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I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the…
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I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution (alkuperäinen julkaisuvuosi 2011; vuoden 2012 painos)

– tekijä: Rob Tannenbaum (Tekijä)

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Presents the first decade of the MTV network, developing from a radical programming concept to a defining network for a generation and a force in the worlds of music, television, sports, fashion, and politics.
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Teoksen nimi:I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution
Kirjailijat:Rob Tannenbaum (Tekijä)
Info:Plume (2012), Edition: Illustrated, 608 pages
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I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution (tekijä: Craig Marks) (2011)

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Even though this book is a big ole reminisce on 1981-1992, it's not only whining on how things have become...

But for us, 1992 marks the end of MTV’s Golden Era, which was brought to a close by a series of unrelated factors. Video budgets rose steeply, leading to wasteful displays; digital editing arrived, making it a snap for directors to flit between shots and angles; all the good ideas had been done; record labels increasingly interfered in video decisions; many of the best directors moved on to film; Madonna made Body of Evidence. It’s also the year MTV debuted The Real World, a franchise show that sped a move away from videos, the network’s founding mission, and into reality shows about kids in crisis, whether an unplanned pregnancy or how to un-marry Spencer Pratt. The Real World was the culmination of the network’s initiative to create its own shows and was also the last time MTV could claim to be revolutionary. MTV created the video music industry, then abandoned it, leaving behind a trail of tears—disgruntled music-video fans have stamped the phrase “MTV sucks” and “Bring back music videos” all over the comments pages of YouTube.

...but shows how history has repeated itself, and mainly, I think Lady Gaga hit the nail on the head with this quote:

LADY GAGA: I do miss when MTV played more music videos. However, it’s important to be modern and change with the times. As MTV changes, so does the Internet, and we all change with it. It’s now up to the artist to re-revolutionize what it means to put film to music.

There's a lot of teenage reactions recorded from artists who experienced MTV when it first came:

JANET JACKSON, artist: I loved watching it. How exciting back then, being a teenager and having something so creative, so fresh, so new. It was about waiting for your favorite video, and not really knowing what hour it would hit, so you’d have to watch all day long.

We remember all that we liked and what we disliked:

ROBERT SMITH, the Cure: “Bohemian Rhapsody” was number one every fucking week. I fucking hated it.

...and on how lack of experience but love of music seemed to permeate the entire MTV infrastructure:

FRED SEIBERT, MTV executive: When I was six weeks into being a chemistry major in college, I was learning how to kill a rat so I could dissect it. I looked at my lab mate and said, “The Beatles are more important to me than this,” and I walked out. That was it for being a chemistry major. I marched uptown to the college radio station at Columbia University, because I heard I could get free records if I worked there.

And yes, videos existed way before MTV. But...

TOM FRESTON: When we went on the air, we had something like 165 videos. And thirty of them were Rod Stewart.

...Van Halen and their ilk (including bands like Duran Duran) changed this. In wrong ways, at times:

PETE ANGELUS: I stood on the set, going, “Seriously, can anybody find the little people? Where are they?” After twenty minutes of searching for them, I thought, I’ll walk around and see if I can turn up anything. I got to the transvestite’s dressing room and I opened the door. This is what I saw; I don’t want to be held accountable, it’s just what I saw. The little guy was wearing a black cape. He was holding the transvestite’s penis, which seemed kind of erect, and he was pretending it was a microphone. And he was singing “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones while doing a Mick Jagger impersonation. I thought, This is not going well. Then I closed the door and let him finish whatever the hell they were doing.

And there are anecdotes everywhere in this book.

SHARON ORECK, producer: Prince’s “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” videos were just smoke, then Prince’s face, then smoke, then Prince’s butt, and then smoke. Prince was interesting, and I liked the songs, but the videos were profoundly bad. They were, like, porn bad. His videos were so filled with smoke that everyone on the set would get diarrhea, because mineral oil was so thick in the air.

BILLY JOEL: For “Uptown Girl,” the director told me, “Look at the picture in your locker as if you’re in love with this woman and then dance around with a wrench in your hand.” I said, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

DON LETTS: I was in Texas with the Clash to shoot “Rock the Casbah,” and Mick Jones showed up one day wearing red long johns, because he was in a mood. I said, “You really want to wear that for a video? If you look like a cunt on film, you’ll look like a cunt forever.” So he changed what he was wearing. I’d hit playback and the Clash would just go, go, go. They were like four sticks of dynamite. Putting a Jew and an Arab in the video was just about breaking taboos. Yes, the Muslim in the video is drinking a beer. They pull into a petrol station and the Arab makes the Jewish gentleman pay for the gas. These days, with all the sensitivity towards religion, you wouldn’t get to make that video.

