Friday, September 01, 2006

MTV Killed the Counterculture (shhh! MTV is Killing-itself)

Max Ren: "Death to Videodrome! Long-live the new flesh!"


It was Summer, 1980, and I was talking-to my asshole-cousin who worked for the local cable company provider: she had some exciting-news, there was going to be a "music channel," something new that had never been done before. I was 13, so it was actually exciting--but what kind of music would they play? "Rock and pop," said my asshole-cousin. This was fine, but I wasn't expecting much. I was wrong. For the first couple-years, MTV showed some cutting-edge stuff. Their first Halloween concert was Frank Zappa! You could see New Wave videos! The Police! Even DEVO! There were interviews and concerts with David Bowie! Public Image Limited! Killing Joke! Even Iggy Pop got to stick-his-neck in the door. It didn't last long. Hey, what did you expect?!

Maybe it lasted three-years, but then the suits realized why they created MTV in-the-first-place: to totally-control music after the uncertain times of the 1960s-70s, with the counterculture and Punk. Especially punk and post-punk, they just couldn't understand and/or control it, and the artists were impossible to market to everyone. Some of them had the tendency to die, too. No, the focus of pop would be narrowed and channeled into a formula--and no Black music. That didn't occurr until Michael Jackson broke-through in 1983, and MTV fought it as long as they could. The Saturday concerts? Those stopped by the late-80s, and the videos got less-and-less interesting.

But what was really horrible about MTV (and still is), was the fusion of music and the video-image as a standard for bands to exist at all. It's a form of economic-warfare, really. You squeeze everyone else out by owning the game, and raising production-costs of promotion to unattainable-heights. Worse-still, the obvious destruction of more of people's imaginations has happened. You used to listen to a song, and get your own images and impressions from them. Since MTV, this has been lost, though it seems to be coming-back since fewer-and-fewer people are watching the network anymore. But like Hollywood, there are things the underground can always deliver that mainstream cannot. Viewers came to expect this, and then only well-funded groups could exist.

Ordinary people used to make their own culture, and MTV hurt this facet of American life, and badly. Perhaps it is returning again in all the forms it used-to: from roots-music, folk, garage rock, musical-experimenters, roots-blues, punk-blues, exotica, musical-hobbyists, and all other forms of music by folks It has been too-long, and the internet is rectifying this with a cheap distribution-network. But what will be the new corporate reaction? It's going to include the internet, we know this! What will be the new MTV? We should kill-it before it hatches.