Many of you may not be old enough to remember the early days of MTV. Some of you were in diapers and some of you weren’t even born. But all you need to know is that MTV used to play videos, hence the fact that its moniker stands for “Music Television.” Imagine that. There was some great music to come out of that video boom too, and the songs on this list are songs that we all remember (well, 'all' meaning most of us) from that era, and in many cases we remember the video more than the song itself.
“Video Killed the Radio Star,” the Buggles (The Age of Plastic)
This was the first video song to air on MTV. What I want to know is, did someone later on release a song called “’The Real World’ Killed the Video Star”?
“Steppin’ Out,” Joe Jackson (Night and Day)
Smartass popster Joe Jackson was constantly trying to re-invent himself. Hell, he’s still doing it. The video of this song featured a hot housekeeper pretending she was Cinderella.
“Space Age Love Song,” A Flock of Seagulls from (A Flock of Seagulls)
Really now, would this band be anything without MTV? All anyone remembers is the lead singer’s hair, which looked something like the wings of a large aircraft.
“Don’t Pay the Ferryman,” Chris DeBurgh (The Getaway)
Most of DeBurgh’s music was wussy, soft rock stuff that might play in the dentist’s office. “Lady in Red?” Blech. But this song flat out kicks ass, even 20-something years after its release.
“Poison Arrow,” ABC (The Lexicon of Love)
MTV brought us many of these British electro-pop bands, and ABC was one of the best.
“Eyes without a Face,” Billy Idol (Rebel Yell)
With a song title like this, you know the video had to be slightly weird in the visual sense, and it was. But the song showed a more introspective Billy, and it remains one of his best.
“Love Plus One” by Haircut 100 from (Pelican West)
Catchy guitars and keys, and some other calypso-sounding instruments made Haircut 100 sound like the cross between reggae and Britpop. Whatever, it worked.
“The One Thing,” INXS (Shabooh Shoobah)
This was the first breakout single by this Australian powerhouse, and it was aided by some heavy rotation on MTV. I am convinced that if Michael Hutchence were still around, this band would be bigger than U2 right now. Well, they definitely wouldn’t have had that stupid reality show.
“Love Is a Battlefield,” Pat Benatar (Live from Earth)
Ms. Benatar is one of the greatest female rock singers in history. The video for this song featured Pat and a group of dancers, Janet Jackson style. And when you saw them coming at you on your TV, you wanted to get out of their way.
“Tell Me What You Want,” Zebra (Zebra)
I have always had a soft spot for this band because I saw them many times growing up on Long Island and at the time they were the second coming of Led Zeppelin. And I still have no idea why they didn’t bust out bigger than they did.
“Stray Cat Strut,” the Stray Cats (Built for Speed)
You can’t talk about early MTV without bringing up this rockabilly band. Brian Setzer’s hair was almost as memorable as that dude from Flock of Seagulls. And man, could these guys play.
“Pressure,” Billy Joel (The Nylon Curtain)
This synth-infused rock song was a far cry from “Piano Man,” and for my money is one of Billy’s best. The video shows a dude under a lot of, um, pressure.
“Who Can It Be Now?,” Men at Work (Business as Usual)
These goofy Aussies were another band that enjoyed major success because of the MTV boom. And for some reason, their music grew on me like a fungus.
“Cuts like a Knife,” Bryan Adams (Cuts like a Knife)
Chances are the only thing you remember about this video was the swimsuit-clad cutie on the diving board. Oh, there’s a song here too? Yes, and with four video singles from this album, Bryan Adams became an international star.
“Faithfully,” by Journey (Frontiers)
We can all still picture Steve Perry on that tour bus in this video, and we can all still feel the pain he must have felt to be on the road and away from his woman. Then again, Perry likely made enough money to send her on shopping sprees when he was on tour.