I want my MTV, I want U2

The musical era of the 1980s Like many other decades, the 1980s was a decade where music was a way to chronicle the times and events of the era. In some ways, the musical genres during the 1980s redefined the way many bands and artists made new music and it still continues to influence music today. Many of the musicians during the 1980s have maintained staying power and are still popular today. Other artists enjoyed a modicum of success during the decade and they are not even widely recognized today, save for the television programs that strive to reunite the bands and give exposure to artists of the time. Following is some descriptions and explanations of the bands and interests that helped to change the face of music in the 80s.

In August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m., MTV: Music Television launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by John Lack. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching guitar riff written by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over a montage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a conceit, associating MTV with the most famous moment in world television history.Seibert said they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong’s “One small step” quote, but lawyers said Armstrong owns his name and likeness, and Armstrong had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound.

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 The musical era of the 1980s Like many other decades, the 1980s was a decade where music was a way to chronicle the times and events of the era. In some ways, the musical genres during the 1980s redefined the way many bands and artists made new music and it still continues to influence music today. Many of the musicians during the 1980s have maintained staying power and are still popular today. Other artists enjoyed a modicum of success during the decade and they are not even widely recognized today, save for the television programs that strive to reunite the bands and give exposure to artists of the time. Following is some descriptions and explanations of the bands and interests that helped to change the face of music in the 80s.

In August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m., MTV: Music Television launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by John Lack. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching guitar riff written by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over a montage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a conceit, associating MTV with the most famous moment in world television history.Seibert said they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong’s “One small step” quote, but lawyers said Armstrong owns his name and likeness, and Armstrong had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound.

At the moment of its launch, only a few thousand people on a single cable system in northern New Jersey could see it. I remember when MTV appeared on our channels out on Long Island, I was forever locked into the house at night. I was amazed at the videos and of course Martha - She was the girl next door. So cool, so fresh, so not anything you would expect around rock and roll.  MTV filled the house, we had parties watched MTV all the time little did I know at the time what an impact MTV would have on my life. I ended up working for them for 4 years (Spring Breaks Daytona Beach) TC Top Dogs was the food of choice at the time and of course all the beer I could drink. Ok lets get back to the story maybe another day I will share my MTV Crew stories.

Appropriately, the first music video shown on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. The second video shown was Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run”. Sporadically, the screen would go black when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR.

As programming chief, Robert W. Pittman recruited and managed a team for the launch that included Tom Freston (who succeeded Pittman as CEO of MTV networks), Fred Seibert, John Sykes, Carolyn Baker (original head of talent and acquisition), Marshall Cohen (original head of research), Gail Sparrow (of talent and acquisition), Sue Steinberg (executive producer), Julian Goldberg, Steve Casey (creator of the name MTV and its first program director), Marcy Brafman, Ronald E. “Buzz” Brindle, and Robert Morton.

A super group by the name of U2 would come to conquer the world with the release of their debut album in the 1980s. U2 hails from Ireland and still enjoys a long and fruitful career. Their debut album, Boy, was released in 1980 with several songs making it on 1980’s greatest hits list. Even more great U2 albums would follow, including War, The Joshua Tree, and Rattle and Hum.

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A super group by the name of U2 would come to conquer the world with the release of their debut album in the 1980s. U2 hails from Ireland and still enjoys a long and fruitful career. Their debut album, Boy, was released in 1980 with several songs making it on 1980’s greatest hits list. Even more great U2 albums would follow, including War, The Joshua Tree, and Rattle and Hum.

The music of the 1980’s would end on quite a different note. The music would change from the electronic sounds of groups who were perfectly groomed artists to the loud, aggressive guitar sound of Grunge Rock which was played by musicians who liked to dress down. In 1989, the album Bleach would launch the career of the popular group called Nirvana. Rock n’ Roll would be dominated by Nirvana and their iconic singer Kurt Cobain over the next few years. Nirvana’s super hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit not only is one of the 80’s greatest hits, but is considered by many to be one of rock n’ rolls greatest hits of all time. The greatest hits from the 80’s are certainly a mixture of different styles with music to please everyone.

They began as Irish teenagers with a punkish bent and Christian beliefs. They became all-out rock stars, using their time at that elusive media-darling podium to raise political awareness, fund charities and satirize the big-money factory that rock and roll can feel like on its worst bad-hair days. And when these guys get an itch to try something new, they don’t stop at a new look or a new record producer—they completely re-concoct themselves—they create a whole new mythology. Sure, they dated some supermodels and yes, they even dabbled with the sex symbol spotlight themselves, but they also kicked off one of their tours at K-Mart. They were friends with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Salman Rushdie, but seemed to pal around with some everyday people too. There were songs about violence in Northern Ireland and the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., but hilariously memorable arena touring and goofball antics too. This is a band that’s both ultra-serious and ultra-self-deprecating, both intimate and don’t-even-think-about-getting-close. Their tiny little band name, it turns out, fronts a lot of churning personality and ideas that are anything but tiny.

Drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., hung a poster up at his high school that advertised a need for band members. Paul Hewson, David Evans, Adam Clayton and Dick Evans responded, and in Mullen’s kitchen, so it began. They covered Rolling Stones and Beatles songs, calling themselves Feedback (which apparently, they had a lot of), then Hype (which they didn’t have a lot of). When Dick Evans left to form the Virgin Prunes, the remaining four—perhaps wanting something subtler—chose the new name U2.

A buddy started calling Hewson “Bono Vox,” after a hearing aid advertisement. The hearing aid stigma wasn’t the most appealing, but the Latin meaning of the phrase—“good voice”—was, so Hewson stuck with Bono. And Bono, in turn, named David “The Edge,” which also stuck. In 1978, the foursome won both a talent show sponsored by Guinness beer and their very own manager, who helped them release an EP that was available only in Ireland. In 1980, they signed with Island Records and released Boy. They went back to the U.K. to tour (and to make sure their posters read “U2” this time, not “V2”) and crossed the Atlantic to the States.

