Today, the television channel VH-1 is synonymous with trashy reality
shows and '80s pop culture specials. Aside from a brief flirtation
with Bret Michaels' Rock Of Love, I've largely avoided VH-1 in the
years since its format change. But as a kid in the late '90s and early
2000s I couldn't get enough of it. Yes, VH-1 was once a respectable
VH-1 launched in 1985 with a format resembling something like MTV for
an older crowd. The programming highlighted both classic artists and
softer current acts. During the '90s, it catered to adult alternative
and top 40. It also aired numerous specials about older acts -- from
'70s classic rock giants to lesser-known new wave groups from the
'80s. Their motto was simple: "Music First." These were the days
before VH-1 began wasting our collective time with "celebreality."
I was in middle school during the late '90s and early 2000s. As the
only child left at home, I spent a lot of time on my own. Once I
decided that I was too old for the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, I
turned my attention to VH-1 and occasionally MTV. Thusly my pop music
As I've previously written, I grew up in a family of music lovers.
Those golden days of VH-1 opened my eyes to a lot of music that I
hadn't previously known -- mainly from the '80s and early '90s. My
sixth grade-self was perfectly content to watch a special on hair
metal (hello, misplaced childhood crush on Brent Muscat from Faster
Pussycat!) or the music debate show The List. My musical world was
expanded to include artists like the Plasmatics and My Bloody
Valentine, bands that would never be mentioned on VH-1 today. I have a
vivid memory of watching 1999's countdown of the greatest women in
rock 'n' roll and having my mind blown by the extensive list of
talented, fierce female musicians.
As I progressed into teenhood, VH-1's programming changed drastically.
I countered it by looking forward to summers spent at my eldest
sister's house. We spent our afternoons watching We Are the '80s on
VH-1 Classic where we caught everything from Tears For Fears to Joy
Division. It's true that in 2012 VH-1 Classic has filled the void left
by its sister station but as one would imagine, it caters to aging
rocker dudes and less to those of us interested in post-punk, new wave
and '90s alternative. This isn't to say that I haven't enjoyed my fair
share of Saturday mornings watching Dio videos on Metal Mania but one
cannot survive on metal alone.
I pine for the VH-1 days of yore when I could catch footage of Wendy
O. Williams sawing a guitar in half on stage or someone waxing poetic
about Thomas Dolby on Sound Affects. I suppose thanks to the rise of
the Internet if some bored middle schooler wants to further his or her
rock 'n' roll education he or she can simply read Wikipedia. In VH-1's
defense, I have noticed that they are at least attempting to echo back
to what I consider its golden age. Behind the Music is back which is a
I'm grateful that VH-1 provided a welcome transition when I was ready
to trade in Lizzie McGuire for a copy of Loveless. Nothing stays the
same and thanks to YouTube, we don't need stations that play music
videos 24/7, but the basic cable airwaves are in need of a station
that focuses less on reality TV and more on music.