MTV and other early ’80s gateway drugs

When I was in high school in the early eighties it took effort to discover music by less than mainstream bands. MTV was a godsend, my first gateway drug to alternative sounds. My parents got cable in 1981 and I was immediately thrilled by all the music that was suddenly being thrown in my face on MTV. All music, all the time was the catch phrase as DJ’s (MTV called them veejays) would introduce, play, and comment on promotional music videos in rapid fire fashion. Some of the ‘new’ bands I got exposed to included Echo and the Bunnymen, Duran Duran, the Clash, and U2; legends to this day. I still remember the first time I saw the “Gloria” video and thinking U2 was a great band, but why did they have to make a video of them posing in the docks? Other bands I thought were silly — I never did dig Flock of Seagulls — but at least I got exposed to them and was able to make up my own mind. As I got a little older, college radio became a trusted friend, as did word of mouth from kids that seemed far cooler than me, and friends’ older siblings. I remember being horrified and fascinated at the same time when a high school buddy’s older brother played us Never Mind The Bollocks. Journalists had much more sway back then too. When I started reading the British magazines like Melody Maker and NME, I quickly learned whose tastes were compatible with mine and I would often buy something just because someone else said it was good. When I came back from my junior year abroad in England in ’86, I discovered The Big Takeover, a magazine I still write for to this day!

As as a tribute to the early MTV and all my early gateway drugs, here’s the official video of the Clash’s epic “London Calling” — rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t get any cooler and more bad ass than this.

Ben Vendetta is the author of the music-centric novels Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming Spring 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records


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