The Artists Who Ushered in MTV: Part 1

The Artists Who Ushered in MTV: Part 1

Everyone knows MTV’s very first music video was the Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star, but do you remember who was second?

Pat Benatar’s You Better Run

You Better Run from Benatar’s Crimes of Passion album was the first of two videos from the group to debut in MTV’s first hours. I’m Gonna Follow You from the same album played later in the 2-hour launch. Originally recorded in 1966 by The Young Rascals, Benatar’s recording was included on the soundtrack for the movie Roadie starring Meat Loaf as the electronics roadie for a rock ‘n’ roll band. You Better Run peaked at No. 42 in the U.S. and the album remained in the top 10 for six months. Pat Benatar still performs and tours with her long-time guitarist and husband, Neil Giraldo. Details on their tour and latest releases can be found on their official website.

Many of the earliest videos were recorded concerts and performances. Remember this hit from .38 Special?

.38 Special’s Hold on Loosely

We can all relate to the message here. It’s a tough concept for young lovers to understand “If you cling too tight babe / You're gonna lose control.” From the group’s Wild-Eyed Southern Boys album, Hold on Loosely reached No. 43 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Although cofounder, guitarist, and vocalist Don Barnes is the only remaining original band member, the group still plays and tours. Check out their official website for tour dates, tickets, and more.

MTV gave artists a new opportunity to promote their music. Not only for new artists but veteran performers as well, such as this 1979 hit from Fleetwood Mac.

Fleetwood Mac’s Sara

Written by Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac’s Sara from the group’s Tusk album hit No. 7 in the U.S.  Like most bands, the group has experienced changes over the years, yet still includes members Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie until November 2022may she rest in peaceand Stevie Nicks. Fleetwood Mac released their Say You Will studio album in 2003 and toured as recently as 2019. Subscribe to Fleetwood Mac’s official website for tour dates and news.

You can’t cover MTV’s August 1981 launch without remembering the channel’s iconic intro of a space shuttle launch and an astronaut planting MTV’s flag on the moon. Remember this? Trivia


MTV’s intro included footage from NASA of Space Shuttle Apollo 11, launched July 20, 1969. Apollo 11 marked the first-ever humans to step foot on the moon.



MTV gave artists the chance to show off their acting and storytelling skills with relevant scenes depicted throughout the video, like this hit from Juice Newton.

Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning

Considered the first country-music video on MTV, Angel of the Morning from Newton’s Juice album also debuted in the 2-hour launch. The single reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart. Juice Newton is listed in Billboard’s 60 Top Female Artists of All Time and is still recording, as recently as 2010. Check out her official website for more info.

This video from Phil Collins also played in MTV’s first two hours and shakes it up with animation and a bit of storytelling.

Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight

Written by Collins for his solo album Face Value, In the Air Tonight reached No. 7 in the U.S. In addition to selling over a million albums, Collins has had quite the acting career. Among other gigs, he appeared on an episode of Miami Vice and movies The Jungle Book 2 (voice), Hook with Robin Williams, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a kid. Collins has also published two books and voices for himself in Playstation’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. He remains a member of Genesis.

This video from The Pretenders played 7th in MTV’s first two hours and sets the stage for future videos with the band’s acting and storytelling creativity.

The Pretenders’ Brass in Pocket

Written by lead vocalist Christine Hynde and guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, Brass in Pocket from their Pretenders II album hit No. 14 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The video is one of two from the group to debut on MTV’s launch, followed by Message of Love from the same album, also written by Hynde and played 19th in MTV’s first two hours. The Pretenders have experienced member changes over the years as well and Hynde remains on lead vocals. The group still tours, with plans to tour with Journey in 2020 abandoned thanks to the COVID pandemic. Check out their official website for updates and cool merch, like limited-edition vinyl records in red and clear.

MTV Ads were totally one of a kind. Remember this one?

Most of us heard this song for the first time thanks to this ad on MTV. From the group Madness, One Step Beyond was recorded in 1979. The band reached No. 7 in the U.S. in 1983 with their hit Our House.

This music video from REO Speedwagon brings back memories for me—I saw them perform live at my very first concert at the Hampton Coliseum in Virginia.

REO Speedwagon’s Take It on the Run

From REO’s Hi Infidelity album, Take It on the Run was one of four U.S. top 40 hits produced on the album. The 9th video to debut in MTV’s first two hours, a glitch in the tape cut the video short. Despite the glitch, the single reached No. 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The group’s Keep on Loving You music video was also played in the 2-hour launch and showed off the band’s acting and storytelling skills. The band still performs and tours—check out their official website for dates, tickets, merch, and more.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series as we continue to cover the artists who ushered in MTV in its first two hours. Subscribe to be notified of new posts and test your GenX IQ with our free GenX Trivia Game for immediate download.

Part 2: The Artists Who Ushered in MTV

Cover photo by Nathan Fertig on Unsplash
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