On this day in 1981: On Saturday, August 1, 1981, at 12:01 AM (Eastern Time), MTV was officially launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by John Lack and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (which took place earlier that year) and of the launch of Apollo 11. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crushing rock tune composed by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over the American flag changed to show MTV’s logo evolving into different textures and designs. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a concept; Seibert said that they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong’s “One small step” quote, but lawyers said that Armstrong owned his name and likeness and that he had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound. A shortened version of the shuttle launch ID ran at the top of every hour in different forms, from MTV’s first day until it was pulled in early 1986 in the wake of the Challenger disaster.
Th First music video shown on MTV was The Buggles “Video Killed The Radio Star”, originally available only to homes in New Jersey. This was followed by the video “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar. The screen went black infrequently when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR. MTV’s lower third graphics that appeared near the beginning and end of music videos eventually used the recognizable Kabel typeface for about 25 years, but these graphics varied on MTV’s first day of broadcast; they were set in a different typeface and included information such as the year and record label name.
MTV’s effect was immediate in areas where the new music video channel was carried. Within two months, record stores in areas where MTV was available were selling music that local radio stations were not playing, such as Men At Work, Bow Wow Wow, and The Human League. MTV sparked the 2nd British Invasion, with U.K. acts, who had been accustomed to using music videos for half a decade (some of which appeared on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops , featuring heavily on the channel).
MTV targeted an audience between the ages of 12 to 34. However, according to MTV’s self conducted research over 50% of its audience was between 12 and 24. Furthermore, this particular group watched MTV for an average of thirty minutes to two hours a day
Also on this day in 1981: Rick Springfield began a 2 week run at #1 on the U.S. singles chart with ‘Jessie’s Girl.’
Upon its release in the United States in 1981, “Jessie’s Girl” was slow to break out. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on March 28th, 1981, but took 19 weeks to hit #1] reaching that position on August 1st, one of the slowest climbs to #1 at that time. It remained in that position for two weeks and would be Springfield’s only #1. The song was at #1 when MTV launched on August 1, 1981. The song ultimately spent 32 weeks on the chart. Billboard ranked it the #5 song for all of 1981.
The song also peaked at #1 in Springfield’s native Australia and later won him a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal performance.
“Jessie’s Girl” was released in the United Kingdom in March 1984 and peaked at #43 on the U.K. Singles Chart in April 1984.
Here’s a look at the complete Top 10 on the U.S. Singles Chart from this historic day back in 1981:
1 3 JESSIE’S GIRL –•– Rick Springfield (RCA)-19 (1 week at #1) (1)
2 1 THE ONE THAT YOU LOVE –•– Air Supply (Arista)-12 (1)
3 4 THEME FROM “GREATEST AMERICAN HERO” (Believe It Or Not) –•– Joey Scarbury (Elektra)-13 (3)
4 6 I DON’T NEED YOU –•– Kenny Rogers (Liberty)-8 (4)
5 5 ELVIRA –•– The Oak Ridge Boys (MCA)-12 (5)
6 7 SLOW HAND –•– The Pointer Sisters (Planet)-10 (6)
7 2 BETTE DAVIS EYES –•– Kim Carnes (EMI-America)-19 (1)
8 9 BOY FROM NEW YORK CITY –•– The Manhattan Transfer (Atlantic)-11 (8)
9 10 HEARTS –•– Marty Balin (EMI-America)-11 (9)
10 14 QUEEN OF HEARTS –•– Juice Newton (Capitol)-10 (10)