I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution

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Remember the first time you saw Michael Jackson dance with zombies in "Thriller"? Diamond Dave karate kick with Van Halen in "Jump"? Tawny Kitaen turning cartwheels on a Jaguar to Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again"? The Beastie Boys spray beer in "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)"? Axl Rose step off the bus in "Welcome to the ...

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Overview


You will receive one of the two covers. We cannot guarantee which one.

Remember the first time you saw Michael Jackson dance with zombies in "Thriller"? Diamond Dave karate kick with Van Halen in "Jump"? Tawny Kitaen turning cartwheels on a Jaguar to Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again"? The Beastie Boys spray beer in "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)"? Axl Rose step off the bus in "Welcome to the Jungle"?

Remember When All You Wanted Was Your MTV?

It was a pretty radical idea-a channel for teenagers, showing nothing but music videos. It was such a radical idea that almost no one thought it would actually succeed, much less become a force in the worlds of music, television, film, fashion, sports, and even politics. But it did work. MTV became more than anyone had ever imagined.

I Want My MTV tells the story of the first decade of MTV, the golden era when MTV's programming was all videos, all the time, and kids watched religiously to see their favorite bands, learn about new music, and have something to talk about at parties. From its start in 1981 with a small cache of videos by mostly unknown British new wave acts to the launch of the reality-television craze with The Real World in 1992, MTV grew into a tastemaker, a career maker, and a mammoth business.

Featuring interviews with nearly four hundred artists, directors, VJs, and television and music executives, I Want My MTV is a testament to the channel that changed popular culture forever.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Long before iPods and Google, MTV was changing the face of popular culture. This lively insider's history of the station's shaky first years is guaranteed to evoke nostalgia, amusement and wonder.

David Garber

Publishers Weekly
Music journalists Marks and Tannenbaum vibrantly chronicle the first decade of MTV, the pop culture phenomenon that first rocked television screens 30 years ago. Using over 400 interviews, the authors write that the venture was met with skepticism due to its less than traditional start (auditions for VJs "reeked of sleaze") and seemingly out-of-control content. However, "the channel gave a platform to new acts, asking only that they be beautiful or outrageous." It was entertainment 24/7 and the birth of a new era of excess, big hair, and even bigger budgets. Duran Duran feature prominently for early risqué videos, influencing the hardcore visuals of ZZ Top and Mötley Crüe, while black music hit the mainstream with Michael Jackson (and later hip-hop), and women found a powerful icon in the provocative styling of Madonna. At the network, no-holds-barred statements reveal controversy, coke-fueled corporate takeovers, and egotistical stars and ambitious new directors triggering censorship. Still, those interviewed "almost unanimously looked back at this period with joy and happiness, even if they now regret some of the clothes they wore in the ‘80s." The sheer entertainment value within these pages is priceless, so count down to a very good time. (Oct.)
Grantland
The entire Grantland staff is obsessed with the book -Grantland
Hollywood Reporter
The writers certainly did their homework, chronicling the wild and crazy ride of the network in the words of its own eclectic cast of characters...there is plenty to sink your teeth into with this book. -Hollywood Reporter
Modern Tonic
It's part voyeurism, part nostalgia, part social commentary - the perfect pulp non-fiction read for the cooling months ahead. -Modern Tonic
TG Daily
I WANT MY MTV chronicles MTV as I, and many others, would like to remember it: a lot of fun when it first came on the scene and a joy to watch every day -TG Daily
Hits
Insiders are already buzzing about the book, which does for music television what Fredric Dannen's Hit Men did for indie promotion. -HITS
-Rolling Stone

"Highly entertaining" -Rolling Stone
-New York Times

"It reminded me of those long days watching MTV, back when it still played videos...riveting." -New York Times
-USA Today

"Hilarious, with behind-the-scenes dirt on hundreds of videos. I guarantee you'll have a tough time putting it down." -USA Today
-Very Short List

"Riveting reading, and a book we expect to see on the best-seller lists." -Very Short List
-Playboy

"A smart, decadently entertaining oral history." -Playboy
-Businessweek

"Just as MTV hypnotized viewers, so the jump-cut structure of I WANT MY MTV swiftly compels." -Businessweek
-New York Post

"Rollicking. The golden age of MTV was just as wild and debauched as you would hope." -New York Post
-The National

