I’ve been burning time during this pandemic by watching old MTV recordings and I’ve been surprised by how much I don’t remember and in awe of how wonderfully under-produced the channel was during the golden years from 1981 to 1984. This week, I invited along a musician and writer who was too young to experience it in real time to see her impression. What follows is a live chat we had as it played. The entire segment can be viewed below but I also added a few of the videos discussed at the end. Ladies and gentlemen, rock-n-roll.
And we’re live from April 12th, 1982!
Jason: George Harrison “All Those Years Ago”. Don’t remember this. The Beatles seemed so old to us kids.
Aurora (italics throughout): I didn’t realize he made a music video.
It’s actually just a photo montage with music more than a video.
The Beatles solo stuff didn’t really work except for Paul and George when “Mind Set On You” took off. Otherwise, they seemed lame to me as a kind (who didn’t know Beatles music).
I think aside from Ringo they all did some interesting solo stuff. But, I’m not sure if it would be as redeeming if they weren’t Beatles first. It’s weird that this is his solo video and its all Beatles footage.
This would have lost me as, let’s see, a 9 year-old at the time. And just turned nine a few days before this aired!
Squeeze – Tempted
Now this was cool then and even cooler now!
This is a good song. I’ve never seen the video.
Squeeze were around before MTV but handled the transition well. They had a sense of humour and that helped.
I like the wiggly dancers.
Very English. I didn’t realize I was ingesting so much English culture at the time but it makes a lot of sense now.
Were early videos mostly just performance footage?
A lot were. This was less than a year into MTV so bands were just beginning to see the possibility. A lot of these were already around before 1982 but I had no idea. I just assumed everything MTV was showing was new music. Which is why timelines for Genesis, Heart, ZZ Top, etc. confuse me. They were huge in the 70s?!
Did you ever enter any of those? Sweepstakes?
Definitely. I forget which ones I mailed stuff off. And I definitely called radio stations a lot but never won anything.
Commercials were so much better.
YES!!!!! And Martha Quinn still seems like the cool older sister.
(MTV News segment featuring B-52’s on Guiding Light)
The B-52’s on a soap opera!!!!
So weird. They’re so cool though.
Pleasantly subversive to see them on Guiding Light. And this is how we used to get tour dates!
Crazy. I think I kind of remember that though.
Pat Benatar – Precious Time
Benatar was all about narrative drive videos. A pioneer.
I like that. It feels more genuinely like a music video rather that concert footage.
Oh where is she?
Are there two of her?
This is pretty impressive for 1982. She was always ahead of the curve with videos.
The video is interesting. This song is kind of awful though. Eh chorus is better.
It is awful. I don’t remember this one at all.
I like the video though.
Neil Girardo dressed as the Iron Sheik for a guitar solo? What is happening?!
What is with that guitar? I hate it, but I also kind of want it. It’s a great guitar solo.
Not going to lie, I’ve lost the plot of the video. Unhappy marriage?
I think it’s pretty clear, Jason. Pat is a martian and she is observing the suburbs from her planet. And there are two of her.
Ahh yes. Sort of like Bowie in the Man Who Fell to Earth!
I’m just realizing those were giant – whats the word? For those timers that have sand? That’s what she was surrounded by on Mars.
ELO – Wild West Hero
ELO seemed old by the time I first saw them on MTV. Definitely enjoy them now but this was so dull compared to the New Wave videos.
The facial hair and smoke machines are awesome. Oh man – There’s weird wild west animation now?
It didn’t take much to get on MTV in 1982. They were so desperate for content from anyone other than Rod Stewart. Is that a cello? This is terrible.
Yes. I like it.
Prog rock does not work on MTV.
I disagree. Sick harmonies. Some light orchestration. Random cartoons. It’s the best one we’ve seen so far.
This is not the MTV I remember. I want men dressed as humanoids. I need some Gary Numan, stat.
I think there can be a place for all of that. It doesn’t have to be that singular in its genre.
It did when I was nine. Actually digging this variety. Weird how my brain only remembers the New Wave stuff.
Is this a commercial? Planes crashing. Bombed out buildings on fire? This was entertainment!
I couldn’t tell if it was a commercial or what it could be. Just random footage thats slightly disturbing? I guess these days anyway.
ASIA – Only Time Will Tell
Oh a gymnast!
This video WAS HUGE!!!!! The use of televisions felt so futuristic….
I haven’t heard this song before. It’s so good.
This is peak 1983 MTV.
