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…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Time Cap­sule: The Inter­net in 1995

“Jer­sey Shore” in the Style of Oscar Wilde

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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.–08-01

  • 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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