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Monday, January 28, 2008

Classic TV: Re-watching 1983 MTV footage

Looking to kill three hours? Unedited VHS footage of a 1983 MTV broadcast with original VJ Mark Goodman is floating on the Web, and man, its a great nostalgia trip for anyone looking to relive the glory days of -- gasp! -- music video. And no, I don't mean "great" in the "I bet 'Perfect Strangers' is as funny as it was when I was 10-years old!" kinda way that Adam Reinhard would have you believe. Instead, the footage makes me feel warm and fuzzy for multiple reasons.

One, Goodman doesn't appear comfortable on screen -- even two years after MTV's debut -- which is pretty refreshing for a popular TV personality. The lack of polish in the early days serves as a reminder of the foreign territory being explored by revolutionary minds. Goodman awkwardly cracks wise a few times and seems uncertain of his cues, but still delivers the goods when promising Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House" video in the coming hour.

Two, that same "Burning Down the House" video still stands the test of time. David Byrne's disembodied head on the side of a house is an awesome snapshot from childhood. If my brothers and I had listened to my dad and not sneaked repeated glimpses of MTV when he was at work, my passion for music probably wouldn't be as great as it is now. Thanks for the reverse psychology, dad!

Three, it's proof the channel actually showed videos. It's easy to blast MTV for its modern-day format change, but showing videos isn't a money-making enterprise anymore. MTV2 abandoned the track early on even though the channel promised 24-7 coverage of new and old. Even VH1 Classic, which used to show rare, vintage videos in continuous blocks, is airing movies like "Ghostbusters" now. When videos were revolutionary, the 'round-the-clock format worked to perfection. Plus, as some of the promos during the three hour block demonstrates -- there's a great one that proclaims, 'Without MTV these past two years, how else would you have heard of the Stray Cats?" -- music fans actually watched MTV to discover something new. That influence waned dramatically by the late '90s, though the beginning of the end dates back to "Remote Control" being such a popular "original programming" experiment in the mid-'80s. At least that show had a music video theme, which can't be said of most reality-based dreck currently polluting the network. Still, it's no surprise today's youth relates more to Tila Tequila than the Thompson Twins.

Four, the original Atari 2600 commercials are hilarious. In particular, there's one for "Mountain King," a game I owned, but could never beat because it had absolutely no point whatsoever. It felt nice to re-open that wound again.

Five, it's just crazy fun to watch Huey Lewis segue into Split Enz into the Romantics into Madness into really, really bad Michael Bolton. Maybe I'm the only one who appreciates the 25-year-old footage, but at least stick around long enough for the 1-800-HOT-ROCK commercial with free ZZ Top key chain offer in the early-going of part one.

I'm off to Musicland to buy the new Billy Idol album for $6.99.

Click here for part one. Watch part two here.

(Hint: For some reason on Google Video, you can't scroll ahead without the footage starting at the very beginning again. But if you press play, then pause, allowing both videos to fully load, you can skip ahead and watch what you want. This is especially useful when choosing to avoid the early Night Ranger video.)

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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One week from tomorrow, my friend, and "Perfect Strangers" is out on DVD. THEN we'll see if I'm as delusional as everyone THINKS I am. Until then, I'll be riding my pet unicorn and playing chess with Jim Morrison.

(By the way, great post. But today's MTV still sucks.)

By Anonymous Adam Reinhard, At January 28, 2008 at 7:57 PM  

Arrrrgh! Mountain King!!! The point of the game was to get the crown and then somehow get it out of the mountain before a stinking bat flew by and grabbed it. All the while You also had to beware of the giant spider if you went too far to the bottom of the mountain. The problem was that you could never get the crown out of the damn mountain!!! I don't know which game was more maddening, Atari's Mountain King or Nintendo's Golgo 13.

Here's another sneaking around watching MTV behind Dad's back moment. I actually taped Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It" off of the TV so that I could hear it whenever. Now I just have to watch birth control ads to hear it! Oh how times have changed.

By Blogger Antony, At January 29, 2008 at 4:52 PM  

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