I Want My MTV {Book Review}

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"I Want My MTV Book Marks Rosenbaum"

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution ($20)

By: Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks

Book summary

Remember the first time you saw Michael Jackson dance with zombies in “Thriller”? Diamond Dave karate kick with Van Halen in “Jump”? Tawny Kitaen turning cartwheels on a Jaguar to Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again”? The Beastie Boys spray beer in “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)”? Axl Rose step off the bus in “Welcome to the Jungle”? 

Remember When All You Wanted Was Your MTV?

It was a pretty radical idea — a channel for teenagers, showing nothing but music videos. It was such a radical idea that almost no one thought it would actually succeed, much less become a force in the worlds of music, television, film, fashion, sports, and even politics. But it did work. MTV became more than anyone had ever imagined.

I Want My MTV tells the story of the first decade of MTV, the golden era when MTV’s programming was all videos, all the time, and kids watched religiously to see their favorite bands, learn about new music, and have something to talk about at parties. From its start in 1981 with a small cache of videos by mostly unknown British new wave acts to the launch of the reality-television craze with The Real World in 1992, MTV grew into a tastemaker, a career maker, and a mammoth business. 

Featuring interviews with nearly four hundred artists, directors, VJs, and television and music executives, I Want My MTV is a testament to the channel that changed popular culture forever.

My review

Since I was 11 in 1981, I remember — distinctly — when MTV hot the airwaves. It was, with few exceptions, all I watched, throughout my teenage years. We’re talking before school, after school, all weekend, every weekend. My parents wouldn’t watch it, of course, and they were opposed to it (also of course). They couldn’t quite grasp the concept of watching music videos every waking moment of every day and my friends and I couldn’t imagine not watching music videos every waking moment of every day.

Needless to say, when I heard about I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, I was all over it. This is my wheelhouse, as they say. As a teen during the ’80s, I was an MTV teen all the way. In fact, I recall sitting in class, doodling different design ideas for the famous “MTV” logo in my notebook. True story.

For me, reading I Want My MTV was like stepping back into the ’80s. I loved loved LOVED it. This book — the revised version of the 2011 edition — is like a chronicle of my teenage years. I Want My MTV definitely has a nostalgic feel to it — if you were there in the beginning, like I was, along with millions of others — but it’s so much more.

It’s also a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the machine that was MTV. Take, for instance, Chapter 21: “A Whopping, Steaming Turd” (The Worst Video Ever Made), which tells the story, in dialogue fashion, of Billy Squier’s “Rock Me Tonite.” Basically, it tells (from several people’s perspectives) how the “Rock Me Tonite” video “killed his career.”

Billy Squier: “…I think MTV had a negative effect on music…I think videos changed how record companies acted. It’s a force, so you’re going to look for bands that are videogenic…then MTV became the biggest radio station in the country, and the most influential…It’s like “Rock Me Tonite” is the MBA course in how a video can go really wrong. On a lesser level, this stuff goes on all the time. I just get to be the poster boy for it.”

I Want My MTV was named one of the best books of 2011 by Spin Magazine, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, CNBC, NPR, Pitchfork, The Onion, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, and VEVO.

If you remember MTV when it was music television — and loved it — you will love I Want My MTV. Every single one of its 592 pages. It goes without saying that this book would make an excellent gift for some on your shopping list as well!

I was not compensated for writing this post. I received a copy of I Want My MTV to facilitate my review. My opinions are 100% honest and 100% mine.

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