Much Music/MTV

 

I very recently did an interview about Much Music and it brought back, mostly, great memories.

When I was much younger, I would choose the bar I drank at by whether they had an American feed of MTV. Music wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, especially on TV. In it’s infancy, MTV played a wide variety of videos, partly because there wasn’t a ton of videos yet and partly, I suspect (or maybe believe), because they wanted to. My hope is that most people go into business ventures with the best of intentions and only later, money and power and outside interests corrupt them.

Those were great days, a TV station that played music 24 hours a day!!!! I would positively tingle at the thought of getting to see bands ‘play’ their songs on TV. MTV was the epitome of cool and the cry I Want My MTV echoed across America and even north to Canada. New artists burst into the mainstream and MTV started breaking bands and introducing new music, especially post punk/new wave bands to the masses. MTV acted as a real alternative to radio. One of the best features were the specialty shows, 120 Minutes, which featured alternative and independent artists and Headbangers Ball-a heavy metal show. And MTV played hip hop long before the radio did.

Soon, Canada had its own 24 hour video station, Much Music. Initially, Much Music followed MTV’s programming of new, innovative music mixed with the hits of the day. They also had niche shows; their metal show was called the Pepsi Power Hour and they played indie/alt videos on City Limits. They also had Spotlight, which was a full half hour of videos by one artist where you could see a few deep cuts. Eventually they programmed Soul In The City and Electric Circus which featured urban and dance music.

In the channel’s infancy my band, the recently christened, The Pursuit Of Happiness, had recorded some demos at our buddy Scott De Smit’s house on his 16 track Fostex. Another friend, Nelu Ghiran, who worked at the National Film Board offered to shoot a video for one of the demos, I’m An Adult Now. We finished it and brought it over to Much Music with the hope that they would spin it on City Limits. The next day, we got a call saying not only would they play it on City Limits, they were actually going to add it into full rotation. The rest, as they say, is history. MTV in America played a remade, much more expensive version of I’m An Adult Now which had a great deal to do with our success there as well.

Anyway, enough of the bio. Fast Forward. Eventually, both MTV and Much Music succumbed to commercial pressures and in many ways became more like commercial radio stations, though I will say that they occasionally went outside the box with their programming and made stars of bands that might not of ‘made it’ on commercial radio. I’m thinking of System Of A Down as an example.

Later, about 10 years ago, I remember traveling through America with my wife and watching MTV before bed.  They weren’t playing videos but instead, these weird youth-oriented reality shows. We’d watch Jackass and a bunch of others who’s names escape me now. I actually thought they were kind of funny and almost good. Jackass, of course, was awesome and Johnny Knoxville became my new hero. The idea of reality shows wasn’t new at MTV. They started with The Real World many years earlier. My claim to fame with that show was running into one of the original cast members who told me she was a fan of ours because she bought a car that had one of our cassettes jammed in the tape player so she was forced to listen to it.

In subsequent road trips to the USA, the reality shows on MTV seemed to be getting dumber and dumber or maybe the novelty of them just wore off on us. Eventually MTV moved up to Canada and some of these shows came with them. Apparently, MTV Canada wasn’t able to show videos due to CRTC regulations that only allowed Much Music to do that. So the reality shows were really all they had. The success of the reality show paradigm soon influenced Much Music programming as well and that was the beginning of the end. I completely checked out from music television and whenever I passed through the dial it seemed like they weren’t even playing reality shows anymore. Those had been replaced by either reruns of former network shows like The Gilmore Girls or else something to do with vampires. I will say that Much Music still played more videos than US MTV did but that’s probably not saying much.

I am not writing this to criticize Much Music or MTV but rather to say a heartfelt thank you to them for all they did in terms of helping my career and, mostly, for all the entertainment. Being able to watch music on TV and see and hear bands that I never would have seen or heard without MTV/Much Music was fabulously exciting for the younger me. Before 24 music television, the only music you’d see on TV were occasional reruns of Midnight Special or Don Kirsheners Rock Concert or someone lip syncing on a talk show. What was great about music television was that people in small communities who didn’t get a lot of concerts or maybe even a decent radio station could have access to great bands and music. It united kids in both the US and Canada and that, to me, is a great thing.

To paraphrase The Buggles, You Tube killed the Video star. Now that music videos are accessible on your computer whenever you want and on demand, music television has lost its status. This is time marching on, unavoidable however nostalgic people like me might get. It may be that MTV and Much Music were being proactive by cutting down on music and may have seen this coming. Or some would say that nature abhors a vacuum and You Tube filled that when music television abandoned music. It doesn’t matter, it’s too late anyway. Fortunately, the AUX Network is picking up some of the slack but only some of it.

So, Much Music and MTV-it would be hard to overstate how much joy and excitement you gave me over the years. I can’t imagine there will ever be TV stations that would offer kids as much as you did.


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