Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for August, 2006

24 hours of MTV

Posted by Jim Leonard on August 2, 2006

Well, there were a lot of repeats on the first day of MTV, but I guess that’s to be expected for the first day of any cable channel. (For a particularly heinous example, try the first week of the Sci-Fi channel — it was a handful of Paramount movies in heavy rotation, mostly “The Sword and the Sorcerer” and “Krull”.) And with all these repeats, two artists saw even more repeated airplay:

  • Elvis Costello
  • REO Speedwagon

Like The Pretenders, Elvis Costello’s music holds up very well after 25 years, also sounding somewhat timeless. REO Speedwagon’s music, OTOH, is almost completely forgettable. It took me around 3 viewings of “Ride The Storm Out” before I realized I’d already seen it.

Was watching all 24 hours worth it? No. It would have been worth it if it were really the first real 24 hours, VJs, commercials, and all. But it was cool to see the video for The Ramones’ “Rock And Roll High School”, which features Johnny Ramone in drag. 1981 was the height of the arcade coin-op craze, so I logged two instances of Space Invaders (The Buggles’ “A Plastic World” and something else I can’t remember) and also Super Road Champions (Nazareth ‘s “Holiday”). And Genesis’ “Turn It On” sounds better with each listen (the video, not the studio version — the video version is slightly faster and lengthier).

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12 hours

Posted by Jim Leonard on August 1, 2006

So I’m halfway through the 24-hour MTV disappointment, and while there are a lot of artists with two, maybe three videos, there are two artists with no less than six different videos already:

  • Rod Stewart
  • The Pretenders

After so much heavy airplay, I think it’s interesting that the music of The Pretenders holds up very well after 25 years, sounding almost timeless. The music of Rod Stewart, on the other hand, instills violent behavior in small mammals.

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Ripoff

Posted by Jim Leonard on August 1, 2006

I’m not going to let it get me down, but oh my god what a complete disappointment the “first day of MTV programming” is on VH1 Classics. They’re showing the videos only!! The whole point of watching the first day of programming, I assumed, was so you could see the original VJs, see what non-commercial filler was like, see the “I want my MTV” promos… But no, VH1 Classics is showing the videos only. Yes, there are occaisional VJ clips, but they are all 15 seconds long or less, and have graphics and music overlaid onto them — useless. There are some retrospectives from artists, but they are presented in an incredibly annoying “I’m in a fake television with fake static noise and fatty scanlines” floating graphic.

Normally I don’t swear in print, but this situation warrants it: What the fuck? What is the point of advertising “the first day of MTV” when it clearly isn’t? What a major letdown. Maybe someday The Internet Archive will have the real programming.

Oh well, I still have fond memories of other early cable television properties to sustain me, like early Nickelodeon. The interstitial non-commercial filler was presented like a real nickelodeon, with most of the “talent” being a mime acting something out. I can remember Pinwheel, the only show on in the morning which lasted for 4 long hours and featured international cartoons, puppets, and other kid drivel. But my standout memories of early Nick are the ultimate example of low-budget cable television in 1980: Reading comic books aloud while the camera pans around the panels ala Ken Burns. I swear I am not making this up! Even better, the majority of the comics were, get ready for it… Swamp Thing! And this was a channel meant for children! (Hint to the comic clueless: Swamp Thing has never ever been appropriate for children.)

Ironically, I have those cheezy memories to thank for getting me into arguably Alan Moore’s best work: I picked up a Swamp Thing in 1985 out of curiousity, remembering the panels I’d seen, and it was Swamp Thing #35, where Moore really started picking up the story. I then collected all 16 Miraclemen, and of course Watchmen. So, thank you early low-budget cable television!

Update:  You can indeed see the first full hour online at music.mtv.com, but it’s a tiny flash DRM’d thing.  Geezus.

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