In 2010 Greg Prato released MTV Ruled The World, The Early Years of Music Video. I just read it. I worked at MTV as an intern in it's beginning stages and it was exciting and fun to be a part of something that really had no direction except to get music played on TV. It was a new concept to meld music and TV on one network for 24 hours. That's a lot of airtime to fill up. Everyone was interested in it, but in the early 80's, very few people could watch it. I think it took over 2 years before anyone in NYC could actually see the network. I had an advantage as it was playing all day long in the offices.
The book opens with the cast of characters that you'll hear from and follows with quotes from those musicians and the employees of MTV. I'm not sure why Frank Stallone gets so much time in this book. I don't remember him being a staple of MTV. The quotes are grouped in chapters that cover the early days, fashion, black music, etc.
The most insight comes from those who worked there, this included Nina Blackwood and Alan Hunter who are the two of the original VJ's interviewed. I'd rather have read books by both of them. (Looks like a new book by the VJs comes out in May: VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave.) They have identical stories about realizing the impact of MTV when they take road trips to towns where people can actually watch the channel. They have no idea why crowds are gathering, only to find out it's to see them. They are stunned. They basically go unrecognized in New York during the first two years, but in the heartland, they are stars.
I had no idea that MTV financed Michael Jackson's Thriller Video. I was shocked to hear that CBS/Epic records told Michael that they already paid for two videos (Billie Jean and Beat It) and were not going to lay out the money for a third video. Here is another case of a major label not knowing how to spend the money judiciously. The way MTV got around the criticism of paying for a music video was to launch it as a big making of the video documentary. (MTV was a genius network in that up until this video, they never laid a dime out for their programming. The record labels paid for it.) I remember seeing the Billie Jean video in the offices. It had not been released yet. We were all glued to it. It was amazing. It was a game changer. MTV must have felt like they owed Michael and of course wanted the Michael train to keep on rolling. People would put on the channel waiting to see his videos. Hard to believe it now with any video at your fingertips.
There are others interviewed which made no sense to me except for maybe comic relief. Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedy's claims to have not watched the channel and has seen very few music videos, so his comments don't have much relevance. The book drags and this could be because there is no narrative to carry it though, just groupings of quotes. The cover artwork is questionable. Is that suppose to be LL Cool J? J Lo? It looks more like her, but maybe it's meant to be Madonna. I'm lost on who the dude with the beard is.