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List of First 25 Videos Played on MTV

Updated on September 11, 2017
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On August 1, 1981, MTV Music Television made its cable debut with one of its creators, John Lack, announcing “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” But what were some of the music videos that followed “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the first one shown on the network that day? Here’s a list of the initial 25 videos played on MTV, along with some trivia notes.

1. “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles

The song was released in 1979 by the electro-pop duo of Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn, better known as The Buggles. “Video” reached number one on the UK singles chart, taken from “The Age of Plastic” album. The pair briefly joined Yes in 1980, with Downes later going on to form the supergroup Asia and Horn, The Art of Noise. Horn became a successful record producer, overseeing music by ABC, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, and Simple Minds. He and Seal won the Record of the Year Grammy in 1994 for “Kiss From a Rose”.


Picture Sleeve for 1979 Japanese vinyl single of "Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles
Picture Sleeve for 1979 Japanese vinyl single of "Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles | Source

2. “You Better Run" by Pat Benatar

Benatar’s video remake of a 1966 Young Rascals hit followed The Buggles on the cablecast. It’s fitting that “You Better Run” was the second video played on MTV, as the song is the second track on Benatar’s second album, 1980’s “Crimes of Passion”. The tune was also featured on the soundtrack to the movie “Roadie” starring Meat Loaf. And yes, it was the second song on that album, too.

3. “She Won't Dance With Me" by Rod Stewart

Taken from 1980’s “Foolish Behaviour”, the follow-up to Stewart’s 1978 “Blondes Have More Fun” album. “She Won’t Dance With Me” wasn’t a disco track like his number one hit “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, but a driving rocker. The song was penned by Stewart and Jorge Ben.

4. “You Better You Bet" by The Who

From the 1981 "Face Dances" album came this energetic track, shot in black and white. Kenney Jones takes over for the late Keith Moon on drums, and John “Rabbit” Bundrick contributes piano to the song. "You Better You Bet" reached number 18 on the U.S. Billboard singles chart and number 9 on the UK Top 40.

5. “"Little Suzi's on the Up" by Ph. D.

Simon Phillips, Tony Hymas, and Jim Diamond made up the trio Ph. D. (the group’s name taken from the first letter of their last names). This synth pop track was later recorded by hard rock band Tesla. The video features a ballroom dancing competition, shades of “Dancing With The Stars” and “Strictly Come Dancing” 24 years later. Before forming Ph. D., Hymas and Phillips were members of the Jeff Beck Group in the late 1970’s. Ironically, Phillips replaced Kenney Jones as The Who’s drummer during their 1989 reunion tour of North America and England. Diamond would have a UK number one hit single in 1984 with “I Should Have Known Better”.


6. "We Don't Talk Anymore" by Cliff Richard

A UK number one hit in July 1979 and a Top 10 U.S. single in January 1980 for the British pop music legend born Harry Rodger Webb in Lucknow, India. The song was found on the album “Rock ‘n’ Roll Juvenile”, retitled “We Don’t Talk Anymore” in the U.S. The video was directed by Brian Grant, who also directed Ph. D.’s “Little Suzi’s on the Up” promo. And no, this isn’t the song with the same title that Charlie Puth released in 2016.

7. “Brass in Pocket" by The Pretenders

Written by Chrissie Hynde and the group’s guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, “Brass in Pocket” was the first UK number one hit of the 1980s. It reached number 14 in the U.S. Although Hynde didn’t consider the song a feminist anthem, in 2016 she told Classic Rock magazine’s James McNair she would have changed the ending of the video for her waitress character. “My idea was that the band would show up on motorbikes,” she told McNair. “I’d cast off my apron and we’d all ride off into the sunset.” Instead the group shows up with their girlfriends in a pink Cadillac, with Hynde’s character trying to get their attention with no success. By the way, “brass” is a northern English expression for money.

8. “Time Heals" by Todd Rundgren

By the time of MTV’s launch in 1981, Todd Rundgren had developed a keen interest in rock video. Two years earlier, he began working on video projects at the new Utopia Video Studios in Woodstock, New York. He produced and directed this video.”Time Heals” made it to number 18 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. In 1983, the promo was part of a three song Video 45 VHS tape titled "Videosyncracy", made up of "Heals", "Hideaway" and "Can We Still Be Friends?"

9. “Take It on the Run” by REO Speedwagon

Technical difficulties meant just 12 seconds or so of this video was played. The group's “Keep On Loving You” would follow as the 17th promo played. The group's lead singer Kevin Cronin and guitarist Gary Richrath appeared before "Take It on the Run" aired in a brief spot to promote an REO concert that would be shown on MTV on August 8th. In 1981, REO’s popularity was at its peak with the “Hi Infidelity” album, so a cablecast concert from the group made sense. By the way, the band got its name from drummer Neal Doughty after a high-speed truck he learned about in a History of Transportation class at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

10. “Rockin’ the Paradise” by Styx

Two videos in a row were played from bands that got their start in Illinois, REO Speedwagon and Styx. “Rockin' the Paradise” was a track from Styx’s 10th album, “Paradise Theatre”. The 1981 release was a concept album tying the opening and eventual abandonment of Chicago’s Paradise Theatre with the state of America in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Like REO’s “Hi Infidelity”, “Paradise Theatre” would top the U.S.album chart.

The next 25 music videos played:

11. "When Things Go Wrong" by Robin Lane and the Chartbusters

12. "History Never Repeats" by Split Enz

13. “Hold On Loosely” by 38 Special

14. “Just Between You and Me” by April Wine

15. “Sailing” by Rod Stewart

16. “Iron Maiden” by Iron Maiden

17. “Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon

18. “Bluer Than Blue” by Michael Johnson

19. “Message of Love” by The Pretenders

20. “Mr. Briefcase” by Lee Ritenour

21. “Double Life” by The Cars

22. “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins

23. “Looking for Clues” by Robert Palmer

24. “Too Late” by Shoes

25. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Other events taking place in August 1981:

 
 
August 6th
Argentine ex-president Isabel Peron freed
August 9th
Larry Nelson wins PGA championship
August 12th
IBM introduces its first Personal Computer
August 25th
Voyager 2 spacecraft arrives at Saturn
August 27th
Divers begin to recover safe found aboard sunken Italian liner Andrea Doria

© 2017 Marshall Fish

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