Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

20May/095

Taking a Night Flight…

Recently MTV “opened” its video vaults online but I have to give it a big MEH.

I mean, it’s all good and fine if you’re at a computer and want to watch Dio’s “Rock N Roll Children” in all its cheesy goodness. But I’m more of a passive person. I want to turn on a channel and let it come to me. Entertain me dammit!

I grew up on music videos. It wasn’t just MTV, but I do remember the day it went on the air I probably watched 10 hours straight. Even the songs I didn’t like so much I stuck with because maybe I’d get lucky and see some video vixen prancing around in her underwear (hey, before the internet, porn wasn’t so easy to come by…you took what you could get!). MTV was great too in the fact that it meshed so many musical styles together that you got to hear what you wanted, all while being exposed to other genres. To go from Judas Priest to Haircut 100 to Huey Lewis always rattled my ADD brain, in a good way. It’s probably why I enjoy the shuffle mode on my iPod so much. Genres mashing together randomly are more telling than one might suspect.

But, before MTV there were options as well. Back when we had only 36 cable channels to choose from (selected from a box wired to the TV that doubled as a remote) videos were usually delivered via late night television.

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I remember when Nickelodeon first hit the airwaves, it consisted mostly of pre-school shows imported from Quebec. But every night at 8PM, it played 3 hours of music videos in what must have been a precursor of the birth of MTV as a network. How I remember some of the songs they played over and over and over…”Computer Games” from Mi-Sex, “Walking On The Moon” from the Police, “Rio” from Michael Nesmith…

Around the same time period, the USA Network would air Night Flight every Friday and Saturday night. From 11PM until 2 or 3 in the morning, the show consisted of music videos, concerts and pop culture related movies and film shorts. I’m pretty sure this is where I first saw the movie Heavy Metal (heavily edited no doubt), which believe it or not, may have been my first introduction to Black Sabbath (“Mob Rules” still holds a special place in my metal heart). I also remember vividly seeing an early Sammy Hagar concert while I struggled to stay awake and take in this new medium. As the years went on, it eventually morphed into Up All Night and turned into a steaming pile (Rhonda Shear’s cleavage notwithstanding).

Locally, here in northern NJ, in the mid to late eighties we also had a UHF music video channel called U-68, which was spun off the Wometco Home Theater (an early HBO competitor that you didn’t require cable to receive). U-68 was great in that it played videos that got no airtime anywhere else. I remember they would play this clip from Japanese hard rockers EZO over and over. I can’t remember the song anymore and about all I do remember was a bunch of Kiss wanna-be’s on a train track. How’s that for irrelevant details? It was also just about the only place to see bands like Enuff Z’nuff or Danger Danger. U-68 was total Jersey: brash, loud and lots of hair.

Then, of course, there was Friday Night Videos, which was basically MTV for people who didn’t have cable. I gotta be honest, since we had MTV, I never really watched the show.

Nowadays there seems to be more avenues than ever before for music videos so I’m not going to sit here and rail on MTV for not playing them. I am thankful on my FIOS cable setup we have about 10 channels that do play a healthy stock of videos for those fleeting moments when I want to hear a song or two without getting a little crazy (and without having to boot up a computer, go online and search for it). I’ve become slightly addicted to VH-1 Classic, but with each day unfortunately it resembles its parent channel just a little more. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it airs endless repeats of Rock Of Money.

But, there’s no buzz anymore. Nothing stands out. For a society as visually addicted as we seem to be, it surprises me. Does it speak of the quality or just the overwhelming amount of information at hand?

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  • Matt Wardlaw

    You pegged it perfectly re: Friday Night Videos. We didn’t have cable, so I watched Friday Night Videos religiously.

    FNV was the outlet that served up my first viewing of “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, and more importantly, “Our House” by Madness and “When The Lights Go Out” by Naked Eyes.

    VH-1 Classic in its infancy was SO much cooler than the channel that occupies the same slot now. You would see all sorts of videos for tunes that you didn’t even KNOW there was a video for that tune. My cable system didn’t have it for years, and I was always pissed when I would go over to a friend’s house that had VH-1 Classic.

    When you talk about letting a channel entertain you, I think it’s hard for anything to compete with our Ipods these days…nobody programs our musical taste better than us!

    Although I think that that is part of the fun of blogs – and the bloggers that open you to new music, or a side of a particular artist that you’ve missed!

  • Kurt’s Krap

    @Matt “When you talk about letting a channel entertain you, I think it’s hard for anything to compete with our Ipods these days…nobody programs our musical taste better than us!”

    Problem today is there is NO filter. As badly as radio is/was programmed, there is so much music out there no one can possibly keep up with it all.

  • Stacy

    Night Flight! I wonder how many Betamax tapes are still at my parent’s house FILLED with Night Flight. Yes we had a Betamax and it was awesome. It had a remote with a CORD! A 50 ft. CORD! You would get better quality from that then the actual broadcast.

  • Kurt’s Krap

    @Stacy Time to get cracking transferring those tapes to DVD!

  • Kristi

    I didn’t have cable growing up, so I only got to watch MTV at friends’ houses here and there. And now I don’t get VH1 Classic or any other music channel (other than VH1 and MTV – if you can call them ‘music channels’ anymore). I do catch videos around 3am or so here and there, but most times it’s the same ones every night – and rarely any I’m interested in seeing.

    And I AM gonna rail on MTV a bit. I sure wish they’d get rid of some of the reality crap they’ve got going on… or at least create an MTV12 for it or something. I see some decent videos on music blogs and other sites, and while I enjoy that avenue, it’d sure be nice to have ’em on TV too… or maybe I just need a bigger monitor and better speakers. Hmm…

    Anyway, I love going on youtube and watching videos from my favorite bands of the 80s and 90s… so I guess as long as I can do that, MTV can do whatever they want. Pretty sad that reality TV sells better than music videos. Maybe artists would be more compelled to make GOOD videos if they thought they might actually be seen.

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