MTV and the introduction of cable to the masses is perhaps best summed up in a brilliant 1991 episode of the Simpsons, "Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment," for those who weren't there to experience the hysteric excitement - or the hefty sum of money - of the TV revolution. Cable TV was, and still is, the equivalent to Wi-Fi and surfing the web.
But, despite MTV's reliance on reality television rather than the music videos that made it famous, the channel should still be celebrated for what it once was. MTV is a lot like Madonna, one of many pop stars to whom the network provided a platform, because despite both pandering to young audiences, it doesn't take away from their groundbreaking influence. "Bitch, I'm Madonna" is about the same as "Bitch, I'm MTV."
Below is a brief timeline outlining the rise and inevitable fall of Music Television.
"Video Killed the Radio Star"
"Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll."
The short sentence set fire to pop culture in 1981. In the minute the screen went black at 12:01 p.m., MTV was born and American culture would be blown to smithereens. After the dust settled, the music biz would never be the same. "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles was the first music video played, and every word of the new wave one-hit wonder came true, like a pop Nostradamus.
And this is the channel that gave us Jersey Shore and Teen Mom.
"I Want My MTV"
Shit got real in 1982 when the first crop of famous rock stars, including Pete Townsend, Stevie Nicks, Mick Jagger, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, The Police and David Bowie made ads exclaiming "I Want My MTV" in front of garish, '80s-tastic backgrounds and animated doodles.
"For no mere mortal can resist/The evil of the thriller"
In 1983, Micheal Jackson's “Thriller" gave birth to cinematic music videos with a 14-minute pop song meets horror movie. Without MJ, pretentious and overwrought "visuals" wouldn't make the mainstream. I'm looking at you, Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga.
The "Super Bowl for youth"
Still one of MTV's saving graces, the 1984 Video Music Awards started with controversy, way before the "Imma let you finish" heard around the world, starting the Kanye-Taylor feud. In a conservative America, the image of a wedding gown clad Madonna singing "Like a Virgin" while provocatively rolling around a stark stage to expose her garters and underwear on national television, was shocking. Less memorial performances from Huey Lewis and the News, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner and ZZ Top finished off the inaugural show. In addition, 1992 saw the premier of the MTV Movie Awards.
Spring Break Forever
Even though MTV Spring Break didn't reach it's peak until the '90s, 1986 saw the start of it all with live coverage from Daytona Beach, Florida. Throughout it's run over the decades, MTV Spring Break saw stars such as Destiny's Child, No Doubt and Paris Hilton get wet 'n' wild.
Beavis and Butt-Head's Facebook page
Beavis and Butt-Head
Intimate, Raw and Unplugged
While Nirvana's appearance in 1994 made headlines and won awards, MTV Unplugged debuted in 1989 with not-Nirvana artist Squeeze, Syd Straw and Elliot Easton. Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, LL Cool J and Alanis Morissette would later have appearances during the show's run. Still, nothing can top one of Kurt Cobain's last taped performances and his chilling cover of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." Ever.
Reality killed the video star
Some would say that 1992 saw the start to MTV's fall. The premiere of The Real World and it's spin-off Road Rules brought reality TV into the mainstream, good or bad, and although the still ongoing series documented young people and current issues, it can be to blame for guilty pleasures The Real Housewives series on Bravo and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Beavis and Butt-Head and Daria
Semi-endearing but always hysterical assholes Beavis and Butt-Head were introduced to the hearts of the MTV Generation in 1993. The catchphrases were timeless ("I am the Great Cornholio," "Cool," "This sucks"), the animation was crude and the humor was sophomoric, but it, in my opinion, was the best cartoon on TV next to the Simpsons. Creator Mike Judge went on to create King of Hill, but B&BH started it all. Popular MTV spin-off Daria was the anti Beavis and Butt-Head, as the monotone heroine was the voice to a generation of disenchanted and angsty girls.
The New Millennium
The 2000s marks the final stages of music decay to bring forth MTV's current dictator - reality television. Although the bulk of new programming is culturally significant, there's no relation to the musical foundations. Wildly popular hits such as Jackass, MTV Cribs, The Osbournes, Pimp My Ride, Punk'd, True Life, The Hills and it's spin-offs along with other hit TV shows, sparked a reality Renaissance. It was a golden age that will never happen again, even with newer attempts to recreate the thunder with Teen Mom, Jersey Shore and Catfished.
Because of an over-saturation of music media, like YouTube, Spotify and iPods, MTV didn't sellout, they adapted. And to celebrate the 35 years of MTV and the decades of entertainment it's gifted to us, Brass Monkey is throwing a dance party in the channel's honor next month.