“You Better Run”/Pat Benatar. In which we could finally see the pout.
“She Won’t Dance With Me”/Rod Stewart. Balls-out rocker in which Rod does an itchy-dance on a headache-inducing polka-dot background, shirt open to the waist. Clearly, MTV expected people to watch without really listening too closely, given this line from the lyric: “Got a hard-on, honey, that hurts like hell/If I don’t ask her, somebody else will.”
“You Better You Bet”/The Who. Probably the best song on the list, but MTV soon made clear that the song was no longer the thing. I’m guessing this is the video MTV showed– a concert clip recorded in March 1981.
“We Don’t Talk Anymore”/Cliff Richard. Watching early videos inspires a certain nostalgia for those innocent days when dry ice seemed cutting-edge. However, I’m betting that the disembodied-head video effects and Cliff’s nifty T-shirt seemed uncool even back then. Video aside, it’s a good song, though.
“Take It on the Run”/REO Speedwagon and “Rockin’ the Paradise”/Styx. MTV blasted to popularity in small- and medium-sized cities first, because it was easier to get cable clearances in those places than in major metropolitan areas. And once it became clear that MTV’s audience was going to be comprised largely of white suburban kids, that meant REO and Styx until you couldn’t stand it anymore.
“When Things Go Wrong”/Robin Lane & the Chartbusters. Boston-area new-wave band with a great name and a videogenic lead singer. How could it go wrong? After much success on a local label in Boston, they signed a major-label deal and promptly got lost in the major-label promotional shuffle. After two albums and a live EP, they vanished for more than 20 years, before the inevitable new-millennium reunion.
“History Never Repeats”/Split Enz. This may have been the first video to depict a singer lying in bed singing–but it wasn’t the last. Split Enz became one of the first bands whose career was made by MTV.