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Music Television Saved My Life!

It was when I was in seventh grade that I first heard about a miraculous invention called “cable television.” In those early days everyone just watched television for free. We caught it right out of the air with an antenna that was attached to our television. It was like a magic that I didn’t understand, but accepted as part of normal, everyday life. The television we had in my house was tiny by today’s standards. Smaller, even, than my current computer monitor. We had a 13-inch black and white television that you actually had to put your hands on to change the channel or volume. Oh, it’s true! You had to stand on your feet and walk over to it. But this was not likely to happen, however. Since there were only a few TV channels in existence, you pretty much knew you weren’t missing anything on the other four stations. Evening television viewing consisted of watching channel seven for an hour and a half and then going to bed.

Now, back to seventh grade. I just started junior high school and was feeling all mixed up about my emotions. Wearing an alligator sweater and Jordache jeans with a Lady Diana haircut and a hair comb in my back pocket put a lot of stress on my psyche. It was not normal or natural for me to do any of these things. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be, so I just did what the other kids in my home room were doing. It wasn’t in any way enjoyable for me to comb my hair and feather it every five minutes, but I did what I had to do to get by. Thankfully, I never went so far as to use a curling iron and hair spray on my hair to maintain its feathered and curled look. That was for the seriously troubled youth:

One day, my best friend told me about something called “cable television.” I thought it must be something from Europe, because it sounded as foreign to me as the metric system. She went on to talk about a show called “Fraggle Rock.” I was immediately incensed, because this was obviously a knock off of my  beloved “The Muppet Show.” I would not tolerate cheap imitations, and remained unconvinced that cable television was in any way going to change my life. However, one day I went over to her house and her television was on. Like a drug dealer trying to hook me on crack, she immediately put a channel on called MTV* (*Music Television, as it was known at the time), so I could get a feeling for this “cable television” that she constantly raved about.  There before me, I saw a band called “The Police” singing a song called “Roxanne.” I stood there mesmerized and wondered what else was out there in the world that I didn’t know anything about.

After seeing that one video, my whole perspective about my place in the world changed. I realized people in other countries were singing songs in musical styles that I knew nothing about. I started focusing more  of my attention on listening to music than I did on fashion, or what the other kids in my home room were doing, wearing or combing. In a way, cable television did change my world. I started identifying more with the culture of music than the dull regular people I knew in my everyday life. I sought out others who were also “into” the music scene and my fashion followed suit. No more Jordache jeans, alligator sweaters, Lady Diana hairstyles or hair combing for me forever. Well, I do still try to at least comb my hair as needed on a fairly regular schedule.

From that point on I became interested in bands such as Blondie, Madness and the B52’s. I became sort of crazed to see these bands singing their songs in videos. I craved that feeling of visual  music. And seeing the musicians in action. They looked a lot cooler and more interesting than the kids in my home room, that’s for sure. I started spending more and more time at my friend’s television. I was hooked. When I couldn’t be there, at her MTV, I was at the record store in the poster section. Or flipping through racks of record albums. Realizing each band had videos was almost too exciting to think about.

In all this new music video frenzy, we still didn’t have cable television at my house. I accepted it as part of life. On a good night, if the wind was right, and there was enough foil on the antenna, and it was after 11 p.m., and it was a Friday, I could pull in a station that broadcasted a show called “Friday Night Videos.” That was seriously like a drug to me. Especially when they had good bands on. But at the time I wasn’t picky. Any music video would do.

Sadly, the MTV of today is completely unrecognizable. No more is it a gateway to the music of the world. Shows like “120 Minutes,” hosted by Matt Pinfield, which introduced me to some phenomenal bands, are a thing of the past. I guess advancing your world-view and with art and intelligence is something from another era. Now on MTV you’ll see “Jersey Shore” marathons, and teenagers becoming celebrities for having babies at sixteen. Ever since the first “The Real World” in the early nineties MTV has gone from cultural icon to an absolute sell-out to commercialism. The “M” in today’s MTV can only stand for “mind numbing.” They play anything but music. I think for a while there they even had an MTV 2, which is where you could find music videos if that was your thing. I don’t even know if that is still in existence anymore. Maybe they’ve moved the videos off to an MTV 3 by now.

