The Late Movies: The First 7 Videos on MTV


MTV turns 31 today. It launched one minute past midnight on August 1, 1981, with footage of Space Shuttle Columbia and Apollo 11 launches, then the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll," spoken by John Lack, one of the creators of MTV. An extended version of the MTV theme riff played, and then we were treated to the first set of music videos on MTV. Tonight, let's remember those early music videos by watching them. In order. First up, here's that intro bit:

0. "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll."

The first minute of MTV.

1. The Buggles - "Video Killed the Radio Star"

"They took the credit for your second symphony / rewritten by machine and new technology / and now I understand the problems you can see." Little-known trivia: the first video on MTV was a cover song. "Video Killed the Radio Star" was originally recorded by Woolley and The Camera Club (featuring keyboards by Thomas Dolby); you can hear the original along with some commentary. But this, right here, is the first video on MTV:

The Buggles Video Killed The Radio Star by rvdgu2006

2. Pat Benatar - "You Better Run"

It must be hard being the lesser-known second video on MTV (and thus the subject of pub trivia forever), but Benatar makes her presence known by kicking ass.

3. Rod Stewart - "She Won't Dance with Me"

Stewart kindly gives us access to a significant portion of his chest. His mullet actually somehow seems ahead of its time.

Rod Stewart - She Won't Dance With Me - Music - More Music Videos

4. The Who - "You Better You Bet"

"I love to hear you say my name, especially when you say 'yes.'" A true classic.

5. Ph.D. - "Little Suzi's on the Up"

I'll admit, I have no real memory of this song. I'm at least somewhat familiar with their later hit "I Won't Let You Down."

6. Cliff Richard - "We Don't Talk Anymore"

Tight shirt, tight pants, fog everywhere -- yeah, it's 1981.

7. The Pretenders - "Brass in Pocket"

The reason this list goes to 7 is solely so I could include this video. This version is cropped to fit our new-fangled widescreen preferences, but the audio quality is great. Enjoy!


I wrote about this topic a year ago, collecting the entire first hour of MTV (put up by a YouTube hero). Sadly, the first few minutes have been taken down, but the remainder is still there, and it's an interesting look at the adorably glitchy opening hour. Check it out, even if it's just for the commercials. See also: A Brief History of Music Television and Quiz: Name the Original MTV VJs.