MICK JONES: We were showing how people can get along—by drinking beer and going to Burger King. The idea of the video was about oil, really. We were in America, so we went to the oil fields in Texas. That was the subtext of it. I wanted to wear red long johns, but Don wouldn’t let me. That’s why I put a mosquito mask on my face, ’cause I was in a bad mood.

RUSSELL MULCAHY: I collaborated on the storyboard for Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with Jim Steinman, who wrote and produced the song. Jim is fabulously, fabulously crazy. We would banter ideas over a bottle of red wine. I’d say, “Let’s set it in a school and have ninjas in one scene,” and he’d say “Let’s have a choirboy with glowing eyeballs.” We shot it in an old abandoned insane asylum in London. We had one sequence, which was Steinman’s idea, where a shirtless young boy is holding a dove and he throws the dove at the camera in slow motion. Bonnie came around the corner and screamed, in her Welsh accent, “You’re nothing but a fucking pre-vert!” And she stormed off. There was nothing perverse intended. The imagery was meant to be sort of pure. Maybe slightly erotic and gothic and creepy, but pure. Anyway, the video went to number one, and a year later Bonnie’s people rang up and asked if I would direct her new video. And I told them to fuck off, because I was insulted about being called a fucking pervert. And I was a little mad because pervert wasn’t pronounced correctly.

DAVID MALLET: “Let’s Dance” was Bowie’s big comeback, pretty much a straight pop song as opposed to introverted, darker stuff. It was a superb gamble on his part and it paid off handsomely. He said, “I want to go to Australia and film videos.” He came up with this concept of two Aborigines in the modern world who were a bit lost. The videos has these mystical red shoes—if you had them on, you could dance. He got that from the Emeric Pressburger film The Red Shoes, an early Technicolor film that’s haunting and surreal. We shot in a bar in the morning and it was one hundred degrees outside. The people in the bar hated us, absolutely hated us. We were faggots from somewhere, and they were horrified that we had a young, attractive Aborigine girl in there, because they thought Aborigines were lower than dirt. She was dancing, and in order to show their hatred they started imitating her. I said, “Quick, film them.” It looked as if they were enjoying themselves. Actually, it was a dance of pure hatred. Why do the two Aborigines stomp the red shoes at the end of the video? People have asked me forever. I don’t know! Because it’s a music video, that’s why. End of story.

ADAM HOROVITZ, Beastie Boys: The first time we went to LA as a band was when we opened for Madonna. That was the greatest. Kids were literally in tears when we were playing. It was one of the most punk rock things we’ve ever done. And Madonna is the best. After the first night, her manager, Freddy DeMann, said, “These guys suck.” “No, seriously, they suck. They need to go home.” And Madonna was like, “These guys are staying.” She put her foot down. We didn’t realize until later that the audience’s hatred for us worked in her favor. When she got onstage, they couldn’t have been happier to see her.

On The Jacksons "Torture":

JEFF STEIN: I’ll take the blame for many things, but not for that video. We were constantly waiting around for everybody to be ready. It was endless. I don’t even know if there was a budget. I mean, it was not my company, I was not the producer, I did not make the deal. I have no idea what it ended up costing. For certain videos, I remember the cost only in terms of human lives. One of our crew members lost control of her bodily functions while we were making the video. The crew motto used to be “Death or victory.” I think that was the only time we ever prayed for death. I had a gut feeling Michael wasn’t going to show up. So I had the foresight to get a wax figure from Madame Tussauds to double for Michael, and that proved to be a good decision. That wax figure was put through the ringer. Its head ended up in the salad bowl at lunch one day.

And on how wonderfully weird the videos became:

NIGEL DICK: Roland Orzabal told me what he envisioned for “Head Over Heels”: “I see myself in a library, there’s a beautiful girl, we’ll grow old together, and there’s all this random stuff like a rabbi and a chimp.” And I’m rapidly scribbling on a piece of paper: “Chimp. Rabbi.”

HOWARD JONES: When I was playing clubs as a one-man synth band, I had a mime, Jed, who danced onstage. That’s about as un–rock n’ roll as you can get, really. Jed’s in the “Things Can Only Get Better” video, doing a Charlie Chaplin character, and I also had a magician—people had never seen that before.

B-REAL: My favorite hip-hop video is “Night of the Living Baseheads.” When I saw it for the first time I went ape-shit. I liked dark, aggressive, in-your-face shit like that.

HANK SHOCKLEE: If Public Enemy was going to do a video, we wanted something outside the norm. My thing is, I hate literal translations. The video should always tell you what the lyric doesn’t.

LIONEL MARTIN, director: I didn’t even know who Public Enemy was.

HANK SHOCKLEE: The song was about drug addiction, especially crack. The crack epidemic was destroying the black community. Everybody I know, including myself, had close family members who were on crack or trying to recover from it. The fact that the song was disjointed gave us the impetus to create skits within the video. I didn’t want to make light of crack, but a video needs to have entertainment value.

