This Sunday, August 1st, marks 40 years since the debut of ground breaking Music Television (MTV). In this Boomer Music Update exclusive, the co-founder of the channel, its former Senior Executive VP of Programming, Les Garland, shares his memories.
Like golf, I discovered that the harder I work, the luckier I get. Who first said that, anyhow? Was it Thomas Jefferson or was it Chi Chi Rodriguez? Fortunately, so many of my fond MTV memories have not been lost between the pages of my mind! So, was it REALLY 40-years ago that MTV: Music Television was launched!? For real?
No one has ever stepped up or been singularly identified as the person who came up with launching with The Buggles “Video Killed The Radio Star”. I can tell ya that it was NOT a shot at radio. In fact, we embraced radio and did multiple joint promotions in multiple markets with local radio stations all over the country. Hey, deep in our hearts and our souls we were music radio people (Bob Pittman, Steve Casey, Buzz Brindle, Mark Goodman, JJ Jackson). I’ve often said “MTV was a radio station you could see”. For me it was truly a dream come true dream gig.
Wow, when Dave Sholin, Boomer Music Update Curator, asked me to share a sentence or two of my fave memories, it hit me that this would be impossible. Instead, please allow me to rattle off a few items that first come to mind that will stir memories for all who see this:
– First and most importantly, the music artists who were already huge and those first seen on MTV including Duran Duran, Madonna, Culture Club, Adam Ant, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, Eurythmics, Stray Cats, and on and on and on…
– Michael Jackson’s first video (Billie Jean) and Michael’s Thriller (We presented it with destination programming in mind and it worked bigtime!)
– The MTV Annual New Year’s Eve Rock n’ Roll Ball
– The MTV One Night Stand (The fastest 24-hours in your life)
– MTV World Premier Videos
– The MTV Video Music Awards (The original thought was to make a mockery of all award shows! It surprised us when people took it seriously.)
– The US Festival
– The amazing Live Aid event
– Basement Tapes
– MTV 120-minutes (60-Minutes was the number one show on network tv, so 120-minutes must be twice as good!)
– When we gave away a Pink House in Indiana with John Mellencamp jammin’ in the backyard BBQ
– First guest VJ ever was Dan Akroyd
– Prince performing live in a high school gym in Wyoming
– Our audience thought WE invented Spring Break!
– The MTV Lost Weekend
– Our participation in Rock The Vote
Those were the days, my friend, I thought they’d never end.
Thank you, Les Garland, for what you helped create, and for sharing your memories.
Below, the first video played on MTV: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.