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palaces, barricades, threats meet promises

maura @ 6:43 pm

A pal sent me a link the other day to the 120 Minutes Archive, an online compendium of info about the classic late-night MTV show that first aired in 1986. The site is brilliant: the core content is a collection of playlists with each song is linked to a YouTube search. There are still some playlists missing, and I imagine (hope) that the site will continue to grow. But so far I’ve only struck out once trying to watch a video: the Age of Chance cover of “Kiss” (which is just so very awesome and which I could slap on the turntable right now if I weren’t too lazy to go all the way out into the living room).

The section dating 1986-1995 is a treasure. I think I actually had many of these early episodes on videotape until well after college — the playlist for 12/28/87 looks awfully familiar. Be careful when you click that link: it’s easy to lose whole buckets of time watching video after video (The Lucy Show! Siouxsie! Jesus & Mary Chain! Housemartins!). In fact, I started this post last night but spent so much time in nostalgiaville that I didn’t have time to finish it.

It would be hard to overestimate the impact that 120 Minutes had on my musical life. I didn’t really listen to music of my own until the summer before 7th grade, when we moved 1/2way across the country and got a color TV, cable, and a VCR all at the same time. That was the same year MTV launched, and while I did listen to the radio (most notably the show Rock Over London which played the top songs on the British charts), watching MTV was what really got me into music. Yes, I was a classic victim of ’80s new wave + pop music hysteria: Duran Duran, Madonna, Prince, Eurythmics, etc., the whole kit + kaboodle.

When we moved again just before 9th grade, MTV moved with me. Even though I was still mostly a teenybopper I already fancied myself something of a musical connoisseur, scouring record stores for import 12″s and B sides and the like. Because what’s cooler than the song on the B side of the import 12″ 45rpm for Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth?” Nothing, I say!

But, thanks to 120 Minutes (and a British cousin who sent me indie mixtapes), during high school I got a teeny tiny bit (musically) cooler. The show was my introduction to “college rock,” which led to actually listening to college radio and, eventually, co-hosting a college radio show of my own. Yay!

These days we don’t have cable, but of course MTV doesn’t even play music videos anymore anyway. And with the internets we can watch practically any video we want whenever we want to. But this site makes me miss MTV, just a little bit.

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