LIONEL MARTIN: They had some crazy ideas. Hank Shocklee said, “Could we stop the music and insert a commercial?” Flavor Flav was a mess. He was full of surprises, like when he said, “Kick the ballistics.” He was always late, and he would disappear for drugs or for girls. He was just a crazy dude.

CHUCK D: “Baseheads” was brutal. It was my first video, it took a long time, and we had a lot of different locations. We knew we had to go over and beyond, make something that had never been seen before.

LIONEL MARTIN: When you’re in telecine doing color correction, there’s a term you use: “crush the blacks.” I like my blacks to be dark and deep and rich. Flavor and Chuck were in the room and I kept telling the colorist, “Crush the blacks, crush the blacks.” Flav jumped up and said, “What the fuck are you talking about? Yo, Chuck, I gota problem with this dude.” So I explained it to them.

ANTON CORBIJN: Courtney knew my Echo & the Bunnymen videos, and Nirvana asked me to do the video for “Heart-Shaped Box.” Kurt was fantastic. He wrote most of the ideas for the video. He sent me a fax, very detailed, of how he saw it: the field, the poppies, the crucifix, the fetuses hanging on a tree, the girl with the Ku Klux Klan–type outfit. I’ve never even seen a director be that detailed about a video. It was very long finishing that video, because we shot in color, then transferred to black-and-white and hand-tinted every frame. Kurt wanted to shoot in Technicolor, and Technicolor had been sold to China, so he wanted to shoot it in China. My producer didn’t like that idea very much. So we used colorization, a technique Ted Turner used for old black-and-white films, which created really vibrant colors. Because it’s so colorful, it got past the MTV censorship board. They didn’t ask for a single change.

And the end:


JEAN-BAPTISTE MONDINO: I thank God it’s over now. I’m happy that MTV doesn’t play videos. As soon as they stopped, music came back. People are making music for the pleasure of it, not to make money, because money’s not there any longer. There are good videos on the Internet, done by kids with no money, that are poetic and beautiful. Videos now are better than videos were in the’80s, because they are not made as packaging.

ADAM CURRY: I quit on the air in the summer of 1993. I was doing the Top 20 Countdown, Beck was number one with “Loser,” and I said, “Beck is number one. That’s it, I really think the Internet is the place to be, I had a great seven years, I’ll see you on the Internet.” I walked out and never went back.

ADAM HOROVITZ: I fucking love Jersey Shore. “You’re excluded from cutlet night!” That’s one of my favorite lines ever.

JOHN SYKES: If you look at MTV recently, they were belly-up, until Snooki saved the network.

All in all: minutiae that's of great interest of novelty-hunters re. music (like myself) and of purveyors of pop culture. After all, MTV was part of The Big Change of pop culture, not only in the western lands, although this book is about Northern America and a tad about bands from Europe. Recommended. ( )
  pivic | Mar 20, 2020 |
The book is divided up into two main types of chapters, which sort of alternate through the book: chapters on the goings-on at the network MTV - business decisions, hirings, firings, and later TV show production - and chapters of behind-the-scenes tales of music video production. Both parts are engaging and fun, but the anecdotal nature of the music video stories is sometimes at odds with the more narrative flow of the MTV-focused stuff.

At times I actually wished this was two separate books, each going into a little more depth, since the books seems to be aiming for two separate markets: those who like crazy stories of rock excess, and those who want to read the story of a highly successful entertainment company.

Still, it's an engaging book, exhaustive on its subject, if only just a little bit exhausting as well. ( )
  redhopper | Dec 2, 2017 |
I liked the "he said/she said" approach to this book as we hear from various folks involved on all the topics relating to the glory days of MTV. ( )
  Martin_Maenza | Apr 14, 2017 |
MTV, one of my favorite things about the 80's. The hair, the shoulder pads, the music videos....reading this book brought me right back to those times. Duran Duran, Cindy Lauper, Culture Club, Pat Benatar; these bands became famous because of MTV and the images played over and over in those videos.
This is an oral history told through interviews with some of the major characters associated with MTV. It was interesting to learn how the whole thing got started and how MTV and the music industry ended up hurting themselves in the long run. MTV's monopoly on the industry didn't encourage healthy competition and only bands with the bucks to make good videos got air time.

Definitely worth a read!

( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
This is impeccably researched and constructed but I discovered that I was far less interested in the subject than it takes to be enthralled for 572 pages. It wasnt the writers, it was this reader. If you are interested in the history of music video direction, there's a lot here i enjoyed the trip back to the 80s and random dry quotes from Jon landau and Paul McGuinness but it took me forever to get through it. I did discover that my hatred of Downtown Julie Brown is entirely justified, however. ( )
1 ääni Caryn.Rose | Mar 18, 2015 |
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Presents the first decade of the MTV network, developing from a radical programming concept to a defining network for a generation and a force in the worlds of music, television, sports, fashion, and politics.

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