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A buddy started calling Hewson “Bono Vox,” after a hearing aid advertisement. The hearing aid stigma wasn’t the most appealing, but the Latin meaning of the phrase—“good voice”—was, so Hewson stuck with Bono. And Bono, in turn, named David “The Edge,” which also stuck. In 1978, the foursome won both a talent show sponsored by Guinness beer and their very own manager, who helped them release an EP that was available only in Ireland. In 1980, they signed with Island Records and released Boy. They went back to the U.K. to tour (and to make sure their posters read “U2” this time, not “V2”) and crossed the Atlantic to the States.

Their second album, October, told of their strong Christian faiths, and though the Polish Solidarity movement-inspired “New Year’s Day” was popular, it wasn’t the hit the band was looking for. That came with 1983’s War. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was about the tumult in Northern Ireland, and Bono was known to wave a white flag in live shows—early political imagery for a soon-to-be political band. They filmed their concert at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater, and released the show as an EP called Under a Blood Red Sky.

1984’s Unforgettable Fire gave U2 their first U.S. Top-40 hit with “(Pride) In the Name of Love.” The release of The Joshua Tree in ’87 solidified their rock star status, and from it came the number one hits “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You.” Firm political stances and themes of spiritual salvation coursed through the record’s veins, but so did a healthy sense of fun. They hung out with the late great Frank Sinatra when their tour passed through Vegas, for instance—the beginning of a ten-year friendship with the permanent Chairman of the Board. The cover of Time magazine followed in its wake (they were only the third bunch of rockers to peer out of that hallowed red frame, by the way… preceded only by The Beatles and The Who). The double record and accompanying concert film Rattle and Hum came soon afterward—a project that clearly spoke to the band’s American blues, soul and country influences

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1984’s Unforgettable Fire gave U2 their first U.S. Top-40 hit with “(Pride) In the Name of Love.” The release of The Joshua Tree in ’87 solidified their rock star status, and from it came the number one hits “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You.” Firm political stances and themes of spiritual salvation coursed through the record’s veins, but so did a healthy sense of fun. They hung out with the late great Frank Sinatra when their tour passed through Vegas, for instance—the beginning of a ten-year friendship with the permanent Chairman of the Board. The cover of Time magazine followed in its wake (they were only the third bunch of rockers to peer out of that hallowed red frame, by the way… preceded only by The Beatles and The Who). The double record and accompanying concert film Rattle and Hum came soon afterward—a project that clearly spoke to the band’s American blues, soul and country influences

With its dance and electronic bent, 1990’s Achtung Baby was one of the band’s much-chronicled re-inventions. Recorded in Berlin, the album contained the beguiling hits “Mysterious Ways” and “One.” The accompanying tour was called “Zoo TV,” and it unleashed playful mass-media gimmickry on its audiences. Bono sang, dressed, spoke and vamped as “The Fly,” an invented, over-the-top alter ego who was meant to poke fun at the idea of inflated rock stardom.

In the middle of the Zoo TV tour, the band stole away to record Zooropa in 1993, to piqued (but favorable) critical eyebrows in 1993. Yet again, the band’s old sound had molted and something new was in its place. On this stadium tour, Edge got behind the mike with his monotone single “Numb,” and Bono’s “Fly” persona was shed, replaced by the wicked and horned “Mister MacPhisto.” MacPhisto was deemed the “Last Rock Star,” and was known to ring up politicians from a cell phone onstage and harangue his callers, much to the delight of himself and his crowd.

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In the middle of the Zoo TV tour, the band stole away to record Zooropa in 1993, to piqued (but favorable) critical eyebrows in 1993. Yet again, the band’s old sound had molted and something new was in its place. On this stadium tour, Edge got behind the mike with his monotone single “Numb,” and Bono’s “Fly” persona was shed, replaced by the wicked and horned “Mister MacPhisto.” MacPhisto was deemed the “Last Rock Star,” and was known to ring up politicians from a cell phone onstage and harangue his callers, much to the delight of himself and his crowd.

The business of arena rock, however, especially when it’s woven with this kind of satire, tends to tire its rockers out. And so the glittery MacPhisto suit went into storage and took a hiatus. Clayton and Mullen spent time in New York (the former, for a time at least, as the fiancé to supermodel Naomi Campbell) and worked on a theme for the film Mission Impossible. The band recorded “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” for the movie Batman Forever, Bono and Edge penned the theme for the James Bond flick Goldeneye, they collected various awards (one of their many MTV trophies conveniently allowed Bono a shot at criticizing French president Jacques Chirac for allowing nuclear testing) and gave various awards (like a Lifetime Achievement Grammy to Sinatra, in a speech that saw the oft-wisecracking Bono turn downright reverential). The band recorded with artists like Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Johnny Cash and B.B. King for the collaborative album Original Soundtracks, Volume 1 (a.k.a. the Passengers project).

Their next record, Pop, culled an industrial dance sound from the British club scene and infused it with rock. To kick it off, and to make sure no one thought they were done with the theatrics after Zoo TV, U2 began their “Pop-Mart” tour at a New York City K-Mart. It was the second highest-grossing tour of that year.

When not in the studio or up on stage, the boys focus on family and film projects and a plethora of political, social and environmental causes. Even though the arena extravaganzas have concluded for now, one gets the feeling these guys have new cards up their sleeves. Re-invention does mean new wardrobes, after all, and new wardrobes mean a lot of sleeves, so there’s really no end to the possibilities.