In closing to my tirade, here is one of the great videos of the early era of Music Television. It is by a band called M singing the classic tune “Pop Muzik.”  The lyrics make no sense, but the originality and excitement is invigorating in this day of dull, talentless, copycat music stars:

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About Fortyteen Candles

oh, let's see...distinguished Gen-X'er, frustrated writer, suffocating in the confines of a small town that thinks it's a big deal. A few years ago we were home to the second largest Walmart in our state, don-cha-know. Oh, and I was voted "Most New Wave" in my senior high school year book. Actually, that last sentence alone is really everything you need to know about me.

36 responses »

  1. 80’s music videos! Awesome! Great post. -v

    Reply
  2. Ha. I love it. My grandmother’s behemoth console television/stereo record player pulled in cable & MTV when I was 11. I remember countless hours of fascination and discovery. Amidst all the smaltzy crap piping out of top 40 stations, was this incredible music that spoke directly to me; new wave, hair bands, you name it, I was hooked.

    I would while away my post middle school hours singing along as my grandparents sat on the couch yelling ‘go to church’ at the TV set. Priceless.

    MTV totally informed my burgeoning alternative side. No more 7 layered preppy ensembles that my single mom couldn’t afford anyway. N.B. This number was arrived at from an actual accounting of what a girl in my class was wearing. I’m guessing there must have been a few dickies involved because did not, as one would suspect, look like a large stuffed preppy tube.

    Reply
  3. This post took me back. I spent many high school hours watching videos. Well, not while I was actually IN school, but you know what I mean. 🙂

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  4. You know what they say. Video killed the radio star. LIke you, I miss the MTV of old, but thankfully I can play Vj all day long on Youtube. Great Post

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  5. I love that song 🙂
    Not only did I have Jordache jeans, I had a Members Only jacket. I thought I was so cool.

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  6. As Sting himself sang “I want my MTV.” Ah those were the days. Great post! 🙂

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  7. Well, I’m glad you loved it!! LOL!

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  8. Teresa Cleveland Wendel

    My bro started listening to the most amazing music, and I couldn’t figure out where he was finding it. Then he turned me on to FM radio which back then was kinda like the music underground. It rocked my world.

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    • Yeah, a lot of the alternative music I learnd about was through friends instead of radio stations. Although at the time we had a good station on AM that played The Clash, B52’s, and all the other amazing bands that were just part of the norm back then. Good thing your brother had good taste in music!

      Reply
  9. Police were one of my first concerts. Still love them.

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  10. Boom. I’ve nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Check out my blog and see what it means!

    Reply
  11. Great post! I remember when my older brother gave me his brand new Madonna cassette tape and I starting singing Like a Virgin… at four years old. Yeah, Mom wasn’t too happy with that one. Still, I had a great musical heritage handed down to me from my bro.

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  12. Wow, you just time warped me back to being in high school again (just like everyone else here, it seems!) I forgot all about Jordache jeans. And Sasson jeans. Remember those? My building didn’t get wired for cable for a while after MTV came out so I too had to make do with Friday Night Videos. And I’d camp out at the houses of friends who had MTV. The 80s were good times that way. Music and music videos are all so different now.

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  13. Calvin’s were where it was at. I had the Dorothy Hamill haircut. Ugh! MTV…now that was awesome!

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    • OH, yes. Calvins, Gloria Vanderbilt, Sassoon….yeesh! My first exposure to the materialistic mindset. Lacoste was enough to break the bank. I only owned two pair of Jordache. They were probably the only pants I wore!

      Reply
  14. There definitely was something about those videos. Like the bands or artists were the only ones who got me. I had two glorious months of MTV then my parents cancelled it when they thought it was rotting my brain. Fun stuff.

    Reply
  15. It’s interesting how so many of us witnessed the birth of music videos. Ah, The Police and Sting, my favorite band/musician of all time. That photo is priceless, by the way.

    Reply
  16. Yes, MTV changed so much… it was a great innovator back in the day. 😉

    Reply

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