MTV came to Oxford, Ohio, in late 1982, during my junior year at Miami University.
I'm pretty sure they had it in Sandusky that summer, but college is where I really remember watching it in my first apartment that I shared with three other guys.
We spent a lot of time watching MTV, some of us more than others. For a filmmaking class, I made a mock documentary called "Willie: Portrait of a Cableholic," inspired by a roommate who would stay up all night watching cable in our dark living room, the only light being the glow emitting from the screen. (FYI - Willie didn't graduate).
The point is, I'm definitely the target audience for "VJ - The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave" (Atria Book, $24 hardcover, $10.99 ebook) by Rolling Stone writer Gavin Edwards.
This is at least the second book in the last two years to focus on the early days of the cable channel (insert obligatory snide comment "back when it was a MUSIC channel" here) that revolutionized (or destroyed) the music biz.
"I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution" by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum is more all-encompassing, devoting many of its 600 pages to changes in the cable industry, the business machinations of the fledgling network and the creation of the videos themselves.
"VJ" is an oral history exclusively told from the vantage point of the original MTV VJs - Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood and J.J. Jackson (who died in 2004 but is incorporated into the storytelling as much as possible through archival interviews). It doesn't pay much attention to the videos themselves. Oftentimes, the VJs were introducing clips they'd never seen. Instead, they talk about encounters with the stars at MTV's original dumpy studio (where all five initially shared a dressing room) and on the road.
It's lighter, breezier and more gossipy, making it a more entertaining read for those who want to bask in some music and pop culture nostalgia.
All four living VJs are open about their experiences. Goodman and Jackson were radio veterans, and Goodman initially was dismissive of his less experienced coworkers. As the VJs became as popular as many of the musicians they interviewed, all of them enjoyed the perks of fame in different ways. Goodman and Jackson weren't opposed to taking a "bump" of cocaine to perk up their on-air performance after a long night of partying. The married Goodman also took advantage of the road trips MTV sent him on to get up close and personal with female fans. Hunter stayed faithful to his wife in spite of the nonstop temptations as a VJ only to let an affair destroy his 19-year marriage years later.
Many of the musicians tried to pick up Quinn and Blackwood both on-camera and off (John Mellencamp had a particularly frustrating evening with Blackwood), and Quinn shares stories about the time she spent dating Girard native Stiv Bators, frontman for the Dead Boys and Lords of the New Church. The punk rocker and America's sweetheart were dubbed one of the oddest couples of the year by Rolling Stone, but Bators even charmed Quinn's father over a family dinner. However, the relationship didn't last long in part because Bators always was late - sometimes hours, sometimes days - with little explanation.
"Anyone who knew Stiv will tell you he was the greatest guy. But those who were closest to him - his bandmates, his girlfriends - will also tell you it was too difficult to stay in a long-term relationship with him," Quinn says.
Reading "VJ" sent me searching the Internet for old clips from those early years of MTV. There's certainly nothing like it still on the air today.
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org