.  That isn’t to say that those people don’t have talent, but their uniqueness certainly gets lost in the shuffle.  That’s MUCH easier than taking the time to properly market a band that already has their own sound, actually plays their instruments, knows how to entertain, yet can’t be categorized in any one specific “box” on some sort of marketing tally sheet for the execs to see.  Fast food music rules the airwaves.  Every time I hear a new artist that actually has talent, or a band that actually plays their own instruments and doesn’t rely on production and autotune, I hold on to a little hope.

Once again, the very people who run the industry just don’t get it.  It’s not just about any one thing, although I really do believe that MTV (or the loss of the “music video” portion of MTV) has quite a bit to do with why the industry continues to flounder and fail.   One definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over expecting different results each time….

maybe that’s the real problem.  The industry is insane.


The Video Generation

Did you know that on this date in 1984, Nick and Simon were presenters for the MTV Video Music Awards?  I suppose nowadays they just call them the VMA’s…  In any case, that got me thinking about how MY world has really changed.  Back in 1984, video was truly king.  I could come home from school and watch Richard Blade – on TV no less – hosting Video One.  It was on at 3pm where I lived and it was the most important part of my day.  I LOVED videos, because they brought the song to life.  Sure, a lot of the time the video had almost nothing to do with the song whatsoever – but somehow the idea of relating pictures/images to music resonated with not just me, but my entire generation.  There aren’t many songs from the 1980’s (alternative music) that I can listen to without picturing the video in my head, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one out there that can relate.

As a Duran Duran fan, I know that video was HUGE to the band.  Duran Duran have truly made the most of their career in large part due to their constant attention to their image – video was an outstanding way to broadcast that image worldwide.  In all my time as a fan, I’ve yet to run across a fellow fan of Duran Duran who hasn’t spent many hours in front of their TV watching and re-watching their videos, squealing in delight as their personal favorite flashes on the screen.  It was a big part of what made following the band so fun.  We could see and hear them everywhere: on the radio, on TV for interviews, video shows, MTV, in magazines and even books.  I suppose to some extent it was hard to avoid them, and yet maybe that was the point.

Personally, I think they are having a difficult time adjusting without it.  Yes, I know they made videos for Reach up for the Sunrise, What Happens Tomorrow and most recently – Falling Down.  How many within the general public know that?  Go ahead, consider that briefly.  I’ll wait……. most likely no one but fans have really seen videos made by the band within the last 10 years.  A fact that pains me to admit.  Videos certainly lack the importance they had back in the 80’s, and yet *I* absolutely squealed in delight when I saw Sunrise for the first time.   I don’t really know that a video has that same effect on someone in the golden 13-25 age bracket that the record labels love.  My own 13 year old is typically less-than-impressed by videos, to be sure.   That fact makes me incredibly sad, but the truth is – this generation doesn’t really NEED video.  They have access to more information, images, music and people than any of us ever had back when we were teenagers.  The internet is up and running 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week…with all of that going on, there’s no time or interest for a video shot in a fantasy location.   I try my best to explain to my daughter what she’s missing out on – there really is nothing better than watching John Taylor strapped to a car on late night television – then she whips out her smart phone and before I know it she’s showing me what some young icon from her generation has sent out from Twitter as a status update.  She tells me that fantasy is great, but getting real messages from her favorites feels like a real connection, because she can answer her back and possibly even get a message in return. Is that really all there is to it for kids today?  I don’t know…for me it’s a far cry from watching Roger Taylor in New Moon on Monday, or Simon in the Arcadia video for Election Day.  I’ll take the fantasy, thank you!

Without video as a major marketing and promotional tool, I believe bands like Duran Duran really are having to relearn the biz, and it appears that the learning curve is gigantic.  Not only do they have the challenge of becoming/remaining relevant to a generation that weren’t even around in the 80’s, they also have to learn to work within the digital world.  No longer is video king – it’s now the internet that is king.

In some ways, YouTube has become the MTV of today – with independent, unknown directors.  YouTube is fascinating – you can find a video on almost anything there.  People create their own, bands upload their official videos, and all of it is available for any one else to see.  As a “dangerouslycloseto40-something”, the fact that I have so much information at my fingertips is both handy and frightening.  There is a lot out there that I never wanted to know much about, OR see….yet the younger generation has a huge appetite for all of it.   They want no barrier between themselves and their celebrity favorites (music or otherwise), they want no fantasy, and they crave instant gratification.  Will a band like Duran Duran be able to evolve enough to remain relevant, or will they simply fade into the background and become the muzak for my own generation?  (I’ve already heard them several times at the grocery store – but thank goodness it’s been the original that’s been played, not the muzak version!!)

I feel the need to go put Greatest in the DVD player and watch it full volume on the big screen….