Saturday, August 1, 1981

MTV went on the air: August 1, 1981

Originally posted August 1, 2012.

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MTV, or Music Television, launched on cable television on August 1, 1981. While today the station has become known for a slew of reality-based programming targeted toward teens, the “M” in “MTV” truly stood for music in the beginning. The station became required viewing for teens wanting to be up on the latest videos and music news.

That first broadcast was only available to parts of New Jersey. The initial format consisted of crude promotional videos and concert footage with music similar to a Top 40 radio format. Thanks to a need for lots of content, the early years of MTV broke lots of new artists and made for fertile creative ground for pioneers of music video.

Here were the first 10 videos, along with the VJ (video jockey) chatter and commercials, as aired on MTV:

The Launch of MTV

1. Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star”

2. Pat Benatar “You Better Run”
3. Rod Stewart “She Won’t Dance with Me”

4. The Who “You Better You Bet”

5. Ph.D “Little Susie’s on the Up”
6. Cliff Richard “We Don’t Talk Anymore”

7. Pretenders “Brass in Pocket”
8. Todd Rundgren “Time Heals”
9. REO Speedwagon “Take It on the Run” (with original technical difficulties included)

10. Styx “Rockin’ the Paradise”
11. Robin Lane & the Chartbusters “When Things Go Wrong”

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