MTV at 30: Ten videos that shaped Music Television

From the Buggles to Johnny Cash, MTV has played generation-defining music videos for 30 years, and created a few stars along the way.

Here's MTV's rundown – what are yours?

The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star (first show 1981)

"Ladies and Gentleman, rock and roll" said MTV creator John Lack's voice over, before British new-wavers The Buggles introduced 'Music Television' to the world. Who would have known this mellifluous, endearing tribute to the golden years of radio, which kick-started MTV's first broadcast, would largely prove so prescient?

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The Specials Rat Race (1981)

It took around 60 videos before the first black artists were seen during the inaugural MTV broadcast. Fittingly, socially conscious multiracial two tone act The Specials eventually broke the blanket white dominance of that day, but it would be a while before black artists were given equal footing on a channel self-consciously weighted towards rock, and therefore predominantly white, music.

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1983)

Widely regarded as the most influential pop video of all time, this 14-minute epic featured Jackson as a shape-shifting monster, backed by an army of choreographed zombie dancers. From chilling Vincent Price sprechgesang to hideous prosthetics, Thriller was more like a horror short than a music video.

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Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer (1986)

Peter Gabriel's workaday funk-rock number was brought to life by a hugely popular stop-motion, clay-animated video, some of which was animated by Wallace and Gromit's Plasticine maestro Nick Park. Won nine MTV Video Music Awards in 1987, and vies with Thriller for the most played video of all time on MTV.

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Mötley Crüe – Girls Girls Girls (1987)

All poodle perms, nude girls, and a salacious lyric which paid homage to the band's favourite strip clubs, Mötley Crüe's signature track was banned by MTV for a time. Nonetheless, it came to be emblematic of the bloated riffs and striking visual aesthetic of hair metal, which dominated MTV in the late-Eightees.

Madonna – Like a Prayer (1989)

Risqué videos were hardly a new fad for pop provocateur Madonna in 1989 – Like a Virgin's bestial undertones had shocked back in 1985 – but even she couldn't have predicted that Like a Prayer's mix of sex and religion would draw criticism from the Pope himself, who called for a ban on the artist appearing in Italy. Depicting a writhing, sexualised Madonna amid blatant Catholic iconography probably didn't help.

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Nirvana – Smells like Teen Spirit (1991)

Summoning all of the latent aggression and pent-up frustration of the burgeoning grunge movement, it was the explosive video – as much as the track itself – for Smells Like Teen Spirit which became synonymous the disaffected teenage angst of so-called Generation X.

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Britney Spears – Baby One More Time (1998)

Shot at Venice High School, Los Angeles, the memorable video for Baby One More Time was a triumph of marketing. The insidiously catchy, borderline suggestive track was matched with a video which captured a 16-year-old Britney in perfectly choreographed flow among the lockers and gym halls – while dressed in school uniform. A pop superstar was born.

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born.

D'Angelo – Untitled (How Does It Feel) (2000)

The trailing video for D'Angelo's classic soul-fusion album Voodoo was a steamy affair, exploring every rippling sinew of the American singer's glistening, delectable torso over four hyper-seductive minutes. Women swooned, straight men pretended not to look, and later that month Voodoo topped the US Billboard charts. Proof that almost two-decades after its inception, MTV still had the ability to propel an artist into the big leagues.

Johnny Cash – Hurt (2003)

Cash's poignant reworking of the Nine Inch Nails song helped usher in a late career renaissance for the country singer, in part thanks to a heart-rendering video juxtaposing an ailing Cash with pictures from his youth. Recorded just seven months before Cash's death, the video became a heavy-rotation favourite across the network's myriad Noughties channels.

 

 

 

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