1981: A New TV Station is Born

Not long ago, when I made the “1981 Triumphs and Tragedies” post, I mentioned something that was considered a triumph back then but nowadays, it’s a tragedy. This is the post where I reveal what that is and that is the music television station we all know as MTV.



When MTV first hit the television airwaves in 1981, all and sundry were very excited about a television station that played nothing but music videos. Like the advert said before its launch, music videos twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. What wasn’t there to love? My household wouldn’t get MTV for another two years and I extremely envied those who were able to watch the station before then and from what people told me, MTV was every bit as good as what I thought it was.

Originally, there were five full time VJ’s who kept all that great music back then playing on the air. They were virtually unknown, although I did see Nina Blackwood’s two minute slot in the film “Vice Squad.” But that’s what made it good. There was no pompous musical know it all talking down to us and the music videos they played all seemed to be of good rock quality most of the time, at least. That was why when MTV hit our screens, it was hailed as such a triumph and it stayed that way for the first couple of years.

Original 5 MTV VJ's. Left to right: Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn , JJ Jackson

Original 5 MTV VJ’s. Left to right: Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn , JJ Jackson

It would not be until 1983 when I finally got MTV into my home and it was a big thing for both my sister and me. MTV introduced me to the likes of Motley Crue, Rock Goddess, HSAS and quite a few other acts I can’t think of off the top of my head. When there was a new album or song out, it was this station that gave me the opportunity to see and hear it for myself. The best thing about it was if there was nothing else worth watching on television, MTV was always there to fill the void.

So what happened to it? I will attempt to answer this question as I travel down the road of 80’s metal. For me, the station started going downhill in late 1984 when the too much metal on MTV won out over those of us who felt there wasn’t enough of it. Today, it is nothing like I remember all those glorious years ago and that’s a damn shame. My heart goes out for those who were too young to remember the days to quote Bowling For Soup, “There was music still on MTV.” So, here’s a salute to what was at the time considered state of the art in music entertainment. I will always remember how great it was and not what it has become now. One last thing, I secretly had a crush on Nina Blackwood.

Next post: The Cars- Shake It Up

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

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4 Responses to “1981: A New TV Station is Born”

  1. In Canada we had something called MuchMusic. I think it came out in about 84. It was an incredible thing to turn on the TV in the afternoon on a weekday and see the video for Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix. There were so few videos out, that they played a lot of rock! Dire Straits — all the time. The Police — all the time.

    Like MTV it slowly died…for me the change happened in 1991. They used to feature 2 hours of specialty metal programming called the Power Hour. It was in twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday. Then they changed format to the Power 30. Half an hour, every day. Sounds like more music. But it was actually just more commercials.

    They used to do big hour-long segments with a lot of depth, and that ended. I lost interest, but the channel had stopped playing metal during regular hours for a LONG time anyway.


    • It sounds like MuchMusic went in the same direction as MTV. I remember in the summer of 1986, MTV used to have a metal half hour. You would get to see six metal videos between all of the commercials. Other than that, I was convinced that the M in MTV stood for Madonna as it was her videos getting played all the rest of the time.


  2. Check out the book I Want My MTV ….very informative read about everything MTV related.
    The authors did there homework they talk to the vj’s,artists,programmers,everyone involved and even go in depth with the payola of programming.
    Total fascinating read from there humble beginnings to the empire.
    It goes for the yrs of 1981 to the late nineties. They basically focus on the 80s though.
    Highly recommended!
    P.s- they even have a chapter on the Lost Weekend With Van Halen where they talk to the winner and he has quite the stories to tell.


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