"A rip-roaring, hilarious tribute to the cable channel that changed pop culture. A wonderfully entertaining and enlightening history, a magnificently enjoyable read." -The National
-New York Daily News

"Riotous and irreverent. Crack it open to almost any page and you're guaranteed a giggle. Every gaffe, scandal, and sexual innuendo comes in for hilarious scrutiny." -New York Daily News
-HITS

"Insiders are already buzzing about the book, which does for music television what Fredric Dannen's Hit Men did for indie promotion." -HITS
-Billboard

"A smart oral history." -Billboard
-NYLON

"A wild trip down memory lane, this cool history makes us '80s and '90s kids totally nostalgic." -NYLON
-Pitchfork

"Hugely readable and insanely fun." -Pitchfork
-Bob Lefsetz

"It makes you laugh, it makes you cry. I couldn't put it down. This is the best book I've read on how the music business really works." -Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter
-Dave Holmes

"An obscenely entertaining (and entertainingly obscene) account of MTV's early days." -Dave Holmes
-Grantland

"The entire Grantland staff is obsessed with the book" -Grantland
-Hollywood Reporter

"The writers certainly did their homework, chronicling the wild and crazy ride of the network in the words of its own eclectic cast of characters...there is plenty to sink your teeth into with this book." -Hollywood Reporter
-Modern Tonic

"It's part voyeurism, part nostalgia, part social commentary - the perfect pulp non-fiction read for the cooling months ahead." -Modern Tonic
-TG Daily

"I WANT MY MTV chronicles MTV as I, and many others, would like to remember it: a lot of fun when it first came on the scene and a joy to watch every day" -TG Daily
author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? -Toure

"MTV changed America and this book will change how you think about MTV. It's a fascinating look deep inside how MTV became what it was from the mouths of those who made it. Everyone who loved or hated MTV will love this story filled with fights, drugs, sex and music." -Toure, author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?

Rolling Stone
Highly entertaining -Rolling Stone
New York Times
It reminded me of those long days watching MTV, back when it still played videos...riveting. -New York Times
USA Today
Hilarious, with behind-the-scenes dirt on hundreds of videos. I guarantee you'll have a tough time putting it down. -USA Today
Very Short List
Riveting reading, and a book we expect to see on the best-seller lists. -Very Short List
Time
The sheer entertainment value within these pages is priceless. -Publishers Weekly
Playboy
A smart, decadently entertaining oral history. -Playboy
Businessweek
Just as MTV hypnotized viewers, so the jump-cut structure of I WANT MY MTV swiftly compels. -Businessweek
New York Post
Rollicking. The golden age of MTV was just as wild and debauched as you would hope.-New York Post
The National
A rip-roaring, hilarious tribute to the cable channel that changed pop culture. A wonderfully entertaining and enlightening history, a magnificently enjoyable read.-The National
New York Daily News
Riotous and irreverent. Crack it open to almost any page and you're guaranteed a giggle. Every gaffe, scandal, and sexual innuendo comes in for hilarious scrutiny. -New York Daily News
HITS
Insiders are already buzzing about the book, which does for music television what Fredric Dannen's Hit Men did for indie promotion.
Billboard
A smart oral history.-Billboard
Nylon
A wild trip down memory lane, this cool history makes us '80s and '90s kids totally nostalgic.-NYLON
Pitchfork
Hugely readable and insanely fun.-Pitchfork
Bob Lefsetz
It makes you laugh, it makes you cry. I couldn't put it down. This is the best book I've read on how the music business really works.
The Lefsetz Letter
Billboard
A smart oral history.
Time
I WANT MY MTV is compulsively entertaining, hugely edifying, and occasionally profound
Playboy
A smart, decadently entertaining oral history.
New York Times
It reminded me of those long days watching MTV, back when it still played videos...riveting.
Hollywood Reporter
The writers certainly did their homework, chronicling the wild and crazy ride of the network in the words of its own eclectic cast of characters...there is plenty to sink your teeth into with this book.
Rolling Stone
Highly entertaining
USA Today
Hilarious, with behind-the-scenes dirt on hundreds of videos. I guarantee you'll have a tough time putting it down.
Pitchfork
Hugely readable and insanely fun.
New York Daily News
Riotous and irreverent. Crack it open to almost any page and you're guaranteed a giggle. Every gaffe, scandal, and sexual innuendo comes in for hilarious scrutiny.
New York Post
Rollicking. The golden age of MTV was just as wild and debauched as you would hope.
Nylon
A wild trip down memory lane, this cool history makes us '80s and '90s kids totally nostalgic.
Businessweek
Just as MTV hypnotized viewers, so the jump-cut structure of I WANT MY MTV swiftly compels.
The National
A rip-roaring, hilarious tribute to the cable channel that changed pop culture. A wonderfully entertaining and enlightening history, a magnificently enjoyable read.
Modern Tonic
It's part voyeurism, part nostalgia, part social commentary - the perfect pulp non-fiction read for the cooling months ahead.
Very Short List

"Riveting reading, and a book we expect to see on the best-seller lists."

