40 years ago, on August 1st, 1981, MTV premiered.
Back then, MTV was short for “Music Television” and it actually played music videos, something that you don’t see much of on the channel anymore. Today, MTV is best known for cheap reality programming and countless shows in which D-List celebs watch YouTube videos. But before MTV became the Rob Dyrdek network, it actually used to play music.
In fact, MTV revolutionized music and, along the way, it also provided a chance for several talented filmmakers to show off what they could do with just a few minutes of screen time. David Fincher started out directing music videos. So did Spike Jonze. But before Fincher and Jonze, there was Russell Mulcahy, who went from directing trippy music videos to directing Highlander.
Appropriately enough, the very first video to air on MTV was directed by Mulcahy and it was for a song that predicted what MTV would eventually do to the music industry. Video Killed The Radio Star was the perfect debut video for MTV. Produced on a budget of $50,000 and filmed over the course of just one day in South London, Video Killed the Radio Star featured actress Virginia Hey in a test tube and Hans Zimmer playing keyboards. Hey later went on to appear in several Australian films, including Mad Max 2 where she played the warrior woman. Hans Zimmer, of course, went on to find fame on his own as one of the busiest film composers around.
Even before it was featured on MTV, Video Killed The Radio Star was aired on British television and was considered to be controversial because of the exploding television, which was seen as encouraging violence. It was a much more innocent time.