Back in the day my sister loved Top of the Pops. She would listen to the Sunday evening singles chart show in the car on BBC Radio One as we drove home from tea at my grandmothers each week, and then watch a selection of the bands
mime perform on a Thursday evening on Top of the Pops. As we had one television in the house, and it was integral to our main living area, the show was watched by all but my Dad. He would find a quiet corner to play chess in or listen to his choice of music. My Dad was not one to put up with things that he did not enjoy and he did not enjoy modern pop music.
If Top of the Pops wished to play a song and the band was not available then a dance group called Pan’s People would perform to the music. They were corny. Even at such a young age, I knew that they were corny. Some of the bands were laughably bad but this group of scantily clad females just annoyed me.
And then the band Queen went to number one in the singles chart with Bohemian Rhapsody, staying there for nine weeks. Top of the Pops played a promotional video that the band had produced to accompany the track and the MTV age was born.
At least that is what music history now tells us with the benefit of hindsight. At the time the concept of MTV was unknown; I just loved the video, especially as it meant less Pan’s People dancing. I liked the music and I liked the visuals attached. I was rather sorry when the number one slot was taken by Abba with Mama Mia, a catchy but much less impressive track in my young and limited view.
MTV did not start to register on my radar until many years after this. Sure there would be bands that I wished to see perform on television, and promotional videos for individual tracks became more common, but we still only had four television channels to choose from and the music shows that I watched were largely populated by young presenters who seemed to love themselves a great deal. Looking back, I suspect that many of them must have been high on drugs when on screen.
Do I sound miserable and bitter? A lot of it was, of course, jealousy. Those skinny, admired and well groomed young ladies presenting and performing were drooled over by the boys that I wanted to notice me. I was about as uncool as it was possible to be and had no idea how to change that. I remember starting to pay attention to the band Beautiful South purely based on a Top of the Pops performance when their lead singer, Jacqui Abbott, appeared fully clothed. By allowing attention to be paid to the music rather than her body they gained my respect.
MTV was being talked about long before I first got the chance to see what it was all about. Sky and cable were only just becoming popular in Britain and I knew few people who were willing to pay to watch what was being offered. Pubs and clubs started to advertise link ups, but I was not interested in watching television when trying to socialise. Even then I found this took effort.
I joined a gym when I started work and this establishment had a television high up on the wall in a corner to help take our minds off the tedium of the treadmill. Depending on who got to the controls first we would watch various sports programmes, although normally football (yawn), or a selection of videos from MTV. I started to understand what the hype was all about; I was interested but still not impressed.
The performer who sticks in my mind most was Madonna. I had quite liked dancing to a few of her songs, but I disliked her attempts at self promotion via sex and shock tactics. Her videos on MTV made me feel much the same way as Pan’s People had all those years ago. Too much exposed flesh gyrating to camera; too much of everything on show.
When my kids started to get into pop music we tried to pick up some music DVDs for them to watch so that they could see the bands whose songs they enjoyed. This proved much harder than we expected; we wondered if bands no longer made promotional videos. As we had not had broadcast television for many years we had no idea what was available.
Eventually we found some disks from the Now, Pop Party, Grammy and MTV Award collections and sat down to watch; it seems that little has changed. There are a few more imaginative offerings from some of the better bands, but many of the female performers are still gyrating to camera dressed in as little as possible while the men surround themselves with plastic babes for no apparent reason other than they can.
At least I have grown out of the whole jealousy bit, although I was very amused to read about a farmer from my homeland who took exception to Rhianna stripping off for a music video in his field (BBC News – Bangor farmer tells superstar Rihanna to ‘cover up’). Perhaps I retain more of my upbringing than I realise.
I guess that MTV must still exist. I prefer to watch such things as the Black Veiled Brides film ‘Legion of the Black’ (available on Wretched & Divine (Deluxe Edition)). Now that’s what I call a music video.