Grantland
The entire Grantland staff is obsessed with the book
TG Daily

"I WANT MY MTV chronicles MTV as I, and many others, would like to remember it: a lot of fun when it first came on the scene and a joy to watch every day"

Kirkus Reviews
The architects of MTV get more play than Madonna and company in this outrageous yet surprisingly lucid account of the cable channel's defiant first decade of decadence. The Material Girl, The Boss and The King of Pop all helped define what MTV was for most viewers during the 1980s. But this oral history, as told by a star-studded cast of recording artists and industry insiders, is really the story of guys like John Lack, Bob Pittman and Les Garland--"the suits" behind the scenes who rolled the big record companies for all they were worth and revolutionized the way the world got its music, at least for a while. Mostly candid reflections--some complimentary, others conflicting--provide a real sense of what MTV was like before Snooki took over. Torrents of cash and cocaine flowed freely in an archaic atmosphere of almost nonstop sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll--not to mention the crazy bands and unhinged performers. Beneath all the partying, however, lurked insidious instances of myopic racism, rabid sexism and rampant exploitation. For a time, many black artists could not get their videos played on MTV unless their name was Michael Jackson. Supermodel Cindy Crawford never saw a paycheck the first year she did House of Style. And yet, for most concerned, we're told it was all a blast. Even the most shabbily treated VJs pine for the halcyon days of MTV media mayhem. Some of the book does feels incongruous--e.g., long sections detail the endless negotiations associated with media empire building, while seminal moments such as Live Aid receive short shrift. Nonetheless, music journalists Marks and Tannenbaum have done a fine job of both celebrating MTV and deconstructing it. Thirty years ago, "video killed the radio star." The tables, of course, have turned; the media landscape has changed dramatically, and YouTube has supplanted MTV's relevancy. This book has a rocking good time putting it all in context. A funky-fresh exposé on the 1980s arbiters of cool.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525952305
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/27/2011
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Marks
Craig Marks was the editor in chief of two influential music magazines: Spin and Blender.

Rob Tannenbaum has written for Blender, Rolling Stone, GQ, Details, Playboy, Spin, and The New York Times.

Both writers live in New York City.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Cast of Characters xiii

Introduction: "Ridicule is Nothing to be Scared of" xxxvii

Part 1 Pictures Came and Broke your Heart: "Video Killed the Radio Star" to "Thriller" 1981-1983

1 "It's the Greatest Thing in the World": First Glimpses of MTV 1

2 "I Didn't Know How to Plug in a Light": Music Videos (Only they Weren't Called that) in the 1970s 6

3 "We Were Just Idiots in Hotel Rooms": John Lack, Bob Pittman, and the Creation of MTV 14

4 "What's a VJ?": How MTV Hired its Hosts (Including a Case of Mistaken Identity) 31

5 "A Total, Unmitigated Disaster": MTV Launches with the Buggles, Blotto, and Thirty Rod Stewart Videos 40

6 "Girls Sliding on Poles": The First Dirty Music Video 45

7 "A Hail Mary Pass": How $1 Saved MTV from Bankruptcy 48

8 "Midgets, Models, and Trannies": The First Visionaries and Victims of the Music-Video Era 59

9 "Pouting and Shoulder Pads": Effeminate British Bands Spread Weird Haircuts Across the U.S. 85

10 "Shut that Door!": Office Sex and Power Struggles at MTV 103

11 "They Figured out a Whole New Persona": How Three Gnarly old Dudes Became Unlikely Video Stars 115

12 "Girls Belong in Cages": Metal Takes over the Airwaves 120

13 "That Racism Bullshit": MTV's Aor Format comes Under Fire 136

14 "I'm not Like Other Boys": Michael Jackson Saves a Struggling Network from Itself 143

