Since MTV rarely finds the time to air full music videos anymore (what with all their teen pregnancy reality shows), and since we all love to complain about it... we figured we'd try to revive the channel's golden era right here. Each week we'll be showing videos and dishing out facts from each good year MTV had, starting with 1981, when it all began.

MTV went live at 12:01 a.m. on August 1st, 1981, with a promise to play music videos 24 hours a day. This is how it all began, with a countdown that went straight into the first video ever played, The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star." When the channel launched, only a few thousand people on a single cable system in New Jersey could see it, and the veejays went to a bar there to watch it.

Other popular videos that aired that year were...

Blondie, "Rapture"

Devo, "Whip It"

Below you can see part two of their initial launch, and here are parts 3, 4, and 5.

What was happening on MTV and in the music world in 1981?

  • On September 19th, Simon & Garfunkel performed a free reunion concert in Central Park, which was attended by over 500,000 fans. The concert was broadcast on HBO, not MTV.
  • In 1981 HBO was airing a 30 minute program of music videos, called Video Jukebox. They would also occasionally play a few music videos between movies.
  • On November 18th, Suzanne Vega would sit in Tom's Restaurant, and end up composing her song "Tom's Diner," which wouldn't be released for six more years.
  • This is the year Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a dove at a record label gathering.
  • In 1981, MTV's programming consisted of basic music videos, which were introduced by VJs (J.J. Jackson, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn) and provided for free by record companies.
  • The channel quickly became a way for artists to get into the spotlight, and MTV was "instrumental in promoting the careers of performers such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince and Duran Duran, whose videos played in heavy rotation."
  • When we talked to original VJ Mark Goodman last year, he told us, "The first days were hectic. We had been rehearsing for a few weeks in July leading up to the launch. We had to do 24 hrs of MTV every day. But of course we were on 7 days a week and the studio was open only 5. So two days a week we had to do what we called 48s. Shooting 48 hrs of MTV plus interviews promos and whatever other insanity was needed to try and get sponsors. Those days started at about 7 a.m. and went to about 11 p.m. We’d be delirious by the end of it."
  • And finally, Phil Collins released his first solo album, Face Value, in 1981, along with his video for "In The Air Tonight"