Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Strange and Twisted Legacy of Martha Quinn

Today is the 26th anniversary of the launch of MTV, and while it's fashionable to deride the station today and say it was a lot better when it used to play videos (I wouldn't know; it has literally been years since I have watched MTV for more than a few seconds), it was pretty cruddy in a lot of ways back then. It was wall-to-wall videos from the outset, or at least as much of the outset as I saw from when we got cable at the end of 1981, except for a Saturday night concert (which seemed to be Rush most of the time) and a Sunday night movie (which was pretty much always Having a Wild Weekend with the Dave Clark Five).

But there weren't that many videos to choose from, since acts were not yet in the habit of making a video for every single they released, so you'd get some godawful bands. Vandenberg, Aldo Nova, Triumph. They'd play "Stone Cold" by Rainbow at least once an hour. It got so that you'd welcome a little Flock of Seagulls. And thank God for Split Enz.

One video in particular that I remember (I can't find it on YouTube) was from a band called the Goods, which consisted of three guys in oversized cardigan sweaters playing a dreary little pop tune called "Heart of Hearts," literally in somebody's basement. I think it was one camera, one take, no cuts. I'm sure when those guys tell their grandkids that they were once on MTV, no one believes them.

In retrospect, there were a lot more videos that MTV never really took advantage of. I recently saw a clip for the Stones' "Far Away Eyes" that would have been the best thing on MTV in 1982, but it never aired when I was watching. I don't know why that is.

Anyway, we didn't know any better. It was music, at least as good as what was on the radio in semirural Louisiana, and it was cool. Not even endless airings of Steve Perry's "Oh Sherrie" could dim that. Salut, Martha!


MJN said...

Perhaps you remember a precursor to MTV known as Video Concert Hall, which aired on the Satellite Program Network (SPN). They seemed to have a rotation of about a dozen videos, by such performers as Nazareth, Split Enz, and Gary Numan. I remember seeing Rockie Robbins "great new hit" countless times, although the title of that "hit" eludes me. It seems so primitive now, but it was spellbinding back then.

T. Nawrocki said...

I think that's where I first encountered Moon Mullins' version of "Bad Case of Loving You," over and over again. Two other things I remember about the Satellite Programming Network:

1) They showed silent movies, which was not something one was used to seeing on broadcast TV, although I'm sure the words "public domain" had a lot to do with it.

2) Their brief existence, I'm sure, is why ESPN is not called SPN.