By Stephanie Monahan
In 1981, a time when radio was the most common way of accessing music, a couple of executives came up with a radical idea. They wanted to bring radio to television. Not only that, but they would bring it twenty four hours a day, seven days a week by creating a cable station dedicated to something most people had never even heard of: the music video.
In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum tell the complete story of MTV, from its beginnings as an underdog start-up designed to be the first cable station to cater to teenagers to its eventual rise as “the sun around which popular culture rotated.”
The thirty-year evolution is told in short quotations by those who lived it: MTV executives, video directors, choreographers, and the artists themselves. Duran Duran explains why they may have been the band that benefitted most from the invention of MTV, while 80s rock idol Billy Squier talks about the video that many think is responsible for destroying his career. The five original VJs discuss getting hired, thrust into the spotlight, and eventually fired in fulfillment of MTV’s mission to keep the network, and not any one individual, the star.
As MTV’s popularity grew, so did its ambition to become a “true television network.” It started in 1983 with the game show “Remote Control,” then continued with “House of Style,” “Yo! MTV Raps,” “Headbanger’s Ball,” and “120 Minutes,” with each show catering to the changing interests of its viewers. But in 1992, a new documentary series with no ties to music at all changed the station’s entire trajectory: “‘The Real World’ was the end of music as we know it on MTV.”
Organized in short chapters, the book is easy to digest, a fun trip into nostalgia by those old enough to remember a time when MTV did, in fact, play music videos, and a fascinating study of how MTV evolved with the times, not just reflecting, but many times creating, our popular culture.
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