(25-10-2011) MTV is so rooted in reality programming these days that it's kind of hard to imagine that it was once devoted to the music video. But that's how the channel got its beginnings and now there's a new book to prove it.
This year marks MTV's 30th anniversary and to celebrate the occasion, veteran music journalists Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum have written the authoritative oral history on MTV's first decade, which they consider to be the channel's golden era.
The book is titled I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution and for it, Marks and Tannenbaum conducted over 400 interviews with rock stars, VJs, music executives, video directors and more.
The book covers everything from the '80s New Wave revolution to Michael Jackson's monster THRILLER videos, from Madonna's sex appeal to the rise (and fall) of hair metal.
In an interview with Brian Braiker for USA Today, the authors were asked about the King of Pop's influence on MTV.
Q. Is there any one artist you can point to and say without that artist MTV may not have made it?
RT: Absolutely: Michael Jackson is the man who saved MTV. The irony is that for the first couple of years the network was on the air, they hardly ever played Black musicians. MTV executives would say they weren't discriminating against Black people; they were just programming rock.
Q. Like a radio station.
RT: Which is kind of a persuasive argument until you understand that a lot of what they were playing wasn't just rock 'n' roll. They were also playing ABC, which was a White R&B act. So, if you can play a White R&B act, why can't you play a Black R&B act? I think that's part of what made people angry about MTV. So Michael Jackson starts making videos for Thriller in 1982 and at that point MTV is probably three bad months away from being shut down.
CM: It also showed how mercenary MTV was, and I mean that as a compliment, by going from in January 1983 not really playing urban videos to November '83 not only playing it but saying "come back in 10 minutes, we're going to play Thriller again." Whatever worked, worked. They were happy to swallow their pride.
To read the entire interview, click here. I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution is released October 27, 2011.
Source: MJFC / usatoday.com