Just a few days ago, A$AP Rocky himself was appointed as the new creative director for seminal television channel MTV. In light of this, we take a look back at MTV’s beginnings.
MTV’s very first creative director and director was named Fred Sieber, and his aim was to launch a new cable network that would be immediately recognized within the media landscape at the time. In an interview with PRINT magazine, Sieber noted “We had this idea of copying the biggest TV event in world history — the man walking on the moon — usurp it to ourselves, the juvenile delinquents of MTV.”
MTV’s inaugural broadcast on August 1, 1981 brought this idea to life. Nodding toward the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, the broadcast flipped Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step for man” quote, and replaced it with “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.”
The now-famous MTV astronaut then planted a flag with the MTV logo, signaling a momentous shift in how music would be consumed in years to come. Reportedly based around Buzz Aldrin, the original moonman statue was designed by Frank Olinsky, who was responsible for more than one of MTV’s early logos.
Fittingly, the very first track to hit the airwaves was “Video Killed the Radio Star” courtesy of English New Wave group The Buggles. The title of this track went on become an unofficial slogan for the channel, and MTV co-founder Bob Pittman noted in an interview with People magazine that the video, “made an aspirational statement. We didn’t expect to be competitive with radio, but it was certainly a sea-change kind of video.”
Rod Stewart, The Who, REO Speedwagon, Iron Maiden and Phil Collins were among the first artists to be included in the first hours of programming. Including 116 videos, you can check out the full list here.
While the original channel branched out into other localized and segmented channels like MTV News and MTV2, MTV’s first VJ staff was comprised of Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn, J.J. Jackson, Nina Blackwood and Mark Goodman, a team that would help loft up the careers of many artists that we immediately associate with the 1980s, like Madonna, Prince and Bruce Springsteen.
For more pop culture nostalgia, make sure to dive into our Highsnobiety TBT archive.