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 (21)
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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.

  • Mary Anne Holmes says:

    I have a question because its now stuck in my head but can’t find it… Was there a video “Bad rap on you” ? Hope you can help! Mary Anne

  • Jamie hodgdon says:

    hey guys I think it’s really important that you have all your new shows and what not but I think you need to bring back in 24/7 MTV starting with the very first song you guys ever played on the air and do a rewind and just keep going until 2020 just don’t stop I’m guarantee you this channel will be the most popular channel you have every video you’ve ever played playing because what you guys are doing now a lot of people like but a lot of people hate they want MTV music television music television does not include watching 16 and pregnant or Jersey shore or some crap like that what we want is music videos and not just rap like I said do a rewind start from day one 1981 August 1st video killed the radio Star by the buggles lose start with that and work your way all the way through playing every video you’ve ever made you will make so much money it’ll make you sick please bring back MTV to what MTV used to be in its Glory days because what you have now truly it sucks we want the MTV that you gave us an August of 81

  • Jamie hodgdon says:

    hey guys all people are asking you to do is put MTV back on the air like it was in 1981 of August that’s when MTV came on the air and it was 24/7 music television music videos please start with the very first video you guys ever did in 1981 you guys know it was video killed the radio Star by the buggles all we want is what you people promised us in 1981 you gave it to us and then took it away and gave us all these dumb shows Beavis and butt-head was cool you know you had some other shows that were good but we want MTV back you promised us 24/7 music videos not 16 and pregnant or some other crap like Jersey shore please give us back music videos 24/7 starting with your very first video thank you and have a nice day SINCERELY THE STATE OF VERMONT!!!!!!!!

  • Timothy Davis says:

    An intelligent and well thought out position. However, (channeling my best Darth Vader voice) I find your lack of punctuation disturbing!

  • Beth Nole says:

    @ Jamie Hodgdon l think that is one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve heard in years! Unless they don’t already have rights to rebooting, it would cost a fortune in royalties. Otherwise, they’re crazy for not having thought of it already!!! Good on you! 😉

  • Cindy Donovan says:

    How about replaying the entire set of MTV’s shows, start to finish? An avalanche of viewers would be there for you!@!

  • Cindy says:

    I totally agree, nothing but crap TV now, hey, there’s a good name for it now! CRAPTV!

  • Johnb says:

    I agree. Thought if this years ago too. Go the whole though just pretend it IS that day, pull up 1 line it up and just hit play…so we see every video..every bit of news..every blurb..every flub..just like we saw it back then. And put it on streaming..or some other format..guaranteed they would make a killing..I personally would subscribe the entire time barring that..have it remastered and sell everything on blu ray..say..5 discs per pack..or however many in say..3 month it mini season. I would buy them. To make sure it would sell in either censoring. No alteration. Would sell millions

  • Christopher S Daigle says:

    I remember the day… I was in my first apartment we got cable just so we could have MTV when it came on we all sat around and the channel was all snow until just before MTV logged on for the first time there’s three or four of us there and then we just left it on the MTV for a couple of years lol

  • Koko aka Kisha says:

    Headbangers Ball was the best, I remember my friends and I staying up super late so we could watch it. The good old days when MTV was all about the music.

  • Carla Blankenship says:

    Okay first of all I need the owners name and or how I can get in touch with them for this matter because we the people older and newer know that listening to music is a very enjoyable thing and adding video to it . In my and I know a lot more people that would absolutely guarantee 100%. Hey hit me up on this. It will 4 sure make you well known and you never know just who has that special voice , soul ,and groove ✌🏼

  • Kim Taylor says:

    I agree 100%. MTV today is just the empty shell of what it once was. Totally worthless.

  • Laura Harris-Butkus says:

    I AGREE!!! Bring it back from 1981!!! These 2020 shows make me cringe. It really is just a shell now, if even that.

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