Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Book Report: VJ The Uplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave
I just finished VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave. I have mixed emotions about the book. On the one hand, it's super intriguing and I read it in 2 days. On the other hand, it made me hate the VJs. Self-congratulatory, shallow, ugh. This always happens when I read about Rock and Roll.
I hate to even say this in case one of the original 5 vjs Googles themselves and finds my review. I still think they are cool and want them to like me. But I have to say that they are disappointing. Nevertheless, I spent the day watching videos and downloading images for the post I wrote for Babble, 10 Things You Never Knew About the Original MTV VJs, and they won me over again. Maybe they just don't come off well in print.
First of all, it's a lazy book. It's just excerpted from interviews of all of them. There aren't normal paragraphs and exposition. It just has quotes from all the VJs.
Martha: I made 26,000 when I started.
Alan: That was pure discrimination. Martha and I were equally experienced.
Page after page, they each weigh in on different topics. It's like the transcript of an interview, with the interview questions left out. Still, it's fascinating to read.
I'm always really disturbed by drugs. Alan Hunter and Mark Goodman talk about doing drugs throughout the 80s like it was the best time they ever had. There's no layer of reflection or perspective that older people usually have. It was a turn off.
I always loved Mark Goodman and thought he was the smartest one. He was the smartest one, and he knew it. He's really pretentious. And even when he talks about how pretentious he was, he still says things to show that he was the smartest one. However, he mentions 2 maybe 3 times in the book that during that time period in the 80s he was working out a lot, "lifting really heavy weights." Lifting really heavy weights? Why do you keep talking about lifting really heavy weights, Mark Goodman?
I think they have an inflated sense of their importance, even though I totally think they were important. They talk about MTV hiring Kurt Loder and none of them can really get over how Kurt Loder was critical of MTV when he wrote for Rolling Stone. Nina Blackwood flat-out called him a hypocrite. But if you're really looking at the history of MTV, bringing Kurt Loder on was important and improved the channel's credibility in terms of News. Those original VJs are just sour grapes. They aren't being objective about the history of MTV. They just want to talk about themselves. Even Martha, who I adore, "pulled a weird thing" on Kurt Loder when he tried to interview her at something and she put him on the spot and asked him why he hadn't shown up at JJ Jackson's memorial service. "And that was the last time I ever spoke to Kurt Loder," she says. They seem kind of immature. And I say that as someone who was AS IN LOVE with Billy Squier and Adm Ant as Martha Quinn was.
Martha Quinn regrets not embracing "sexy" more and wonders why she "sabotaged herself" with the preppy, non-sexy clothes she wore. THIS WAS THE MOST DISAPPOINTING THING SHE SAID! I thought Martha was awesome and smart and cool for wearing a boy scout shirt and skinny tie when she interviewed David Lee Roth, and everyone loved her for it.
The book really did do a good job conveying how MTV was started with a radio mindset/format. It's hard to even imagine now, but music wasn't on TV. Music was only on the radio. Everything about it was experimental and revolutionary. The VJs worked in shifts going from Martha, Alan, JJ, Mark, Nina around the clock to Martha, Alan, JJ, Mark, and Nina. They were a year into it before they realized they could shoot Martha, Martha, Alan, Alan, JJ, JJ, Mark, Mark, Nina, Nina and everyone could go home after their segment was filmed. Because it was the mentality of live radio. They didn't think about filming segments out of order—something that is a total no-brainer today. Also, a big part of the VJ's job at the beginning was going out and schmoozing cable guys in order to get cable stations to carry them. That's where the whole, "I want my MTV" thing came from: Call your cable provider and tell them you want MTV. Manhattan, where the VJs all lived, didn't get MTV. They couldn't even watch it at first.
Well. I can't deny that there is some interesting stuff in this book. I recommend it if you remember MTV and feel like reminiscing. But the VJs just aren't as cool as I remembered.