Top Five Videos that Made MTV Amazing

By Allison Duggan, Label Manager *

On Saturday, August 1, 1981, at 12:01 am Eastern Time, MTV launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by John Lack and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (which took place earlier that year) and of the launch of Apollo 11. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching rock tune composed by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over the American flag changed to show MTV’s logo changing into various textures and designs. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a concept:



Even in MTV’s youth, the channel was instrumental in shaping the musical industry. Before MTV, what the radio stations were playing almost completely dictated which music was popular. Shortly after MTV’s launch, though, records stores began selling large amounts of music that were not on the radio at all, including songs from artists such as Bow Wow Wow, Men at Work, and Human League. MTV is also credited with helping bring about the Second British Invasion by featuring music videos from British artists who were, at the time, producing more music videos than their American counterparts.


In instance since then, MTV has been at the spearhead of youth and music culture. The channel introduced the Video Music Awards (VMAs), helped black artists break

through the “color barrier” that had been holding many of them back, and has hosted music events including performances on New Year’s Eve at Times Square and the All Access Week music festival (Logomyway).

The early years of MTV were about:Music Television.  In the 90’s with the creation of reality shows such as “The Real World”, music videos went into a decline of viewership. Adding to that, the 2000’s introduced digital components to show music videos, ever-declining our viewership of new video releases on the television.281x211.jpg

To commemorate the days of music television, here are my top 5 essential videos that brings me back (well maybe my folks) to the golden age of music videos:

  1. “Video Killed the Radio Star”, Buggles, 1979

Although produced and released in 1979, this was the first video to air on MTV, something perfect to fit into the image of creating a new medium for enjoying music

2. “Say Say Say”, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, 1983

This is one of the first videos to debut at the beginning of MTV’s prime to star people of color.  Artists such as David Bowie and Rick James advocated for more of a diverse representation of artists. Luckily, Paul McCartney jumped on board with the brilliant Michael Jackson, which created some buzz before the famous “Thriller” Video.

3. “Sledgehammer”, Peter Gabriel, 1986

Needless to say this video is artistic, bizarre, and a true work of art. This is one of the first videos that Gabriel made after leaving Genesis.  He was able to top the charts, and still focus on his crazy artwork.

4. “You Better Run”, Pat Benatar, 1981

She never ceases to stop rocking, and she was the first female to be displayed on MTV. Yes, Pat, we better run, because you are the badass who paved ways for females to be displayed on MTV.

5. “Rhythm Nation”, Janet Jackson

Another Jackson? Oh, both Michael and Janet deserve a standing O for defining music videos for America in the 1980s.  This video not only brings sass, but brings out the essence of dance, storytelling, important messages, and straight up amazing tunage.

Sorry folks, Dire Straights didn’t make the cut, but they did define use of three-dimensional animation into their music video with “Money for Nothing”, making them the honorable mentionables:

What’s your favorite MTV video? Comment below!

*Adapted from The History of the MTV Logo.
Images via MTV


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