Great Music Videos from Before MTV

Image courtesy of ICanHasCheezburger

Many folks think that the birth of the music video can be traced to the launch of MTV … but that really doesn’t make sense when you think about it. I mean, even knowing that MTV started as a small local station before transitioning to a major cable network … how would they have established themselves without existing material?

The reality is that there have been music videos produced since the early days of sound-based video. With the advent of television and its popularity in 1950s, we started to see promotional videos attached to network shows – such as Ricky Nelson. By the 1960s the Kennedy-Nixon debates had made the impact of video extremely clear, and we had the Beatles in feature films and more and more groups starting to take advantage of video as a way of promoting their music. There were programmes in the UK and Australia as well as the U.S. that featured music video shorts throughout the 70s leading up to the ‘MTV era’.

The other day BuzzFeed had a cool look at a few pre-MTV videos, which made me want to search out even more! Here are a dozen classics:

Frank Zappa – City of Tiny Lights

Devo – Jocko Homo

Wings – Coming Up

The Who – Cobwebs & Strange (the video was originally for ‘Call Me Lightning’, this is from ‘The Kids Are Alright’)

Samantha Sang – Emotion (with the Bee-Gees, who wrote the song)

The MaCoys – Hang On Sloopy

Michael Nesmith – Cruisin’

The Police – Roxanne (from 1978)

Kraftwerk – The Robots (1977 … they were SO ahead of their time!)

Blondie – Rapture

Sweet – Ballroom Blitz (typical ‘pseudo-live’ … but one of my first 45’s, so …)

The Archies – Sugar, Sugar (cartoon show tie in music video)

And finally one of the pioneers of the form – The Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever

What are your favorites from the pre-MTV era?

Categories: Music Diary

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2 replies

  1. You should probably include at least a nod to The Monkeys who popularized music videos long before MTV. They were no more fake than the current generation of pop stars.

    • Well, just did a look back a couple of weeks ago, so I didn’t want to use one of my dozen choices on them.  But you’re right – the integrated music videos each week deserved a mention!  That got carried into shows like The Partridge Family and more. Then we had The Heights in the early 90’s with their MTV-ready music videos each week (single-season show).