The First 10 Videos Played on MTV: Rewind the Videotape to August 1, 1981

On August 1, 1981, MTV took to the U.S. airwaves, forever changing the landscape of American music and pop culture. If you were around then, you'll remember the Apollo 11 moon landing, the astronaut planting the MTV flag on the moon's surface, and then the first aptly picked video - the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." Fast forward four years, and we were all saying, I Want My MTV.

A list of the first ten videos aired on MTV appears below. Click the links to take a walk down memory lane.

  1. "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles
  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 (not original)
  10. "Rockin' the Paradise" by Styx (ditto)

Thanks Robin for the reminder...

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Comments (8)
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  • dale says:

    CHANNEL still on air

  • Doe says:

    I remember the day! This was really nice…unfortunately, MTV is nothing like it was meant to be… it’s full of garbage now, no music videos. They need to change their name or go back to the way they were. I haven’t looked at MTV in over 15 yrs because it has such crap on it.

  • John Henderson says:

    I love this list, it shows what crap was totally popular at the time, with the additional unpleasant fact being that MTV was marginally (but just barely) more adventurous at this time than radio. This list is horrid – even the songs by bigger stars are amazingly forgotten. The Buggles sure – new wave opportunism, but a little different at the time, and one truly brilliant moment, from the Pretenders. So about 85% shit!

  • Jim Ball says:

    Hey John Henderson,
    This list does NOT actually show what was popular at the time.
    This list really shows what videos were available at the time. Prior to MTV, videos were a curiosity. Most were expensive to produce, and there wasn’t any place to play them regularly, so not many were made prior to MTV’s launch.
    If you looked at the FIRST FIFTY songs, you’d see
    4 songs by Rod Stewart
    3 by REO Speedwagon
    2 by Pat Benatar
    2 by Styx
    2 by Cliff Richard
    2 by The Pretenders
    2 By Split Enz
    2 by Iron Maiden
    2 by Lee Ritenour
    Other artists that had a single video played in the top 50 included Robin Lane, Michael Johnson, Shoes, Rupert Hine, Tom Johnston, Blotto, The Silencers, Juice Newton, Bootcamp, and the Michael Stanley Band.
    HOWEVER, a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the same day (August 01, 1981), shows that you ARE CORRECT !!! There was a TON OF CRAP on the top 100 that day.

  • Sara says:

    Amen!!! MTV sucks so bad now, who the heck cares about all the nonsence and drama, sick that people trive on that kind of garbage, i wont hold my breath on them comingback, RIP MTV 😔😔😔

  • Damion Crowley says:

    This would have been a couple of years before I developed my own pop music aesthetic. I recognize 12 of the songs and maybe 50 of the artist (I may have counted some of the repetitive ones twice, but I tried to avoid it).
    The facts that I don’t recognize half the artist and less than that of the songs definitely shows there wasn’t much durability in that era.

    I wonder if I could recognize the Billboard chart from roughly when I started listening to the radio.

  • David Jenkins says:

    Mexican Radio? Wall of Voodoo i believe. I thought that video was second or third.

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