THIS IS SO COOL. I love that the gymnast is doing front flips on their tv bodies. This would be really cool even now.
The fact that it’s a prog-rock supergroup is so in your wheelhouse! Anything King Crimson appeals to you. LOL!
Sorrrrrry that musical proficiency is appealing to me.
I can’t make fun of this one. The song was so good and I remember really enjoying it. Hell, I even bought a Yes album when the Owner of a Lonely Heart video hit MTV.
OH! I’ve never seen that video.
It’s really creepy and well done. Might be more 1984? We shall see if it pops up.
Greg Kihn Band
Hmmm this song sounds familiar. Greg Kihn made MTV work for him. The Jeopardy video was so brilliant before Weird Al turned it into a joke.
I vaguely remember this song. It’s good.
I bet we never see more than two rows of the crowd. Looks very staged!
Most of these videos that are mostly performance shots look totally staged.
Even Livin’ On A PRayer was but I didn’t know that as a kid. I just assumed Bon Jovi was selling out arenas even though they weren’t huge until after that song.
Are they wearing matching outfits? Cute.
Horizontal stripes were very cool. Not a good look for the husky boys of the age (i.e. me).
Michael Stanley – He Can’t Leave You
Do not remember this one AT ALL.
Oh intense sax solo.
He is a janitor. Hard-working blue collar man probably singing about a woman he cannot win.
She’s a nurse apparently.
OH MY GOD. Soloing through the ER.
This is a great video! Stupid but charming. Exactly what MTV should be.
I agree that it’s charming, but again, I don’t think MTV should be one thing.
This would make a great Meatloaf song.
No it wouldn’t.
Huey Lewis & the News – Do You Believe In Love
Who are they singing at? Is she sleeping? Dead?
Dreaming! And they are the sirens sweetly singing to her? Maybe.
That seems more like a nightmare.
OK, this is a little creepy. Six guys in her bed while she sleeps…
And by the looks of it, she isn’t waking up.
You forget how many excellent songs Huey did. Great songwriting. Great band.
The song isn’t bad. The video is strange. The poor girl is just trying to sleep and get ready and an entire band is singing at her.
MTV News Break
Martha Quinn talking about Fripp?! This could get interesting. For you!
I am so excited.
So he basically invented the loop pedal.
Actually, that is basically this so maybe!
I want to watch more Fripp.
These guys were all over MTV. Bigger than Journey at first in terms of MTV.
I can’t stop thinking about his wacky jumpsuit. Nothing else exists to me right now.
And now these guys are central to the last season of Ozark. Who would have known?
Spoiler alert? I’m not there yet.
Apologies! Switching gears. I saw Cigarettes After Sex open for Garbage and they did an ehtereal cover of Keep On Loving You by REO Speedwagon. Amazing.
I love that version. It’s a great cover.
This is generic arena rock done well. Like a good bottle of mustard.
Generic is a great way to describe it. It’s kind of borning. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t doing anything interesting or memorable either.
This is pure content. The band had the videos already so it got shown.
Heart – Even It Up
Ohhhh, Heart before they entered their hair metal sex kitten phase!!!
It’s surprisingly bluesy and cheesy.
Is Nancy dressed as a sailor or the Pillsbury dough girl?
Definitely dough girl. It’s the exact same outfit. Wait – Is the Pillsbury dough boy a sailor?
Mind. Blown. Maybe he baked on the submarine? I like this song!
I don’t love it.
You can see why the record label was so hell-bent on an image makeover for them. Their styles are all disjointed.
Good call on the record label’s end.
Sadly, then it went too far. By the late 80s, Ann gained some weight so they started hiding her behind props in the videos. It was obvious even to me as a kid. Shitty.
Super shitty. She’s an amazing musician.
Ten minutes left in this hour of MTV….hope it ends strong!!!
Kim Wilde – Kids In America
Her brother is in video. He wrote it. Their dad is a huge star in the UK. This is one of the first truly amazing MTV videos for my generation.
Why is her band behind a cage?
I think they assumed American boys were dangerous?
I think that might be a reach. But I wasn’t even born yet, so what do I know? Oh! Now shes behind bars.
Geographically. I would challenge the East California line. Not sure anything trendy was happening in Barstow….
Ha I would say that is true even now.
Years later, I read that they used it because it sounded cool.
Graham Parker – Local Girls
This was on, alot. Not sure why…..but now I know not to bother with a local girl.
Is this advocating mail order brides?
Must have worked. I married a Brit!
Top of the hour means we are done!