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Big 80s Backtrack: MTV hits the air 33 years ago this week


Besides big hair and acid washed jeans, the big 80s ushered in another concept.

That of “watching” music.

A weird concept, but one whose time had come. Now music was something you could actually see – and the medium that would bring it to you was MTV – or Music Television.

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The video, or short form movie, would replace the record; and thus out went (or supposedly went) the radio and the radio “star”; aka the deejay.

In its place would be the “VJ” or video jock.

At first, the videos were mainly rock oriented.
And then along came Michael Jackson and the “Thriller” album, with it’s plethora of hits like “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” to break the color barrier.

Frank Micelotta Getty Images Entertainment
Frank Micelotta Getty Images Entertainment

Thirty three years have passed – with many of the original veejays having gone to other pursuits – one of whom unfortunately had passed several years ago. And I could remember a couple of other similarly formatted channels in its wake – like U68 – a video channel without veejays (if I remember correctly) broadcasting over the air on a UHF station out of Newark; and Video Music Box – a hip-hop alternative show created by Ralph McDaniels – which still airs on public television, and celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.

But the question of whether or not video killed the radio star can be answered in one very terse “no!”

(I can tell you what killed the radio star, but you’d have to shoot me!)

However what may have put the video star on life support would be the likes of the Situation, Snooki, and Jwwow – just to name a few.

But as far as the halcyon days of the 80s are concerned – what video comes to mind when you think of “watching music” on MTV?

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