This edition of "The Cutout Bin" departs from its usual format to spotlight a TV show: MV3.
While other cities enjoyed cable TV in the early eighties, Chicago could not experience channels such as MTV until about 1986. Prior to that year, music fans had to find videos wherever they could; one of these sources was MV3, a music video/dance show that aired from 1982-1984. Shot in Los Angeles, the program featured mainly new wave acts, many of whom received little radio airplay. While MV3 may have been short-lived, it exposed me to a variety of bands before they reached mainstream success.
Hosted by Richard Blade, David Maples, and Karen Scott, the show introduced new wave bands that were played on KROQ FM in Los Angeles. Typically an episode would feature the latest videos (frequently shown in the background while dancers, sporting the latest early '80s fashions, showed off their moves), live performances in the studio (often lip-synched), and a rundown of the week’s top singles and albums. Curiously, the opening sequence plays the '50s classic, "Ready Teddy," while airing video segments from the J. Geils Band's Peter Wolf, Wall of Voodoo, and the Tom Tom Club.
While MV3 held a particular fondness for British new wave, they would sometimes play top 40 hits. The first time I saw Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" clip was on that show. But it also exposed me to other bands that I never heard on the radio—a young Bangles performed "I'm in Line" and chatted with Blade in 1983, a few years before they scored on the charts with "Manic Monday." Romeo Void created danceable punk with "Never Say Never," the lyrics sounding as blunt and sarcastic today as they did in 1982.
My first taste of the Clash was through MV3, when they played "London Calling" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go." While they attained some critical and commercial success by 1982 (and would have a massive hit with "Rock the Casbah"), the group remained relatively unknown among fans of top 40 radio. Without the show, I would never have heard the Clash's pioneering brand of rock.
Other future hits that MV3 broke include Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie" and the Stray Cat's "Stray Cat Strut." A very young George Michael performed "Wham Rap" in the studio, while the show also aired Wham's video "Bad Boys," exposing the band to the US a few years before cracking the American charts with "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."
For some reason, MV3 (and host Scott) served as great boosters of Adam Ant's career, airing lesser-known clips like "Prince Charming," "Puss 'N Boots" and "Ant Music," among others, helping him achieve fame with his breakout song "Goody Two Shoes." Before "Hungry Like the Wolf," Duran Duran experienced success with early videos like "Girls on Film" and "Planet Earth," both aired on MV3. Even the Police gained airtime with clips for "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic."
Looking back on the show is like viewing an honor roll of new wave artists—Berlin, X, Wall of Voodoo, Billy Idol, the English Beat, Missing Persons, and Culture Club. Their videos seem primitive these days, but they were cutting edge in the early ’80s. Watching MV3 clips now, one can see that new wave embraced a variety of musical styles, from reggae to soul to rock and rap. Some of these artists did not enjoy long careers, but they represent a time when music video was in its infancy and a new generation of artists was emerging, changing the rock landscape forever.
Eventually more households received cable, and syndicated shows like MV3 faded due to MTV's dominance. But MV3 served an important role as a place where people could see bands typically not heard on mainstream radio. Search out show clips on YouTube; hopefully episodes may be issued on DVD, as the program contains a goldmine of in-studio performances and a collection of early, charmingly low-budget music videos. View a piece of ’80s music history and remember some classic new wave artists.