10 Things We Miss About Old School MTV3
By Annie Cooper
10 Things We Miss About Old School MTV
Oh, music-and-nightlife lovin’ kids of America, I feel your frustration.
It used to be that if you weren’t lucky enough to live near a major metropolis, you could tune in to a certain “music television” station for info on the current scene… but no longer. What was once the cable television lifeline between music and America’s youth – MTV, aka Music Television – is now a bunch of tacky “shows.” Watching teen mothers ruin their lives (and the lives of their kids) may be a fine way to spend an afternoon at your local Walmart, but it is no way to keep your finger on the pulse of the party.
Do not despair club-craving kids! With the 4-1-1 on the hottest D.J.s, clubs, and late-night happenings the nation has to offer, A3 Nightlife is here to rescue you from the wasteland with artist interviews, backstage antics, and plenty of eye candy for randy boys and girls alike. It’s what MTV used to be like, before it spiraled into the vapid abyss.
So at risk of sounding ancient, let’s take a look back at some of the things that made MTV “THE” place to tap into America’s musical pulse.
A3 Nightlife – Steve Aoki, Las Vegas
“MTV” stands for “Music Television” … right? In preparation for this article, I sat down to watch MTV for the first time in quite awhile. Do you know what I did NOT see over the course of prime mid-day Saturday programming? Music! And that’s for damn sure. By the third hour, I’d have pawned my left boob for the pleasure of a stereotypical hip-hop video. My kingdom for hot Puerto Rican girls getting a sprayed with Cristal! Alas, no. For six neuron-disabling hours, I submitted myself to a “Jersey Shore” marathon bumpered on each end with an hour-long show called, “I Used to be Fat.”
Where have you gone, Peter Gabriel? Our station turns its lonely eyes to you…
2. THE MTV LOGO GRAPHICS
It started with a spaceman, but it became much more than that. They might look low-rent to us now, but there was a time when each new twist on the letters “M-T-V” was a pleasant little surprise unto itself. Sure, they still have them, but they’re so jazzed-up and artificial, it’s hard to distinguish them from the Monday Night Football intro. Be they Claymation-looking, hand-drawn, or early CGI, the little spots that used to air throughout the day were like the M&M’s in your trail mix: probably unnecessary, but whole-heartedly welcome.
3. THE WEEK IN ROCK
Before they shortened the format and changed the name to “MTV News,” there was “The Week in Rock” hosted by Kurt Loder. With a solid background in rock journalism, Loder was a stalwart and intense, refreshingly-jaded source for what was happening in the music world. There were interviews of respectable length and depth, in-studio performances and tour date announcements. Loder still provides movie reviews for MTV’s website, but he’s long gone from the visual airwaves.
4. MARTHA QUINN
I don’t know a single man in his late ‘30s/early ‘40s who didn’t have a crush on MTV VJ Martha Quinn. Heck, even I kinda did. She was smart and genuine – with just enough spunky-girl-next-door-ishness not to be annoying. From MTV’s inception, Martha was everyone’s favorite VJ, charming music icons like David Lee Roth and Slash alike. I think what I miss most about Martha is what she represents. In the hyper-sexualized environment of today’s MTV, I doubt she’d ever be chosen as a VJ now. That’s too bad, and it’s everyone’s loss. If you’ve been missing her lately, she now hosts a regular show on SiriusXM’s ‘80s channel.
5. 120 MINUTES
It’s hard to believe, but in addition to being able to watch actual music videos, you used to be able to hear different genres of music on MTV. Granted, they had their own timeslots, but we liked it that way. Back then, there was a magical hour-and-a-half called “120 Minutes.” If you were willing to stay up till the wee hours, you were welcomed by one of MTV’s “edgier” VJs, and taken on an eye-and-ear opening trip with the likes of R.E.M., The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Smiths, and The Replacements – and later, folks like Oasis and Weezer. With its night-owl air time and bare-bones set, the show created the sensation that you had been allowed into a secret underground record shop. Lovers of independent music didn’t mind being lumped into a group by timeslot. On the contrary, it was an easy way of identifying their own: in order to test a potential mate you could say, “Did you see the Cure on ‘120 Minutes’ last night?” If the answer was, “The cure for what?” Well, you had your answer right there.
6. HEADBANGERS BALL
Adam Curry, and later Riki Rachtman, were your brothers in metal. Your purveyors of power ballads. They served up steaming dishes of thrash for your neck-breaking pleasure. “The Ball,” as it was known to regular viewers, was one of MTV’s most popular shows, and when it was abruptly cancelled, there was a brief outcry from its fans, before they became distracted by a shiny object and moved on.
7. ADAM CURRY’S HAIR
A ‘do so incredible it gets its own list entry. It was large. It was fluffy. It was sensitive. It was strong, but it gentle. Intellectual, but accessible. Independent, yet understanding. Adam’s hair was a good listener. Adam’s hair would drink a beer with your dad and agree with him about the Redskins’ flawed passing game. Your mother would say that Adam’s hair was “certainly unique,” but she’d shamelessly flirt with it at the dinner table after her third Manhattan. It was everything you’d want from hair, but, as coifs will often do, it went away to college, and eventually stopped writing after it joined the Peace Corps.
8. LIQUID TELEVISION
You miss “Beavis and Butt-Head.” I miss “Beavis and Butt-Head.” That’s a given. That show was awesome. But it would be doing those fine boys (and, by extension, their cousins, “King of the Hill), a disservice not to give mention to the original animation show that brought them to us: the cartoon showcase, “Liquid Television.” Thanks to “Liquid Television,” you didn’t have to wait for “Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival” to come around. You could cozy up on the couch with your Magic Shell-covered ice cream and watch the work of genius underground animators pop to life on your Zenith.
9. YO! MTV RAPS
At some point in the mid-1990s, the execs at MTV started deciding which hip-hop and rap cuts were suitable for our consumption and thus began limiting our rations. Before that sad time, there was “Yo! MTV Raps.” The show, which debuted in 1988 and provided an outlet for the growing hip-hop scene, introduced viewers to Naughty by Nature, Public Enemy, Salt-n-Pepa, and others and helped bring rap from the street to the living room.
10. REMOTE CONTROL
Hey, listen, I’m no Negative Nelly. (In fact, if I see her around my house again. I’ll knock her down and take her wallet. She knows why.) I know a station needn’t exist on videos alone. When MTV started to introduce shows that weren’t exclusively music-based, all wasn’t lost. That’s because the programming was still weird and creative and funny. “Remote Control” was a perfect example – contestants in self-propelled La-Z-Boy chairs, snack foods that descend from the ceiling, a category called “Dead or Canadian?”
A3 Nightlife – Far East Movement, Like A G6
A3 Nightlife – Armin Van Buren – WMC
Annie Cooper is a writer, armchair public transportation advocate, and aspiring taco critic. She has written columns and specialized training materials related to children with special needs, parenting issues, and early childhood development. Her writings are geared toward therapists, social workers, and teachers of young children with complex medical and developmental issues. She recently left her job in social services in an effort to become part of the problem, rather than the solution. Annie lives in Los Angeles, but she’s not from there – nobody’s from there.