August 1, 1981, the day MTV launched for the first time. What would ultimately be noted as a monumental day in music history, was initially received with less than enthusiastic fanfare. A cable channel that played music videos around the clock? 24 hours a day? The idea was scoffed at, but quickly overcame that skepticism as the youth of the world enthusiastically latched onto this new concept of combining imagery and music, becoming a multi-sensory medium, and a multi-billion dollar industry. A new era was born.
It’s hard now to remember back to when the M in MTV stood for Music, but for those of who were around to witness the dawn of this new era, it was a very special time. The first time you saw Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” play out on your television screen was magical, those memories are indelible. 35 years later as they pop up in a playlist or on your favorite 80’s radio station, they become like something out of an HG Wells novel, instantly transporting you back to those days of innocence, wonder and excitement.
Today, MTV is known more for their reality programming than for the ground breaking format and music that gave it life. The rise of the internet has changed the landscape for musicophiles. Good or bad, it is the reality that we are left with. But for those of us of a particular age, we GenXers who remember, this was a golden moment in history.
As luck would have it, by way of the internet, I’ve recently come across a Spotify playlist called “MTV: First 24 Hours” by Sarah Jayne Gipson. Thanks to Sarah Jayne, we can audibly relive those first essential 24 hours of life for Music Television. Happy Birthday MTV!