The Golden Age of MTV

Some people might say the golden age of MTV launched in the mid '80s, after people finally caught on to this new thing called music television. The first few years were bumpy as cable companies did not want to carry the channel and people didn't really know what it was all about. After the "I Want My MTV" ad campaign and Michael Jackson's Thriller music video (which made execs realize their viewers would also watch black artists, SMDH), the network saved itself and viewers appeared.

Others might argue that the golden age of MTV started in the late '90s, with the introduction of Total Request Live. Somewhere between 725,000 and 850,000 people tuned into TRL every afternoon to see Carson Daily count down the top ten videos of the day. The show became a huge promotional tool for musicians and a way for fans to see their favorite artists up close and personal. We were introduced to pop princesses and boy bands, and iconic videos like ...Baby One More Time, Bye Bye Bye, Slim Shady, Crazy in Love, What's My Age Again, Hey Ya!, and I Want It That Way. 

I think the golden age of MTV began in the early '90s and went right up until TRL started. I just finished reading Kennedy's book (The Kennedy Chronicles: The Golden Age of MTV Through Rose-Colored Glasses). It's all about her time as a VJ from 1992-1997. I was 13-18 years old during her heyday and had the channel on every single day. If I had a friend sleep over, we kept it on the entire night. I remember talking to boys on the phone, commenting on what video was currently playing as we watched from our own bedrooms. I stayed up late for 120 Minutes on the weekends, couldn't wait for a new episode of Unplugged, and lived for shows like The Real World, Daria, The Jon Stewart Show, Loveline, and yes, even Beavis and Butthead

Kennedy's book is not very well written. She tries way too hard to be cool and smart, but desperately needed an editor to tone down her quips and organize the timeline. It's all over the place and was hard to read at times, except for the interviews. Those were all good, especially Pat Smear's. But the books is so gossipy, I loved it!

Lisa Kennedy Montgomery moved from Oregon to LA and interned at KROQ. When her boss (Andy Schuon) got a new job as an MTV program director, he offered her a VJ job. She hosted a nightly show, Alternative Nation, and also worked at the Beach House, Spring Break, and Winter Lodge, and went to festivals like Woodstock '94, Lollapalooza, and Reading. 

She says she hated Thom Yorke and Courtney Love. Beck, Bjork, Weezer, Oasis, Soundgarden and randomly, Matt LeBlanc, were the hardest to interview. (Fun fact: Beck is a Scientologist and MTV was planning an MTV News special all about the cult religion, but Viacom shut it down after getting pressure from the church.) She admired Gwen Stefani, had an unlikely friendship with Jenny McCarthy, and became besties with rock stars Trent Reznor, Dweezil Zappa, Billy Corgan, and Henry Rollins.

She also dated a few. She had an emotional affair with John Rzeznik, the married lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls. He later wrote the hit song Name about her and their band blew up. She also dated Dave Navarro. I remember watching their flirtation/foreplay unfold in front of my eyes whenever she'd interview the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And I was so envious of her! 

What I was most surprised by though, was that throughout her time on the channel she remained sober and a virgin. In an interview with Dave he said he loved her, but did not want to be her first. What a gentleman. She was also a practicing Eastern Orthodox Christian and a republican (now a libertarian with her own show on Fox Business Network) and hated the Choose or Lose campaign that helped get Clinton elected. Who knew?!

It took me so long to read this book because every time she mentioned an iconic performance or strange event, I whipped out my phone and went down a YouTube rabbit hole. Here are some of my favorite live performances.

I casually watched MTV in college, but only to turn something on in the background. I'd check out Britney, Blink-182, or the Backstreet Boys on TRL, but that show mostly annoyed me. Sadly, I had aged out. I guess the cool thing about this channel is that it spans three and a half decades so every generation can claim their own golden age. It just felt so important to me during those five teen years that went by in the blink of an eye.
I am writing this book for all the people who came of age during that time … that fleeting moment of our youth … and it sure as hell is fun to relive those passionate, earnest moments when music mattered and time stopped. - Kennedy


Misty said...

We're the same age so I understand. I had MTV on every day. I watched so many videos and so many shows. I remember watching the day Kurt Cobain died. Do you remember Liquid Television? That show was so weird, but I loved it.

So crazy that Kennedy was sober and a virgin! Good for her.

I've recently seen a few interviews of Chris Cornell from his younger days floating around. He was hard to interview. He was such a smart ass! Still heartbroken over that one.

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

In my later MTV time, I watched it mainly for the shows - Daria, Real World, Road Rules, Beavis & Butthead, Jon Stewart, that ridiculous dating show, and more.

Do you think this book is worth the read?

Elle Sees said...

Oh, how I miss the old days of MTV. It was on 24/7 and I did the same as you. I miss all of those shows, even MTV News with Kurt Loder, et al. I still love him, haha. I've heard of this book and had no idea if it was good, so I'm glad you read it and reported back. And omg Dave Navarro---I loveeee him.