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Revisiting MTV’s First Hour of Programming From 1981


MTV, the network that pioneered the concept of “music television,” debuted on Aug. 1, 1981. It’s a somewhat muted celebration these days, because the network hardly seems to play any actual music anymore. But almost as soon as it first launched, the channel changed the music world dramatically, and the effects are still being felt to this day. Here’s the classic first hour of MTV as it aired at 12:01AM ET on that historic August day.


MTV’s First Hour: Segment One



The now-famous space-launch commercial sets the stage for MTV’s first-ever video, the appropriately titled “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. But do you know what the second one was? Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run.”



MTV’s First Hour: Segment Two



We meet the first VJ, or video jockey, Mark Goodman, before some hysterically outdated commercials (where would an iPad fit into “The Bulk” binder, exactly?) and a classic-rock one-two punch of Rod Stewart and the Who shows up



MTV’s First Hour: Segment Three



REO Speedwagon promote their upcoming live concert special, PH.D. unveil a butcher shop-themed video, Cliff Richard sings his big hit and the Pretenders swoop in with the classic “Brass in Pocket.”



MTV’s First Hour: Segment Four



Todd Rundgren starts us off with “Time Heals,” and then Styx come in with their uptempo two-part mini-epic “Rockin’ the Paradise.”



MTV’s First Hour: Segment Five



Oh, look — the Atari 2600! That commercial, and a news item on the return of the Ramones are the highlights here, sandwiched between videos by Robin Lane and the Chartbusters and Split Enz.



MTV’s First Hour: Segment Six



.38 Special start it off right with a straight-ahead performance video for their radio staple “Hold On Loosely,'” then we get acquainted with April Wine and, finally, Rod Stewart pops up with another song (MTV didn’t have too many videos at the beginning).


Next: Top 20 David Bowie Videos

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