Remember the ‘I Want My MTV’ Promo Spots?

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MTV’s original VJs (L-R): JJ Jackson, Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Alan Huner, Mark Goodman

When the joint venture between Warner Communications and American Express announced their intention to launch a 24-hour music channel devoted to music videos and music news, the concept seemed ludicrous. “Would people sit at home to watch this stuff?” wondered Wall Street and cable operators, among others.

Despite the naysayers, MTV: Music Television – as it was known then – flipped the switch on August 1, 1981. It was a struggle, though, to convince cable operators to carry the fledgling service.

The original five VJs were radio veterans Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood and J.J. Jackson along with an actor Alan Hunter and a recent college grad, Martha Quinn.

Watch them introduce themselves

MTV’s earliest promotional campaign was designed to get the network distributed and then to gain viewers once the channel was added to a cable system’s lineup. Thus “I Want My MTV” was born. A mishmash spot featured the most visually arresting artists and clips of the day: Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime,” Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run,” Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes,” the Police’s “Every Little Thing,” the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” and others. The spot ends with the slogan “You’ll never look at music the same way again.”

Over the next few years, the campaign evolved as the network execs were able to get their new A-List pals like David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George and Billy Idol to utter the four words.

Watch Pat Benatar, Pete Townshend, and Mick Jagger plead their case

And then in 1985, Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms album included the song “Money For Nothing” that featured Sting on vocals singing “I Want My MTV.” Two of the biggest acts in the business were acknowledging how huge and influential the network had become in such a short time.

In four years, the network had completely transformed the music business in the way artists and music was presented to the public. The question “Would people sit at home to watch this stuff?” was answered with a resounding “Yes.”

On May 10, 2023, Paramount announced that they were eliminating MTV Music News, as part of a significant layoff at the networks division.

Retro MTV t-shirts and such are available for purchase here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

3 Comments so far

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  1. Celya723
    #1 Celya723 12 May, 2020, 02:37

    A whole bunch of us went to the Linares’ house to watch MTV for months to watch music videos after it launched. They had 7 kids, so it was a real mob of devotees enjoying the programming, we loved it!

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  2. Sac
    #2 Sac 12 May, 2023, 04:06

    When my daughter was a baby, she’d wake up during the night if she was hungry. There were many nights I’d walk around the living room watching MTV while she drank her bottle! Thanks for being on 24/7!!!

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  3. HAK
    #3 HAK 13 May, 2023, 05:32

    That’s when MTV was good. Now they got all these ridiculous shows on there. I remember I was working at Home Depot and there was a big screen TV and every time I’d walk by it there would be some rock band video on too cool

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