For as long as I can remember, I have known that the first day of August was the day that MTV launched. It’s one of those anniversaries that has generational significance, like the moon landing (a nod to MTV’s original promo).
It’s kinda sad that MTV doesn’t really show videos anymore. Or, is it? I don’t know. I stopped watching it long ago—I grew up while MTV had to figure out how to appeal to the generations that came after me. Of course, with the release of reality programming pioneer The Real World in 1992, MTV killed not only the radio star but also its original mission.
Anyhow, 10 years ago, I started writing for travel site Gadling. My first piece was scheduled to be published on August 1, 2011, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of MTV. I was lucky to have an anniversary prompt to help me overcome writer’s block and to give me an excuse to look back at some of the great videos I enjoyed as a kid.
Now here we are on MTV’s 40th anniversary and I still love looking back at these videos. Gadling discontinued publishing quite a few years ago. But I have always been fond of this post and the 80s videos that I chose for it. So I decided to resurrect the article for this blog.
What other videos, from the 80s to today, would you add to this list?
P.S. I made a few tweaks to the original and added some commentary where needed.
If you’re as old as or younger than MTV, which turns 40 today, then you probably can’t recall when MTV (short for “Music Television”) played music videos and nothing but. MTV launched on August 1, 1981, with a handful of videos filmed mostly on stages or sets tricked out with some lighting and a few props. As MTV grew in popularity, more and more musicians went on location to shoot miniature films backed by pop music soundtracks. Indeed, some of these videos, shot in places such as Venice and Prague, were like postcards beckoning viewers to find out more about the locales.
I grew up in the years when MTV was at the forefront of popular culture and credit the network with fueling a number of my travel fantasies. In this spirit, I list the top 5 MTV videos that inspired my desire to travel. Note that all of these videos were made in 1989 or earlier.
Because I am known as an Italophile, I’m often asked what my favorite film set in Italy is. This Madonna classic, which must have single-handedly inflated ticket prices for a gondola ride after it was released in 1984, is always the first thing that comes to mind. Watch the video and tell me it doesn’t make you want to go to Venice.
The sweeping views of Prague and INXS’s somber walks through that city, in particular their stroll through the Jewish Cemetery, is one of the most beautifully filmed music videos of all time. I still haven’t made it to Prague and that fact makes me sadder than this video usually does.
I distinctly remember the first time I saw this video and perked up when the VJ announced it had been shot in Spain. “Personal Jesus” was filmed in the Tabernas Desert in southern Spain. If it looks familiar, it was filmed in the same location as many Spaghetti Westerns of yore.
There is really nothing particularly related to the city of Rio de Janeiro in this memorable and provocative video by Duran Duran. But the shots of the white sand beaches and glossy sailboats gave me an itch for Caribbean travel. Apparently, this video was shot in and around Antigua.
Fun fact: Since writing this piece, I’ve become even more interested in a different Duran Duran video. Hungry Like the Wolf was shot in Sri Lanka, where I recently lived for three years. It has a weird, colonialist vibe for sure. But it was kind of a trip to be able to visit the cafe in Colombo where the video was shot.
Even decades after it was made, LL Cool J’s funky black-and-white homage to L.A. is a love letter to the City of Angels even if LL continues to insist he’s not going back there.