Video killed the radio star. And years later, reality shows killed MTV. Now you can stream its best years thanks to recently published VHS recordings.
Nostalgia is in high demand. However, the appetite for all things pre-internet isn’t a product of the current crisis and has been omnipresent in fashion, design, pop culture, and social media for years. Patterns and motifs derived from the aesthetics of cassettes and floppy discs have even become one of the leading menswear trends of this spring.
But owing to an avid archivist, you don’t have to quench your thirst for bygone eras with shallow substitutes. Rather, you can dive right into the fascinating vault of the 1980s MTV broadcast, which is a potent reminder of how revolutionary and disruptive the first music-only channel used to be.
The digitalized recordings that are accessible for free on the Internet Archive, a nonprofit online library, begin on January 8, 1981, and feature MTV’s first four hours of transmission. The segment kicks off with a bold statement: The Buggles’ hit song Video Killed The Radio Star, a prophetic tune of the times. Other available files in the MTV archive include The Rocky Horror Video Show hosted by Richard O’Brien from 1989, Headbanger’s Halloween with Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop, or guest VJ episodes with Eddie Murphy, Huey Lewis, and Billy Idol.
Even Live Aid, the pompous benefit concert held in London in 1985, is here in its entirety with performances by Queen or David Bowie.
“This is my collection of the 1980’s MTV VHS recordings,” the anonymous archivist explains on the download page. “I’ve been collecting recordings of full, unedited, with commercials and especially the VJs for years. I’ve found these videos from old websites, torrent sites, sharing things, The Original MTV VJs Facebook page, and, of course, the Archive.”
The extensive list of videos ends in August 1991, but the author promises to upload even more clips in the future, building a testament to the raw fun that characterized the 1980s MTV.