MTV Afternoons

(originally written Feb 8, 2003)

When I was in jr. high/high school, I would come home from school and watch MTV until Mom and Dad came home from work. I would sit on the wooden floor, three feet from the set, with my vcr remote control (with a cord connecting it to the back of the box) in my left hand, thumb hovering over the ‘record’ button, waiting impatiently for the next cool video to appear so I could add it to my collection.

This was when MTV played videos.

There also were “World Premiere Videos,”  an event that would require me to take over the tv at 8pm *exactly* so I could tape the latest by music video superstars like Madonna or  Duran Duran. The world premieres were great though, especially if it was someone you liked. If it was someone you liked, you were guaranteed to see a cool video at the top of every hour for the next day or so. If it was someone you didn’t like, well…maybe better to skip MTV for a day or so.

The adrenaline rush moments came when I heard the opening strains of a favorite song, thumb springing into action within the first five seconds in order to capture the entire music video in all its glory. Sometimes, there were false alarms, and then I’d have to stop the tape and try to rewind it enough that I would tape over the mistake, but not the tail end of the last video. VCRs weren’t precise at all.

If it was a good afternoon, I’d see an Ultravox video, followed by the latest Madonna video, followed by maybe David Bowie or Duran Duran. If it was a bad afternoon? If it was a bad afternoon, I would be forced to sit through videos from artists like Def Leppard, Quiet Riot or RATT. Not for this new wave girl.

The worst thing that could happen would be that when I got home and flipped everything on, they would be in the middle of one of the rarest of rare videos. Things like the Sisters of Mercy’s “Black Planet” or The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?”. I’d capture 5 or 10 seconds at best. There were several half-videos on my tapes, but half was better than not seeing it at all.

Sometimes after school, my girlfriends would come over and we’d sit and watch the tapes of all the videos. We’d analyze them for fashion ideas, we’d discuss the merits of the story lines, we’d swoon over the faces of the musicians we adored, we’d argue over who was going to marry which member of Duran Duran.

The girls would also bring over their lastest finds from the record store. 12″ import singles from England, overlooked scores from the cut-out bins, and later, cassettes dug out from the monsterous heap of sale cassettes from places like K-Mart. It was like a scavenger hunt for us; trying to wade throug the muck to find diamonds like Siouxsie and the Banshees or Japan.

Now I can watchVH1 classics or search YouTube and see videos that I didn’t even know existed. On VH1 Classics, in rapid-fire succession, the rat-a-tat fire of Xymox, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Romeo Void, Shriekback. I see REM’s “Wolves, Lower”, followed ten minutes later by The Blue Nile’s “Headlights on the Parade”, neither of which ever graced my eyes back then. It’s a magical flashback, almost like the MTV of our alternative dreams in miraculous slices. It’s a beautiful thing.

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