This year marks the 30th anniversary for MTV, the network that really introduced the concept of 24/7 music programming to the masses. Since 1984, they've honored both innovative videos and the innovators behind them with the annual Video Music Awards ceremonies. With the latest installment of the VMAs happening tonight, it's hard to believe that the Moonman himself is close to celebrating his own 30th birthday.
There have been so many memorable moments through the years – just think about David Lee Roth's disastrous “reunion” with his former Van Halen bandmates in 1996, to name one. And in the '80s and '90s, when rock was king, there were some performances and one-off collaborations that were totally awesome. Barring an unexpected hostile takeover of the network, we're not expecting a lot of “rock” during tonight's ceremonies, so we thought we'd share a few of our past favorites.
'Rock And Roll All Nite'Kiss (1996)
In 1996, the dreams of the Kiss Army really came true when Gene, Peter, Ace and Paul announced that they were putting the makeup back on and heading out on a reunion tour. You wanted the best, and you got the best. That means when Kiss performed at the VMAs, they made their appearance a massive spectacle instead of a mere performance with reduced production, playing a special set underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The reunion tour found Kiss playing some of the best shows of their career and that's certainly captured here.
'Heartbreak Hotel'Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin from Guns N' Roses with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (1989)
At the 1989 VMAs, Axl Rose brought hard rock together with the old school, performing 'Free Fallin'' with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. But the somewhat strange rock 'n' roll pairing had something even better up its collective sleeve. Axl and his GNR guitar brother Izzy Stradlin joined up with Petty and the Heartbreakers to bust out a cover of 'Heartbreak Hotel.' Rose embraced his inner Jerry Lee Lewis for a psychotically manic lead vocal that must have had Elvis doing a double take (or three) from six feet under.
'Rockin' In The Free World'Neil Young and Pearl Jam (1993)
Having first crossed paths professionally at the 30th anniversary tribute to Bob Dylan in 1992, Pearl Jam and Neil Young came together in one of rock's most incredible shotgun weddings. They steamrolled through Young's 'Rockin' In the Free World' in a performance that was unquestionably the highlight of the 1993 VMAs. It was the beginning of a friendship that continues to this day. Through the years, Pearl Jam have played many of Young's Bridge Benefit concerts and even backed Young in a series of 1995 concerts. It's a true dream for fans of rock music.
Nirvana's 1992 appearance at the VMAs came with a good amount of controversy. Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose brought beef to the ceremony and challenged Kurt Cobain to a fight before the show. Meanwhile, the band had been at war with the network, who wanted them to perform 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.' Creatively, the band was more interested in performing new material. In the end, Nirvana compromised and agreed to perform 'Lithium.'
But on the night, Cobain issued his own musical middle finger to MTV, inserting a small part of the then-new 'Rape Me' into the beginning of their performance, pausing briefly to acknowledge the moment before finally going into 'Lithium' as discussed. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic left blood on the stage that night, choosing to deal with frustration over equipment troubles by hurling his bass into the air. But it was an ill-fated launch, with the bass quickly returning to Earth and connecting with his forehead.
'Wanted Dead Or Alive'Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora (1989)
When Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora came strolling out to perform a couple of Bon Jovi hits acoustically, they probably had no idea that they would be starting a trend. Although their September performance can't be directly credited as the prime influence for MTV's 'Unplugged' program, since the show debuted in November of that same year, it certainly gave the future popularity of the show a big push in the right direction. This performance of 'Wanted Dead or Alive' remains as one of the most classic well-remembered moments seen on the network.