The Launch of MTV

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"Ladies and gentlemen... rock 'n' roll."

On Saturday, August 1, 1981, at 12:01 AM Eastern Time, MTV was launched with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll," spoken by John Lack and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (which took place earlier that year) and of the launch of Apollo 11. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching rock tune composed by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over the American flag changed to show MTV's logo changing into various textures and designs. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a concept; Seibert said that they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong's "One small step" quote, but lawyers said that Armstrong owned his name and likeness and that he had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound. A shortened version of the shuttle launch ID ran at the top of every hour in various forms, from MTV's first day until it was pulled in early 1986 in the wake of the infamous Challenger disaster.

The first music video shown on MTV was The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star", originally only available to homes in New Jersey. This was followed by the video for Pat Benatar's "You Better Run". The screen went black sporadically when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR. MTV's lower third graphics that appeared near the beginning and end of music videos eventually used the recognizable Kabel typeface for about 25 years, but these graphics differed on MTV's first day of broadcast; they were set in a different typeface and included information such as the year and record label name.

The first 10 videos that aired on MTV

  1. "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles" (the very first video to be aired on MTV.)
  2. "You Better Run" by Pat Benatar
  3. "She Won't Dance with Me" by Rod Stewart
  4. "You Better You Bet" by The Who
  5. "Little Suzi's on the Up" by Ph.D.
  6. "We Don't Talk Anymore" by Cliff Richard
  7. "Brass in Pocket" by The Pretenders
  8. "Time Heals" by Todd Rundgren
  9. "Take It on the Run" by REO Speedwagon (the first concert video to be aired on MTV. The video was interrupted after 12 seconds due to technical difficulties, and did not return back to the video.)
  10. "Rockin' the Paradise" by Styx (ditto)

Videos

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