MTV turned 30 last month. "I can remember when MTV played music videos." That's the usual quip most people my age blurt out whenever someone mentions MTV. I see things differently. I can remember when MTV played every music video.
My brothers and I found MTV on its first broadcast day. We were channel surfing. These were the days of the old push button cable box. Since I was youngest of the family, I was the remote. I remember pushing the various buttons and moving the little selector level up and down when suddenly the sight and sound of The Who singing Don't Let Go the Coat burst out of our 19" Quasar.
"Leave this on", said my brother Kevin, probably the biggest music fan in the family. "It's almost over," bitched my brother Steve. "Find something else." The video ended. I was just about to change the channel when the next video popped on - One Step Beyond by Madness. We discovered MTV. And for the next month, until school was back in session, we watched non-stop.
We were treated to videos from all our favorite bands and artists: The Who, The Cars, Cheap Trick, Billy Squier, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders and Talking Heads, just to name a few. But among all of our favorites, we were introduced to new bands, too. Next time we went to Listening Booth or Record Bar, we looked for albums and tapes from Adam & The Ants, The Specials, Psychodelic Furs, Oingo Boingo and other bands that were new to our eyes and ears.
Among all of those videos and bands, the five I've included in this article have always stayed in my memory, simply because that were bat-shit crazy. Low production values. Odd looking front men. Weird music. MTV in the early days did not care about image. They just cared if you had a video. They had 24 hours of programming to fill, so if you had a video, they were happy to play it. As much I worship videos by Devo and Talking Heads, I appreciate these videos for their unabashed weirdness.
#5 Der Kommissar by Falco
After the Fire had the top 40 hit, but Falco had rear projection, Ferrari sunglasses and a funny way of running. His version is the only version as far as I'm concerned. Falco, you left us too soon...
#4 Dog Police by Dog Police
After a couple of years on the air, MTV announced its Basement Tapes competition. Unsigned bands went the DIY route and made their own videos for submission. The winner was supposed to go on to fame and fortune. Dog Police won...that was the last Basement Tapes contest.
#3 I Wanna be a Lifeguard by Blotto
Part B-52s. Part Ventures. That was Blotto. A catchy tune. A memorabl video. A band that should have been bigger. Check out the video for their tune Metal Head. That's a classic, too.
#2 Two Triple Cheese by Commander Cody
"Out comes the waitress with the gorgeous big teeth!" This is the video for b-movie freaks. Singing food. Giant spinning burgers. French fry guitar. Hamburger spaceship. And your host borrowed his name from an old movie seriel. Plus, Bill Kirchen is one of the most underrated guitarists of all time!
#1 One Step Beyond by Madness
"Hey You! Don't watch that, watch this!" One of the coolest instrumentals of all-time. And my favorite video of all-time. Crazy dancing. Working class London settings. Fat guys. Tiny sax. If everyone walked down the street like Madness, the world would be a much better place.