Remember when MTV stood for Music Television?

Thirty years ago, MTV was born on August 1, 1981. On its first day, MTV was still full of flaws; Black screens showed up in between videos when an MTV employee was literally putting a video into a VCR.

But a bumpy start couldn’t stop MTV from becoming an instantaneous hit; television audiences loved having their favorite musician right in their living room. “I Want My MTV” wasn’t just a brilliant advertising slogan; it fast became a way of life, with music video addicted kids running home from school to see their favorite videos play.

MTV changed the face of music, proving its original motto: “You’ll never look at music the same way again.”

But today you can look at it the way it originally was with our list of The First Ten Music Videos Ever Played On MTV.

1. “Video Killed The Radio Star”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Buggles[/lastfm]

Did video really “kill the radio star?” Well, maybe. Because once musicians had to star in music videos, they were subject to superficial judgements about their looks.

Sort of how when “talkies” came out and Hollywood realized that some silent film stars couldn’t act.

Unfortunately for MTV,  all their reality television programming killed the video star and now we have viral video YouTube stars like Rebecca Black.

We want our (original music programming style) MTV!

2. “You Better Run”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Pat Benatar[/lastfm]

Who knew that thirty years later hipster rock girls all over the world would be wearing the same tight striped-tee and skin-tight black pants combo as Pat Benatar in the second ever video played on MTV?

Our favorite thing is how simple this video is. It’s basically a performance in an industrial looking space, but it still tops most of the music videos made today.

Why? Because good music trumps all special effects.

3. “She Won’t Dance With Me”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rod Stewart[/lastfm]

It’s hard to believe that Rod Stewart was already 36-years-old in this third music video ever aired on MTV.  Considering Stewart practically looks the same as he did thirty years ago, the dude has definitely sipped from the fountain of youth.

British rock stars from that time really do age well. Although, in Stewart’s case, maybe it was all the baby making.

Let’s just say Stewart had no problem getting girls to “dance” with him.

4. “You Better You Bet”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Who[/lastfm]

Here’s the main question: Was “You Better You Bet” filmed in black and white for artistic purposes, as stated by the person who made the video, or because black and white film makes everyone look “better?”

We “bet” that this fourth ever video on MTV wouldn’t have had such a strong effect if we could see the members of The Who in full color.

And, factoid: “You Better You Bet” was both the fourth and fifty-fifth video to be aired on MTV–making it the first video to be shown more than once.

5. “Little Susie’s On The Up”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Ph.D[/lastfm]

We’re pretty sure this song is a lot creepier than it sounds, especially since the video is so random: meat butchering, dancing with dead pigs, winning a jar of pickled onions at a waltz competition. Hmmm.

As the fifth video ever play on MTV, Ph.D officially set the bar for absurdist music videos for the whole rest of the ’80s and, from what we remember,  there were some doozies.

6. “We Don’t Talk Anymore”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Cliff Richard[/lastfm]

This video has all the most commonly used effects in music videos of the early ’80s: clone silhouettes, fog machine, bad hair, lonely dude in a tight v-neck t-shirt singing in the middle of it all.

We wonder if Cliff Richard knew that, as the sixth video ever played on MTV, his video would be the grandfather video to all the rest of the pop ballad music videos ever made ever. EVER.

7. “Brass In Pocket”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Pretenders[/lastfm]

When the video for “Brass In Pocket” came out, we were obsessed with[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Chrissie Hynde[/lastfm].

With her dark, tough girl good looks, Hynde’s constant beehive fluffing and her sexy exchanges with Peter Farndon, the bassist in the Pretenders, made the video really “special.”

Unfortunately for Farndon, he didn’t live past his own 30th birthday; Farndon died of a heroin overdose in a bathtub in 1983.

8. “Time Heals”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Todd Rundgren[/lastfm]

In a sort of ironic play on artistic mediums, all throughout MTV’s eighth video, “Time Heals,” Todd Rundgren becomes a part of actual abstract and surrealist paintings.

Maybe as a metaphorical way of saying that everything in life is surreal, including being able to see your favorite musician sing and dance in your living room thanks to tiny television pixels?


9. “Take It On The Run”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]REO Speedwagon[/lastfm]

MTV wasn’t just a great idea in general, it was an amazing way of bringing live concerts to the people.

The ninth video to ever play on MTV, REO Speedwagon’s “Take It On The Run” shows up-close-and-personal just what stellar musicians everyone in the group was.

And the sparkles.

Would you be able to see the sparkles on Gary Richrath’s shirt during his amazing guitar solo if you weren’t watching him up close on MTV? Probably not.

10. ” Rockin’ The Paradise”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Styx[/lastfm]

“Tonight’s the night we’ll make history,” is an understatement coming from the lips of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Dennis DeYoung[/lastfm], lead singer of Styx.

Their super theatrical video for the launch day of MTV came in at number ten.

  • What is your favorite classic video from MTV’s good old days? Let us know in the comments!
  1. Michael J Hoffman says:

    While watching the Pretenders video one cannot help but draw a parallel between a young Chrissy Hynde and Amy Winehouse. The video’s story arc and Ms Hynde’s waitress character look nearly mirror what would ultimately become the story of Ms Winehouse’s life and tragic and untimely death.

    That these songs are able to narrate recent events gives testimony to the timelessness of great music. Hopefully, too, it suspends some of our judgement and makes us realize, that, like the rest of us, maybe Ms Winehouse just wanted to feel “special”.

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