If you immediately picture the light-up sidewalk squares when you hear Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, or picture Toni Basil cheerleading whenever Mickey comes on the radio, or ask yourself every once in a while, “My god! What have I done,” you are probably a member of the MTV Generation. What a great time it was! Music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz recently wrote an piece on the MTV documentary airing on A&E. Here’s my response!
From: Martha Quinn
Subject: MTV Documentary
I hope this email finds you safe and well.
Thank you for the kind words in your piece regarding the MTV documentary.
I’ve not seen the doc yet but you mention it’s the viewpoint from inside the belly of the beast. For the sequel I’d love to see a compendium of views looking at MTV from the outside, an exploration of the profound effect MTV had on an entire generation of fans.
Today when you see the MTV logo it takes no time at all for our brains to process what it represents. Like looking at a grilled cheese sandwich. One second. Boom. Got it. It’s hard to remember now, but in 1981 this was far from the case. MTV burst out of left-field like a meteor into an unsuspecting world. One summer night (August 1st to be specific, a night I will always remember) a fiery, mind-blowing, meteoric pop-culture disruptor blasted into our consciousness, changing the lives it touched forever.
You might have seen the (excellent) ZZ Top doc where Dusty Hill, Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard were calling each other the night they first saw MTV, asking each other “how long is this show going to be on??” No one could wrap their minds around what was in the world they were seeing. This extended to us working at MTV, we’d never seen anything like it before either. There were times when I Martha Quinn was late to my job working at MTV because I was home…watching MTV. One more video, just one more, just one more. The videos, the funky spray-painted logo, the unset we called a set, plus commercials with rockers?? Never, ever, ever witnessed before. The marriage of the 24-hour music radio format with television delivered an impact so massive it still reverberates today. I know first-hand how much MTV continues living in people’s hearts.
Listeners call in literally every day to my all-80s music radio station (iHeart 80s @ 103-7, KOSF in San Francisco) sharing what MTV meant to them. How they would dash home from school, turn on MTV and watch breathlessly for hours. Entire neighborhoods cramming into the basement of the one house on the block that had MTV. Kids who got jobs after school to help their parents pay for the cable. Stories of screwdrivers jammed into cable boxes to somehow receive MTV. Memories like these are Alive and Kicking. Fans have told me MTV was their solace while serving in the military, or enduring family struggles. Indie music fans have shared the isolation they felt until MTV blew into town showing them they were not alone, there was a tribe that existed for them in the world!
You’re so right nothing lasts forever (we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far) but wow what a miraculous We’re Not Gonna Take It moment in time. A shared experience that united a generation.
What do you say Bob, want to make the outside-looking-in documentary with me? We’ll call it I Got My MTV!
To read Bob’s entire analysis of A & E’s MTV documentary CLICK HERE!