Part 2 I Play my Part and you Play your Game: "Burning up" to "Here I go Again" 1983-1987

15 "The Two M's": Madonna Touches MTV for the Very First Time 159

16 "You Got Char-as-ma": Prince, Bruce, Billy Idol, and the Gods of 1984 167

17 "He's Got a Metal Plate in his Head": MTV and Van Halen Team up to Nearly Kill a Super-Fan 190

18 "Wannabe Cecil B. DeMilles": Everything-Budgets, Ideas, Hair-Gets Bigger 194

19 "Why Don't I Just Take $50,000 and Light it on Fire?": The Backlash Against MTV 206

20 "Don't be a Wanker all your Life": "Do they know it's Christmas?," "We are the world," and Live Aid 211

21 "A Whopping, Steaming Turd": The Worst Video Ever Made 216

22 "A Wedding Dress with Nothing Underneath it": Madonna Takes-and Pops out of-the Cake at the First Video Music Awards 222

23 "No Cable Network is Worth $500 Million": MTV Gets New Owners: the Founding Team Trashes a Hotel, then Heads for the Exit 227

24 "Gacked to the Tits": Twenty-Four Stories About Drugs 237

25 "They Diss the Beatles": Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys Smuggle Rap onto MTV 241

26 "His Name is David Fincher. He's a Genius": Rick Springfield, Christopher Cross, and the Humble Beginnings of a Hollywood Star 252

27 "There I Am, with My Rack": The Rise of the Superdivas, Male and Female 266

28 "The Legion of Decency": Censoring Videos, for Fun and Profit 278

29 "Hickory Dickory Dock, this Bitch was...": Backstage at the Video Music Awards 284

30 "I'd Like to Thank my Cheekbones": Jon Bon Jovi and Tawny Kitaen Take Hair Metal to the Top 295

Part 3 Where do we go Now: "With or without you" to "U can't Touch this" 1987-1990

31 "The Islands of Misfit Toys": 120 Minutes and the Rising up/Selling out of Alternative Rock 317

32 "Martha was Heartbroken": MTV Finds a New, Mouthier Squad of VJs 330

33 "A True Television Network": The New Boss Orders up a Riotous Show that Forever Changes the Network 345

34 "That's What Hype can do to you": Club MTV Launches the "Upskirt Shot" and a Pop Scandal 358

35 "The First Time I Smelled Freebase": MTV Parties Down at Spring Break 365

36 "I Brought Snowballs to the Desert": Sucking up to MTV's Laddish New Power Broker 372

37 "People in the Hood Rushed to Get Cable": How Ted Demme Did, Didn't, Maybe Did, and Absolutely did Create Yo! MTV Raps 379

38 "We've Always Loved Guns N' Roses": Chicks and a Snake, Headbangers Ball, and the Return of Hard Rock 396

39 "Those Harem Pants Came out of Nowhere": Rap Busts a Move into the MTV Mainstream 410

40 "Ego-Fucking-Maniacs": Michael Bay, Cher, and all 9:08 of "November Rain" 422

41 "I Want to have a Nickname": How MTV Helped Michael Jackson Elect Himself "The King of Pop" 435

Part 4 Nothing Lasts Forever, and we Both Know Hearts can Change: "Justify my Love" to "Jeremy" 1990-1992

42 "Rhythm Nation": Superstars and One-Hit Wonders Stage a Dance-Off in your Living Room 440

43 "Your Manager's an Asshole": Fistfights and Pyro Farts: War Breaks out at the Moscow Peace Festival 453

44 "Kermit Unplugged": An Acoustic Music Show Morphs into a Worldwide Megabrand 457

45 "Silly, Superficial, and Wonderful": Cindy Crawford and Jon Steward Bring Beauty and a Laughs to MTV 463

46 "Tired of Cheap Sex Songs": R.E.M., U2, and Van Halen (!) Elevate the Art Form in the Nineties 468

47 "A Monkey Could do it": Pauly Shore and the Third Generation of VJs 474

48 "A Pep Rally Gone Wrong": "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Grunge, and the Hair Metal Apocalypse 481

49 "You'r no Better than a Rabbit!": Fearless Twentysomethings Shape a Presidential Election 498

50 "Getting out of the Music Business": This is the True Story... of What Happened When the Real World... Took over MTV...and Made Music Videos...Obsolete 505

51 "Let's Get Crazy Tonight": Tears, Tequila, and Broken Glass: MTV VIPs Celebrate the First Decade 510

52 "Fat City": The Bubble Bursts on Music Videos' Golden Era 512

53 "You have no Idea How I Miss it": Fans, Stars, Staff, and Detractors Reflect on the Video Age 518

Acknowledgments 527

Index 529

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

10 Songs That Changed MTV

The Buggles, "Video Killed the Radio Star" (1981)
The first video ever played on MTV was a two-year old obscurity, but its wacky futurism—and rallying-cry title—proved irresistible to the network's programmers. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, the foremost auteur of MTV's early years.

