When it first started broadcasting in 1981, MTV was cutting-edge stuff. Nearly 40 years later, the channel’s associated less with non-stop music videos than it is with reality series like Teen Mom, The Real World, and Jersey Shore. Looking back at the first few hours of its broadcast, newly remastered and available to stream through Archive.org, offers a reminder, though, that, at one point, MTV didn’t just play a ton of music, but was at the forefront of technology, too.
It all starts off with a space shuttle launch and MTV’s now-iconic astronaut mascot claiming the moon in the name of music television before the network’s very first video—The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”—plays. Though recordings of this footage have surfaced online before, the Archive.org upload uses a cleaned-up DVD source and adds supplementary notes about the broadcast. It also includes streams and downloads of two alternate versions that consist of only the music videos or hosted and commercial segments aired during the multi-hour segment.
It’s worth watching the original broadcast mix for the full effect, though. As the clip continues, we get to listen to (and watch!) Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, The Who, and The Pretenders. We also see the term “VJ” forced into the 20th century lexicon, old commercials for school supplies and Mountain Dew, and a generously-coiffed Mark Goodman advertising the benefits of listening to MTV in stereo.
That last point is one that Goodman leans into throughout the debut broadcast. We hear over and over again how advanced and innovative MTV is—that you need to be listening to the Styx and REO Speedwagon videos it’s playing in glorious stereo sound. The channel’s described as “the best of TV combined with the best of radio” by Goodman, who is maybe getting a bit ahead of himself considering that, in 1981, the network didn’t even have Next or Date My Mom on its slate yet.
Watch the first few hours of remastered MTV for yourself by heading over to Archive.org.
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