Songwriters: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.
Original Release: Boy
Definitive Version: Under a Blood Red Sky, 1983
I wasn’t watching when MTV flipped the switch and showed Video Killed the Radio Star, but it wasn’t long before it came to Columbus in 1981 and I was watching nonstop.
Two things I remember about the first time I watched MTV: REO Speedwagon was on all the time. Apparently they were the first current concert video that MTV showed on a Saturday night (and thereafter made Saturday nights required viewing for subsequent concerts), and MTV cut up all the songs, turned them into their own videos and played them to death.
The other thing was all the new bands—all English and all with weird haircuts—that MTV played.
Now I had had some experience with watching videos and seeing these new-wave bands, like The Police and Squeeze. Warner Cable in Columbus had the first interactive TV system, called Qube, that aside from providing my first exposure to extensive cable programming (including porn on jerry-rigged systems) also had a show where viewers voted through their cable boxes what videos from a choice of three they wanted to see. And before that was Video Concert Hall.
But MTV significantly upped the game, because, well, the show never ended, of course. MTV would become my favorite “TV show” for the next five years. Jin pledged allegiance to the hair bands—particularly Duran Duran—but to me early on it was an ending stream of flotsam punctuated by the occasional appearance by a mainstream band that I liked or Nina Blackwood.
But some bands clearly were better than others. I can recall to this day the first time I saw U2 doing I Will Follow on MTV. Although it sounded generally like a lot of other bands at the time, there was clearly something distinctive about their sound, so much so that I thought and said that this was the band that had the best chance of all of them to be big. As we all know, I was horribly mistaken …
Years later, I’ll never forget going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and seeing in the U2 exhibit a couple of letters of rejection by record companies. I pointed them out to Scott: “Look. Letters from people who no longer are in the business.” Forget trying to find the Next U2, they had a chance to get THE U2 and passed. But then no one ever accused the record industry of being overpopulated by geniuses.