Two important things happened on August 1, 1981, my parents got married and Robert W. Pittman created MTV, a channel dedicated to playing music videos 24/7. It had never been done, so the producers behind MTV were as equally unsure as artist/bands were of the concept of a music video. In this intriguing memoir, appropriately named, “I Want My MTV“, the authors Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum sit down and have in depth conversations with practically everyone who had a hand in making MTV what it was, VJs, directors, video extras and the artists themselves. In sharing these one on one conversations, the reader gets a behind the scenes glimpse into the creation of music videos.
On August 1st, they kicked off MTV by airing the video, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. It was a message to everyone to announce that MTV was onto something big, even on day one. No one knew what a 3 minute music video should look like, they definitely didn’t know how much to spend on production, essentially, they knew nothing. At first, many artists and bands rejected the idea of making videos, however, they quickly learned that music videos put you on the map, in a sense they could make or break your career. It gave you exposure to a wider audience and it gave artists the opportunity to express themselves not only in their music, but by portraying a persona through wardrobe choices (i.e. Cyndi Lauper) and by creating a storyboard concept that showed originality. People quickly learned that MTV was going to be a game changer in the music industry and they were forced to jump on board, whether they liked it or not.
When I first picked this book up at the library, I was instantly intimidated, because it was the size of Webster’s dictionary AKA 608 pages. But it’s size quickly dissipated when I began reading, simply based on the fact that it was filled with celebrity insider information and if your a longtime follower of this blog, you’ll know that I do like my insider’s scoop. For example, I didn’t know that Run DMC was hesitant to join forces with Aerosmith, because they never thought it would showcase their whole rap vibe. And of course chapters are dedicated to Michael Jackson and his rise to fame, as well as Madonna and Nirvana. It’s filled with juicy insider knowledge that will intrigue any pop culture/music fan.
When MTV began airing the reality show ‘The Real World’, it gained a worldwide audience, but it changed the dynamic of MTV as a whole. It was never just about music videos anymore and this change is discussed in great detail. Guitarist, John Sykes is quoted in the book as saying:
If you look at MTV recently, they were belly up, until Snooki saved the network.
… and that’s just the way it is today. It’s a sad reality that we no longer have to watch a full two hours of a countdown to see your favorite singers new music video. After you’ve typed youtube.com into your browser, you have everything they’ve ever created at your fingertips.
Needless to say, music videos today are a form of expression and they never would have come to be if MTV hadn’t created an entire network dedicated to airing them. You’re going to love all 608 pages of “I Want My MTV” because it’s like being handed an VIP access pass into a network that changed the dynamic of music.