The first ten minutes: although it helped to define youth culture and shape popular music for a solid twenty years, these opening moments are as primitive as ham radio.

MTV launched on this date in 1981 at 12.01 am. The first video was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” which, even though it’s not a great song, captured the expectant mood of the early 80s when anything seemed possible in popular music. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement. After the jump is the playlist for the first day, and there’s still a lot of the musky recent past hanging in there, such as the crushingly depressing Rod Stewart of the late 70s — and REO Speedwagon; more REO Speedwagon, in fact, than you’d likely want in an entire lifetime.

However, there’s some good stuff in there that made the whole thing seem very new and very promising: Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, David Bowie, The Specials, Kate Bush, Talking Heads, and, uh . . . okay, just those six (sorry, Pat Benetar fans). Sadly, devastatingly, the first appearance by a Canadian band was April Wine. Bryan Adams hadn’t been invented yet.

  1. Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles
  2. “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar
  3. “She Won’t Dance with Me” by Rod Stewart
  4. You Better You Bet” by The Who
  5. Little Suzi’s on the Up” by Ph.D.
  6. We Don’t Talk Anymore” by Cliff Richard
  7. Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders
  8. Time Heals” by Todd Rundgren
  9. Take It On the Run” by REO Speedwagon
  10. Rockin’ the Paradise” by Styx
  11. “When Things Go Wrong” by Robin Lane and the Chartbusters
  12. History Never Repeats” by Split Enz – MTV Video
  13. Hold On Loosely” by 38 Special – MTV Video
  14. Just Between You and Me” by April Wine – MTV Video
  15. Sailing” by Rod Stewart – MTV Video
  16. Iron Maiden” by Iron Maiden – MTV Video
  17. Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon
  18. Bluer Than Blue” by Michael Johnson
  19. “Message of Love” by The Pretenders
  20. “Mr. Briefcase” by Lee Ritenour
  21. Double Life” by The Cars
  22. In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins
  23. “Looking For Clues” by Robert Palmer
  24. “Too Late” by Shoes
  25. Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  26. Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart
  27. “Surface Tension” by Rupert Hine
  28. One Step Ahead” by Split Enz
  29. Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty
  30. “I’m Gonna Follow You” by Pat Benatar
  31. “Savannah Nights” by Tom Johnston
  32. “Lucille” by Rockestra
  33. The Best of Times” by Styx
  34. “Vengeance” by Carly Simon
  35. Wrathchild” by Iron Maiden
  36. “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” by Blotto
  37. “Passion” by Rod Stewart
  38. Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello
  39. “Don’t Let Him Go” by REO Speedwagon
  40. “Remote Control/Illegal” by The Silencers
  41. Angel of the Morning” by Juice Newton
  42. “Little Sister” by Rockpile with Robert Plant
  43. “Hold On to the Night” by Bootcamp
  44. “Dreaming” by Cliff Richard
  45. “Is it You?” by Lee Ritenour
  46. Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac
  47. “He Can’t Love You” by Michael Stanley Band
  48. “Tough Guys” by REO Speedwagon
  49. Rapture” by Blondie
  50. Don’t Let Go the Coat” by The Who
  51. Ain’t Love a Bitch” by Rod Stewart
  52. “Talk of the Town” by The Pretenders
  53. “Can’t Happen Here” by Rainbow
  54. Thank You for Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold
  55. You Better You Bet” by The Who
  56. “Bring It All Home” by Gerry Rafferty
  57. “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” by April Wine
  58. The Man with the Child in His Eyes” by Kate Bush
  59. “Message Of Love” by The Pretenders
  60. “All Night Long” by Rainbow
  61. Boys Keep Swinging” by David Bowie
  62. “Rat Race” by The Specials
  63. Just Between You and Me” by April Wine
  64. Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads
  65. “Victim” by Bootcamp
  66. Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart
  67. Cruel to Be Kind” by Nick Lowe
  68. “A Little In Love” by Cliff Richard
  69. Take It on the Run” by REO Speedwagon
  70. “Wild Eyed Southern Boys” by .38 Special
  71. Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush
  72. Celebrate the Bullet” by The Selecter
  73. More Than I Can Say” by Leo Sayer
  74. A Message to You, Rudy” by The Specials
  75. In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins
  76. Heart of Glass” by Blondie
  77. “Oh God, I Wish I Was Home Tonight” by Rod Stewart
  78. “Kid” by The Pretenders
  79. Wrathchild” by Iron Maiden
  80. “Come What May” by Lani Hall with Herb Alpert
  81. I Got You” by Split Enz
  82. “Sister Disco” by The Who
  83. Fashion” by David Bowie
  84. Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  85. “Love Stinks” by The J. Geils Band
  86. Johnny & Mary” by Robert Palmer
  87. “Tomorrow Night” by Shoes
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