Mental Floss

MTV's First Hour on the Air (I Mean: on Cable)

Chris Higgins

On August 1, 1981, MTV launched at 12:01am. Below you can see the first hour of MTV, in six ten-minute chunks. It's historically interesting for the commercials, shows a surprisingly seat-of-the-pants approach to cable TV complete with lots of dead air and bad audio cuts, and features a surprising mix of videos. Oh, and they won't shut up about how they're broadcasting in stereo -- and even offer to send you an "MTV Dial Sticker" you can put on your


radio dial so you'll never forget where the channel is. Enjoy!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Rock and Roll!

Remember the flag-on-the-moon promo clip? Looks like it was created much earlier than I thought. Stick around until after the Buggles video for a bit of dead air, then a weird micro-documentary about MTV, followed by a Pat Benatar video. Then we meet some of the original VJs, including Martha Quinn and J.J. Jackson!


The first MTV commercial starts just over 10 minutes into the hour. It's for "The Bulk," a 3-ring binder. The second ad is for Superman II, "the most exciting movie event of our time." The third ad is for Dolby noise reduction. Then you'll be treated to a vintage Rod Stewart video in which he wears some very unfortunate trousers. The much-better "You Better You Bet" then puts us all in a better mood.

REO Speedwagon In Stereo

At the 7:15 mark, the classic "Brass in Pocket" video changes everything.

All Day, All Night, in Stereo

Around 3:55, the REO Speedwagon video is interrupted by a beep, dead air, static, and an awkward cut to a VJ. Not sure whether that's the viewer's VCR glitch or the network itself, or a bit of both.

The First Pheremone-Based Fragrances

Andron and Atari, plus a special report on the Ramones!

Elvis Costello Going Country?

Wow, two Rod Stewart videos in the first hour. He wins at MTV.

More of the First Day

There are more videos of the first day here, and you can read more about the launch from Wikipedia.

(Via Media ReDEFined).