I Want My MTV

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum

• Hardcover: 572 pages

• Publisher: Dutton Adult, 2011

• ISBN: 0525952306

• Genre: Nonfiction- Music/Pop Culture

• Recommended For: Fans of early MTV; any pop culture/nostalgia junkie; anyone with a fond memory of or interest in the ’80s and its pop music.

Quick Review: This is a fun book for any fan of MTV and 80’s pop culture. It helps to have a computer handy when reading it so that you can watch the videos as you read about them. It tends to get repetitive at points, but it is fun for nostalgia enthusiasts.

How I Got Here: I’m a trivia and a pop culture buff (although, I think I’ve gotten rusty…I’m just not so interested anymore. I must be getting old.), and very nostalgic for all things related to my childhood. Therefore, my father-in-law made a good choice when he got this for me as a Christmas present. I read this as my “light read” in February.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

Remember the first time you saw Michael Jackson dance with zombies in “Thriller”? Diamond Dave karate kick with Van Halen in “Jump”? Tawny Kitaen turning cartwheels on a Jaguar to Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again”? The Beastie Boys spray beer in “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)”? Axl Rose step off the bus in “Welcome to the Jungle”?

Remember When All You Wanted Was Your MTV?

It was a pretty radical idea-a channel for teenagers, showing nothing but music videos. It was such a radical idea that almost no one thought it would actually succeed, much less become a force in the worlds of music, television, film, fashion, sports, and even politics. But it did work. MTV became more than anyone had ever imagined.

I Want My MTV tells the story of the first decade of MTV, the golden era when MTV’s programming was all videos, all the time, and kids watched religiously to see their favorite bands, learn about new music, and have something to talk about at parties. From its start in 1981 with a small cache of videos by mostly unknown British new wave acts to the launch of the reality-television craze with The Real World in 1992, MTV grew into a tastemaker, a career maker, and a mammoth business.

Featuring interviews with nearly four hundred artists, directors, VJs, and television and music executives, I Want My MTV is a testament to the channel that changed popular culture forever.

My Analysis and Critique:

This book was fun, mainly because of what I brought to the table as I read it. I have a very good memory, and a very long memory. Actually, my long memory tends to be better than my short memory. I can’t remember right away what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I can remember December, 1985, looking out the car window, driving away from Tucson to Virginia, listening to Toto’s “Africa”. It was sunset, and I was going to miss my friends from my first grade class.

As I can remember details like these, I can easily follow the interviews relayed throughout this book. It features musicians, MTV VJs, music execs, TV execs, actors, managers, etc. discussing their reactions to MTV and all things MTV.

It also helped that almost all videos are available for viewing on YouTube or other video sites. While reading about a certain video or performance, I would switch to my IPad and watch the video on the internet, observing the same details discussed in the book. This interactive experience made the book much more enjoyable.

In some parts,  the book was very repetitive, and a lot of the information was old news for me. I was an MTV junkie for nearly 20 years (pretty much stopped watching around 2000), so I know a lot of the vignettes in this book. Other chapters I simply scanned. I really wasn’t interested in how much partying the MTV execs were doing.

But, overall, this book was a lot of fun.

Some interesting and fun tidbits I got out of this book were:

– I never realized just how much of a monopoly MTV had with music of the ’80s. If a band wasn’t on MTV, they weren’t popular. Period. Kind of makes me think that music has it pretty good these days. With the internet, everyone has almost the same odds at making it in the business. No one goes to MTV anymore, and I’m not sure how influential radio is anymore. If you’re good at manipulating the internet, it seems that you should find success.

“Total Eclipse of the Heart” was a WEIRD video. I really liked it!

– Billy Squier’s video for his song “Rock Me Tonite” is considered to be the worst video of all time and essentially ruined his career. It is pretty bad–check it out!

– David Fincher (director of The Social Network and Fight Club) and Michael Bay (director of overblown action movies) were MTV Video Director Gods at one time.

– Michael Jackson created the nickname “King of Pop” and insisted that MTV refer to him as such at least twice per week in 1991. Michael Jackson (and Madonna and Guns N’ Roses) OWNED MTV.

– Speaking of Guns N’ Roses, I finally get the dolphins in the video “Estranged”. The last new video by GNR that I ever watched was “November Rain” (which MTV, as always, seriously overplayed) and that was because I saw a promotion for their “World Premiere of ‘Estranged'”, saw Axl swimming with a bunch of dolphins, and decided that was seriously uncool. According to the director of the video, Axl had just split with Stephanie Seymour, and never wanted to put a girl in a video again. “I’d rather go out with a dolphin,” he said. So, the director just put dolphins all over the place. Pretty stupid!

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