by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks
By Chris Richcreek
If the MTV era of the 1980s meant something to you, if it was an essential part of your musical and television life, then “I Want My MTV” should be an essential read for you.
Authors Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks do a great job of capturing the phenomenon that was MTV from 1981, when “Video Killed the Radio Star” debuted, until 1992, when the reality show “The Real World” signaled a sea change for MTV programming. The best part is that the authors let hundreds of singers, musicians, video directors, executives and VJs (remember them?) tell the story.
And what a story they tell, one peppered with laugh-out-loud moments.
Early chapters cover the launching of the network, which included the star-laden “I want my MTV” campaign that helped it secure spots on various cable systems.
As MTV grew in influence, videos began equaling success for many artists. For others, the opposite was true. Billy Squier’s pink shirt and odd dancing in the video for “Rock Me Tonite” essentially derailed his career. Some of the artists found themselves as confused as Billy Joel, who said of his “Pressure” video: “It was [the director’s] movie, his vision. I didn’t know what any of it meant.”
Later chapters highlight the era’s sex and drug controversies. As Ann Wilson of Heart says, “In the ’80s, we drank a lot of champagne, we did a lot of blow [cocaine], and made a bunch of videos.”
MTV’s move toward programming beyond videos helped the network evolve as its emphasis on music videos began to decline. For some, like producer Tony DiSanto, it was a natural progression: “It’s still a network for and about youth culture, whether you’re talking ‘Jersey Shore’ or a new Lady Gaga video.”
But for many fans of the ‘80s, singer Stevie Nicks embraces their feelings the best: “I want my MTV. I’m so sad that MTV doesn’t play videos all the time.”
For those people, there’s this book, and YouTube, to revive the magic.