Duran Duran, "Rio" (1982)
Yacht rock gets no yachtier. Part of director Russell Mulcahy's exotic trilogy of Duran Duran videos, "Rio," along with "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Save a Prayer," cast Duran as sherbet-suit wearing globetrotters whose only interests were sex and sailing. MTV's first pinups.

Michael Jackson, "Billie Jean" (1983)
Before Michael and "Billie Jean," MTV followed the programming strictures of rock radio, which meant, in essence, no black music, save for a few rock outliers (Musical Youth, Bus Boys). CBS Records executives insist they had to muscle a reluctant MTV into airing "Billie Jean"; MTV maintains they loved it the moment they saw it. Either way, "Billie Jean" became a hit, paving the way for "Beat it" and then "Thriller," which transformed MTV like no video before or since.

ZZ Top "Gimme All Your Lovin" (1983)
The unlikeliest of MTV's first wave of stars, this crusty Texas roadhouse trio embraced synthesizers and drum machines for their 1983 album Eliminator. Of equal importance, they hooked up with director Tim Newman and a trio of mini-skirted, long-legged models for the "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Legs," and "Sharp Dress Man" videos, and became MTV staples.

Rick Springfield, "Bop Til You Drop" (1984)
Why does this random synth-funk track from the Aussie mullet behind "Jessie's Girl?" merit inclusion here? Its video marked the directorial debut of none other than Oscar-nominated auteur David Fincher, whose MTV canon includes Madonna's "Vogue" and Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun," among many classics.

Run-DMC, "Rock Box" (1985)
The first rap video to get played on MTV featured extensive hard-rock guitar from Eddie Martinez, which likely helped bridge the gap between MTV's white suburban viewership and this nascent urban art form. A year later, the Aerosmith/Run-DMC "Walk This Way" video converted a nation of Slim Shadys into hip-hop fans.

Motley Crue, "Home Sweet Home" (1985)
Neither the first metal power ballad nor the first video to melodramatize life on the road, but the first of each in the hair-metal era, and as such not only a monster MTV hit (it had to be "retired" from the request show Dial MTV) but a hugely influential clip: director Wayne Isham utilized the same slow-mo live shots for his run of career-making Bon Jovi videos.

Neil Young, "This Note's For You" (1988)
The song is a trifle, really, but the video, directed by Julien Temple, is a bracing satire of the commercialization of music and music videos, and led to one of the oddest moment in VMAs history: The clip, banned from MTV, won the Video of the Year award in 1989.

Metallica, "One" (1989)
Prior to "One," Metallica refused to make music videos. "One" is barely that—shaky performance footage of the band interspersed with long stretches of clips from the 1971 film "Johnny Got His Gun." But the video instantly became MTV's most requested, proving that even the coolest refuseniks would cuddle up to MTV.

Pearl Jam, "Jeremy" (1992)
Even its in MTV-mandated censored form, "Jeremy" remains one of the most striking videos of all time (the original version featured the lead character killing himself on-screen). Pearl Jam sold millions thanks to MTV's tireless airplay of "Jeremy," and then decided never again to appear in another music video.

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    For anyone who grew up in the 80s

    Makes it all seem so ridiculous and makes you want your MTV all over again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2013

    In my mind and in my car

    Video killed the radiostar

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 7, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    A Long Read But Worth It

    Very interesting read though some of the stories are a little dry. It would have been nice to see more pictures. With each chapter, I find myself with a list of videos, songs, or interviews to revisit and spot those little details they mention. Overall, a very enjoyable read!

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  • Posted January 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Lots of info, almost no photos!

    No doubt this was an informative and sometimes fun, gossipy read; but there were 8 pages of pictures for about 600 pages of words! I really would have liked to see more pictures of the artists, VJs, etc... Sometimes the stories got a little dull and I just skipped ahead to some of the good stuff.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews

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