On This Day, Aug. 1, 1981 – Video Kills The Radio Star as MTV Arrives

1981 – “If advertisers make the video disco channel a success, the implications for cable television and the recording industry could be far reaching,” wrote a New York Times business columnist in the summer of 1981 about the upcoming premiere of a new cable television network dedicated exclusively to popular music. This prediction proved to be an understatement of historic proportions, though not exactly overnight. Though the premiere of MTV on this day in 1981 would later be seen as the beginning of a whole new era in popular culture, only a few thousand night-owl subscribers to a single northern New Jersey cable system were able to witness the televised revolution.

It was just after midnight in the early morning hours of August 1, 1981, that the fledgling Music Television network flickered to life. “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll” were the words that preceded on opening montage featuring a chunky guitar riff playing over the familiar image of an American astronaut planting an unfamiliar flag on the surface of the moon — a flag emblazoned with a big, block capital “M” and the smaller, handwritten letters “TV.” The video that followed was, famously and prophetically, “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the little-known English electronic new wave duo, the Buggles. Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run” followed, and from there a rotation that featured several songs and videos that might be considered classics of the early MTV era (e.g., “Rapture” by Blondie and “Love Stinks” by the J. Geils Band) and many more that might not (e.g., “Can’t Happen Here” by Rainbow and “Little Susie’s On The Up” by PhD).

The roughly 80 different videos that made up that first week’s rotation on MTV probably represented nearly every promotional music video then available. This would change, of course, as MTV proved its ability to break new artists and as record labels responded with ever larger budgets for lavish video productions. But on that first night, as several employees of the fledgling MTV gathered to watch their creation in a New Jersey bar, it is impossible to say how many others actually joined them. Soon enough, however, MTV would spread to cable systems nationwide and begin to exert the cultural influence that has since been credited (or blamed) for everything from Flashdance and Miami Vice to Rick Astley and Attention Deficit Disorder.


1498 – Christopher Columbus landed on “Isla Santa” (Venezuela).

1774 – Oxygen was isolated from air successfully by chemist Carl Wilhelm and scientist Joseph Priestly.

1790 – The first U.S. census was completed with a total population of 3,929,214 recorded. The areas included were the present states of Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia

1834 – Slavery was outlawed in the British empire with an emancipation bill.

1873 – Andrew S. Hallidie successfully tested a cable car. The design was done for San Francisco, CA.

1876 – Colorado became the 38th state to join the United States.

1893 – Shredded wheat was patented by Henry Perky and William Ford.

1894 – The first Sino-Japanese War erupted. The dispute was over control of Korea.

1907 – The U.S. Army established an aeronautical division that later became the U.S. Air Force.

1914 – Germany declared war on Russia at the beginning of World War I.



1936 – Adolf Hitler presided over the Olympic games as they opened in Berlin.


1944 – In Warsaw, Poland, an uprising against Nazi occupation began. The revolt continued until October 2 when Polish forces surrendered.

1946 – In the U.S., the Atomic Energy Commission was established.

1953 – The first aluminum-faced building was completed. It was the first of this type in America.

1956 – The Social Security Act was amended to provide benefits to disabled workers aged 50-64 and disabled adult children.

1957 – The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) was created by the United States and Canada.

1973 – The movie “American Graffiti” opened.

1975 – The Helsinki accords pledged the signatory nations to respect human rights.

1978 – Pete Rose (Cincinnati Reds) ended his streak of hitting in 44 consecutive games.

1986 – Bert Blyleven (Minnesota Twins) became only the 10th pitcher to strike out 3,000 batters in his career.

1993 – Reggie Jackson was admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

2006 – Cuban leader Fidel Castro turned over absolute power when he gave his brother Raul authority while he underwent an intestinal surgery.

 

Source: On-This-Day.com; History.com