The Ballad of MTV

by Chris McGinty

I’m just going to say it. I watch a lot of music videos on You Tube. I still love music videos. I do wonder what happened sometimes though. There is this station called MTV and that’s what they used to play all the time; music videos. I used to spend hours with that station on. After school at the babysitters, I would watch for hours in 1983. Then when we got it on our TV, I convinced my parents I was old enough to go home after school by myself, and I’d watch it for hours then too. By 1989 when much of the music on the radio wasn’t worth listening to, I was still on MTV for hours. When Miguel and I should have been writing our own songs in the early 90’s we sat up and watched videos for hours. I loved music videos, and I still do.

I don’t know when exactly but MTV slowly started to not show videos, and eventually stopped seemingly altogether. I don’t know. The more I’d tune in and not find videos the less I’d tune in. In 2001 I spent a lot of time at night watching VH-1, which still showed videos. I say all this just to show that I’ve never grown tired of the medium.

I’m convinced that if MTV was still a 24 hour video station that I would still be watching it for hours each day. My habits might be a little different. Rather than watching normal hours, I’d probably utilize the DVR that I pay for half of, and record 120 Minutes and the other specialized shows like that, and watch them when I have time.

So I guess this poses a really odd question. Was MTV better back then? Was TV in general better back then? Do they not make them like they used to?

The thing is I’m a fan of a lot of outdated things. I love some of the old time radio shows. Abbot and Costello were funny. Jack Benny was amazingly funny. And you can’t go wrong with anything Groucho Marx hosted. I can have just as good of a time playing games on my Atari 2600 as I do any of the modern systems; like the Commodore 64. And things more recent than even that.

It’s odd that things are always changing, but at the same time it’s probably a good thing. I can complain that MTV is a bunch of reality shows now (is it? I haven’t been paying attention) but at the same time you can find almost anything on You Tube. Sure the video game companies are focusing on 3D games and multi-player, but you can still get Atari like games on your cell phone and through game sites. We may not have the old time radio shows, but we can pop in CDs of them, and we have audio books now.

I remember hearing a bit on Tom Lykis once, and I don’t listen to him, but it was concerning oldies, so I decided to listen. This was in 2001, and he was complaining about oldies stations. He didn’t want to hear songs that he’s heard 1,000 times already. I thought this was odd. I listen to a lot of new music, but I still find the time to go back and hear the stuff I’ve heard 1,000 times before. (I think he said 1,000, and I realize that that would take a lot of listening, like once a day for almost three years, but I’m paraphrasing and if I have it wrong I apologize, but the idea is there.) I also thought it was odd that the theme song to his show at the time was “Enter Sandman” by (can I type the name Metallica? Or will they sue me?) which at that time was ten years old, and I know I’ve heard it at least a few hundred times.

I guess it’s sort of reverse nostalgia, and if he means it then I guess maybe one could say he lives in the moment. But do you really take yourself out of the moment to look at the past? I listen to Jack Benny with the perspective of what’s followed. I play Yar’s Revenge and you can’t say I’m not in the moment. I watch some of the same music videos from when I used to watch for hours, but I do it on my computer on the internet.

I’ve always hoped to be the kind of person to never shut out a whole creative medium, or genre within a medium, but the fact is that there is only so much time. I can’t write if I’m reading. I can’t make TV if I’m watching it. I can’t write music if I’m listening to it. Sometimes I have to step away from being the audience to be the player. And it’s only then do I make the decision not to worry so much about seeing the new Iron Man movie. I didn’t like the first one anyway. He was running around acting like he was Sherlock Holmes… that might have been Sherlock Holmes. Nevermind.

It’s like print media. There is a whole group of folks decrying the fact that it’s dying, and don’t get me wrong; I like holding a book or a magazine in my hands and reading, particularly when there is no computer available, but I also don’t mind reading things on the computer when there is one available.

We’re such a weird culture. Always on this fine line between “newer and better” and “back in my day.” You want to know why I’m not so much socially conservative? Because things change, and conservatism borders on not allowing or accepting that they do. Not all change is good (MTV playing reality shows rather than music videos) but it will happen. And some change is good. We adapt.

The guard I relieve at my post is 20 or 30 or so years older than me, and he has a cell phone, but he says he doesn’t fully understand how it works. I don’t know how he can sit out here for six hours a night and not know. I’m very familiar with my phone’s functions because I had to use them so often at guard posts.

Anyway, these were just a few thoughts I’ve had recently for a number of different reasons: things from conversation, things heard on the radio, things heard on TV, and so forth. I’m pretty happy entertainment wise, but just in a different way than 20 years ago, and in some cases, the same way.

4 thoughts on “The Ballad of MTV

  1. Aren't we getting philosophical??? Nice piece of writing… I gave it 2 stars. I keed! What happened to MTV is NOT change for the better. It's not like the music videos evolved into five second blurbs and MTV changed to reflect that… they dumped their format for the money makers. Hello.. it's called MTV Music Television!!! I used to think VH1 was my happy place since they didn't abandon videos… not for long. They did the same thing! Reality TV is the hearld of the end of all things creative!!!

  2. Nice article, that will be $25,000 for using my client's name. Thank you, Dan Cheetum, senior partner of Dewey Cheetum & Howe – Law Firm.

  3. Were you high when you wrote this? Just kidding. I only ask cause you don't drink at least not much. As you claim. You don't get drunk is what you told me and I'm not accusing you of drinking. I don't get high but sound like the way you wrote when I'm drunk; is why I ask.

    MTV and VH1 does still have channels that are only music videos. Like MTV Jams, VH1 Soul Playa, etc. There is also a channel that plays nothing but movie soundtrack videos but I don't know if its owned by the same peeps that brought us MTV/VH1.

    Also one of the channels plays old metal concerts and bios (in addition to videos and shows like "I Love the 80's" in the evenings, but I can't remember which channel. I've seen the story of Judas Priest about 4 times now and Motley Cure, I mean Crue twice now. (I know you don't like the lead singer's voice. I never really did either) but I like their music. Well I'm going home to eat a cure-red ham sandwich. Yeah, I'm even leaving while its still light out. Imagine that. Speaking of Imagine, they played the story of John Lennon after he left the Slug-Bugs.Excuse me The Beetles. I've seen that several times. Very good.And incase anyone cared, Imagine is one of the top 10 songs EVER and I feel Mr. Lennon's best..

    Peace In!!

Leave a Reply