Posted September, 2011
Before the days of YouTube, cable TV, DVD players or, heck, even VCR’s, if one wanted to see their favorite artist or band of any genre, they would have to know what time and what show they would happen to be appearing on. In the 50’s and 60’s, The Ed Sullivan Show was the go-to TV show to catch Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Buddy Holly, the Doors, or the Dave Clark Five, to name but a historic few.
Other landmark shows like the Louisiana Hayride, Shindig! or Dick Clark’s two shows, American Band Stand and Where The Action Is were on the scene and catered to specific genres of music which not only carved out a healthy niche of dedicated viewers but a permanent spot in music history, as well.
As the seventies rolled around, teenagers like me had our own arsenal of shows from which to get our live musical fix. Who can forget Alice Cooper performing Gutter Cats vs. The Jets on ABC’s In Concert or Johnny Winter’s version of Jumpin’ Jack Flash on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert or Fleetwood Mac performing Rhiannon on Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special?
All of these shows and historic performances are forever etched on the tablets of rock and roll history. However, thirty years ago, on August 1st, 1981, there was a seismic change that hit America through the growing avenue of cable television. Five VJ’s (“video jockey’s”), Nina Blackwood, Martha Quinn, the late J.J. Jackson and Alan Hunter became fixtures on a bold, new cable network called MTV. The channel provided a continuous feed of record industry supplied promotional videos as well as a growing supply of concert clips. Before too long, “I want my MTV!” became a popular mantra among America’s youth and was captured forever in Dire Strait’s hit (and video, of course), Money For Nothing.
It’s hard to imagine that thirty years has passed since MTV hit the airwaves and changed music forever. It just doesn’t seem possible. Neither did it seem possible that the opportunity to interview one of the MTV pioneers, Nina Blackwood, would ever happen but it did.
The perennially beautiful Blackwood called me from her home in Maine while between having just returned from vacation and the start of another round of personal appearances commemorating the 30th anniversary of MTV’s launch. Naturally, that was the subject we started with.
“It’s been quite crazy, actually, but in a good way. It’s so nice that people are reaching out and remembering us. It’s wonderful, actually. We’ve done a lot of promotion. We did a VJ special through Sirius/XM on our Big 80’s on 8 channel. I’ve been hosting Absolutely 80’s Presents Freemont Street’s Experience in Vegas every other weekend, flying there to host a show. I live in Maine so it’s not just down the road!” she said with her infectious laugh that immediate endears those privileged to hear it.
Often, reunions of any type can be quite emotional for the participants. I asked Nina if it had been emotional for her to recollect those years in such a compressed time while being the focus of a lot of attention.
“Very good question. Very good question because, to be quite honest, when it started, I’d say, back in May, things started gearing up – when I do my shows and we’re talking about eighties music, I don’t go around thinking about the early days of MTV. I mean, it was thirty years ago! Around May, things started kind of ratcheting up a bit. I had a couple of real intense interviews right off the bat. I had to go to New York for a VJ special with Mark (Goodman), Alan (Hunter), and Martha (Quinn) and all of a sudden I’m back here in New York where we did the
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