Tuesday, August 2, 2011
I Want 'My' MTV
This week MTV turned 30, which is big to me, because I can basically measure my own aging against theirs. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the big 3-0 than to ride the Brian Time Machine, go back to the beginning, or as far back as my memory will take me. Destination August 1, 1981. “I heard you on the wireless back in Fifty Two . . .”
The first thing I think about when I remember early MTV is my cousin Jody, and her ‘boyfriend’ Shawn, babysitting me when I lived in Albany. In my mind, Jody was the 80’s. All day, she would have MTV playing. She dressed like Madonna, even painted the black beauty mark over her mouth. If Madonna was blonde, so was Jody, brunette, leggings, suspenders over t-shirts. I remember watching “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Billy Jean,” Dire Strait’s “Money for Nothing,” Ah-Ha’s “Take on Me,” “Sledgehammer,” and all of Madonna’s videos. To me that was when MTV was best. VJ Adam Curry and Remote Control. The network used to do cool things with the MTV logo between videos, smearing it into a wall, showing it as a car’s hood ornament. Later on it was “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Wanted Dead or Alive."
I never missed the Top 20 Video Countdown on Friday nights. I would flip back and forth between the videos and ABC’s TGIF Lineup (FULL HOUSE, FAMILY MATTERS, STEP BY STEP). You’d see me at the TV mimicking Axl Rose, with the sideways dance and microphone grab, just like he did in “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” then “Patience.” I was able to sing every lyric to every song on APPETITE at 10 years old, although I had no idea what any of it meant. Their videos were killer. I simply wasn’t a Poison fan, but I did love Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” then their few videos from the album DR. FEELGOOD.
By ’91ish, the Grunge Movement was coming in, and “November Rain” was really the end of the GNR era, as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden videos began taking over the MTV airwaves. Don't forget the blonde girl with the white-rimmed sunglasses in “Black-Hole Sun.” I wasn’t a huge Seattle-scene guy. But Nirvana made one of the best albums, UNPLUGGED, through MTV. Kurt Loder’s MTV News break, reporting the suicide of Kurt Cobain in ‘94. John Candy really got Farrah Fawcetted on that one. SINGLED OUT. Wasn’t it horrible/great?
MTV is the network that got the greatest modern American President elected. Three cheers for Tabitha Soren.
It was around this time that MTV started doing Reality TV. Mary Ellis Bunim came up with a show about 7 strangers picked to live together. It was promised they would stop being polite and start getting real. THE REAL WORLD was can’t-miss TV when it first came out. Eric Nies from New York? Puck and the Cowboy from San Fran? The time David got kicked out of the house for ‘attacking’ Tammi? I never liked ROAD RULES or THE REAL WORLD reunion shows as much as the original, but I still watched them.
2000 was a tough time personally. But MTV was the ultimate escape. The whole Eminem, Britney Spears, NSYNC, X-Tina period. One of my favorite nights of all TV was the 2000 VMA's. Eminem performed “The Real Slim Shady” with a 1,000 lookalikes behind him. Britney Spears performed, NSYNC, X-Tina, Limp Bizkit, the Chili Peppers.
TRL, even though Carson Daly was a total tool.
That was the last GREAT time for MTV. If asked back then, I would’ve told you that MTV was the best network on TV, with the best programming and coolest personalities Even the Movie Awards were good back then.
I came back to MTV for a few days in June 2009 when Michael Jackson died. I watched round the clock as MTV played the news footage, anchored by Kurt Loder, our generation’s pop-culture Walter Cronkite. MTV stopped the ridiculous reality shows for a while, aired all those old MJ videos. It was a brief reunion with my childhood, and MJ’s death was an ending of an era.
Now MTV is no music, really bad reality shows that are completely scripted, that societal shamefest THE JERSEY SHORE, which promotes horrible behavior and sells cruelty and crudeness as comedy, while being scripted. When I was a kid, MTV had personality, it had personalities. Ellis-Bunim would be rolling in her grave if she could see how bad THE REAL WORLD, and all its spinoffs, have become. Even MTV’s TRUE LIFE feels fake. MTV has gone from making cutting-edge TV to a heap of retreaded reality shows that promote sex, drugs, and making fun of people.
Maybe I’ve outgrown MTV, but I can’t even sit through 5 minutes of the VMA’s anymore. That ended when they let P. Diddy host. Wow, was that bad. I rarely watch MTV, which is a shame, because it was a huge part of growing up, way back when it was channel 14 instead of 57.
MTV is my cousin Jody with her hair teased, wearing huge bracelets like Madonna. Me at 12 yrs old mimicking the way Axl glided. VJ Kennedy and Kurt Loder with an MTV News break. Michael Jackson, in his red leather, dancing through the open counter way of an unoccupied coffee house. Because of MTV, I tried to record my own Top 20 Countdown like Adam Curry, with two radios next to each other, one playing the songs, one recording the songs and my dialogue. I could never stop talking RIGHT before the song’s words started. I tried that trick so many times with Tears for Fears’ “Sowing the Seeds of Love.”
What can I say? Happy 30th Birthday MTV
My 10 Favorite Videos(In no particular order)
10. Beat It: Michael Jackson
9. Welcome to the Jungle: Guns N’ Roses
8. Open Your Heart to Me: Madonna
7. 18 & Life: Skid Row
6. One: Metallica
5. Money for Nothing: Dire Straits
4. Sledgehammer: Peter Gabriel
3. Glory Days: The Boss
2. Take on Me: Ah Ha
1. Land of Confusion: Genesis
* And of course: Rock the Cradle of Love: Billy Idol
Eminem at the 2000 VMA's 'Great VMA performance':