I didn’t actually see MTV when it debuted on August 1, 1981. Oh, I’d heard about it. I had friends in the next town over who had it, and I’d seen the “I want my MTV” ads (but that must have been while at my friends’ houses because I have to think that was a basic cable ad).
When I finally saw MTV, it was at my buddy Dave’s. I can picture his parents’ house and just where the television was positioned and the feeling of hanging out there. And I remember the very first video I saw at his house: Saga’s “On the Loose”. It was pretty typical fare for early MTV, a basic performance shoot interspersed with a literal (and somewhat pedestrian) prison break storyline. But that was my first, and it did exactly what the corporate music industry wanted it to: It prompted me to buy Saga’s Worlds Apart album on cassette tape (my first – I’d bought 8-tracks up to that point).
There are all kinds of retrospectives about MTV turning 30, and I remember how revolutionary the station really was in the early ’80s once we actually got basic cable in our house and could watch the artists come to life in short-form anytime I wanted. And I remember the release of the “Thriller” video being an event, and watching the channel’s coverage of Live Aid, and witnessing the beginning of the end for MTV as a music video channel with the debut of Remote Control and the final nail in that coffin a few years later with the premiere of Real World. But it’s the personal details that frame the larger cultural touchstones and bestow importance upon them, and a previously unheard of and long since forgotten Saga is among those particulars for me.