Sunday, September 2, 2012


I just finished a marathon read of I Want My MTV, a history of the network from its start in 1981 till 1992. It's by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, and comes from interviews they did with nearly 400 people.

I was obsessed with MTV when I was a kid and a young teenager. I used to fill VHS tapes with recordings of videos I liked, stay up late waiting to see my favorite bands' new releases--I once threw a viewing party for the Video Music Awards.  So, as you can imagine, the book was the perfect topic to grab me.

There were tons of hilarious and horrifying anecdotes.  I found out David Fincher and Michael Bay both started as music video directors. I found out Kurt Loder used to rip on MTV as a Rolling Stone writer before they hired him.  Most of the guys in metal bands come off as sexist in a naive way, like they have no idea why the things they did and the way they portrayed women would be offensive. (Except Sebastian Bach. He comes off like a cool guy.)

The only other book I've read in this style is Please Kill Me: An Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. Please Kill Me is one of my favorite books. When I first read it at 17, I wanted to move immediately to New York City and start a band.  I Want My MTV was not quite as inspiring, not quite as shocking, not quite as amazing. Maybe because a lot of the characters involved were just filthy rich. Not the artists, at first, anyway, but the executives and directors and producers. It made it harder to care about their fates. (Even if they got fired from the network, they still remained filthy rich.)

Even with that caveat, the book was still a great read.  Lots of fun.  I wondered if the year chosen to end it would seem arbitrary, but it didn't. Things did change in 1992 for MTV. "The Real World" debuted. Grunge dominated hair metal and pop. I still watched it for years, though. I think the last time I watched it in any significant amount was, after a long gap, in 2003, in a hotel room in Amsterdam. (I wanted the TV on while I got ready to go out--I was not just sitting around in a hotel for lack of anything better to do in Amsterdam.) They aired episode after episode of "Jackass" and "The Osbournes."  No videos. It's too bad. I think if they showed videos, I might still want to watch it sometimes.

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