About the Show
Friday, September 14, 1984
Some say the universe was created when an all-powerful being willed it into existence. Others claim an exploding atom was the beginning of all that we know. You, of course, know better.
With all due respect to God and Georges Lemaître, the most educated and advanced members of humanity know that the true birth of the universe occurred September 14, 1984. For it is on this date that Dan Akroyd and Bette Midler overacted their way through the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards host monologue -- and at the same time potentially sterilizing about half of the viewing audience with their sexually suggestive banter. With this opening salvo of irreverence, MTV shattered the mold of what award shows "should be" and set the stage for the years of awesomeness to come.
At that first MTV Video Music Awards (or VMAs, as they would become universally known), Herbie Hancock cleaned house. With an unparalleled career as a progressive jazz artist, the early 1980s saw Hancock reshape our understanding of pop music with "Rockit" (perhaps the first broad hit single with extensive use of turntablism) and help define the art of the music video. Hancock walked away with five Moonman awards, including one for Best Special Effects for the robot populated instrumental track's Godley & Creme-directed music video. (And in 1984 those effects were indeed "special" in the nascent art form of the music video.)
There was also this guy, Michael Jackson, who scored a few Moonmen in 1984. Among his trophies was one for Best Choreography and the all-important Viewer's Choice Award. Both were bestowed upon him for his epic John Landis-directed "Thriller" music video, a groundbreaking entry into the field that substantially impacted the way these silly, little music videos were judged in the wider arts community.
Of course, it's easy to honor a legend like Herbie or a visionary talent like Jacko (who, before going off the deep end, would have a prestigious Moonman award named in his honor several VMA years later). But how did MTV do in identifying credible emerging talent? Well, let's see ... the Eurythmics won the Best New Artist award for their iconic "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" video, and apparently they did quite well for themselves with an internationally successful and artistically influential career that has lasted DECADES. Yeah, you could say we were on to something.
Somehow, amidst the mullets worn by Duran Duran and ZZ Top's beards in 1984, the MTV VMAs were instantly established as the preeminent awards show for artist and fan alike.
Perhaps it was the performances. From Tina Turner's toned legs and yet-to-face Mad Max shag 'do to the energetic suits of Huey Lewis & The News, the assembled performers blew the roof off of New York's Radio City Music Hall, a venerable New York City venue that would host the event no less than 10 times.
But it was Madonna's live rendition of "Like a Virgin" that gave the MTV Video Music Awards a still-standing reputation as home to the most shocking moments ever seen on an awards show. Appearing in a lacy, white wedding gown accented by her de rigueur "Boy Toy" belt, the future Mrs. Guy Ritchie turned out a performance that is still talked about to this very day. As she writhed across every square inch of the stage titillating viewers with an innocent coo and suggestive motions, she not only cemented her now decades-held position as a boundary-pushing presence on the popular music scene, but planted MTV's flag firmly in the pop culture landscape. (Thanks, Madge!)
The MTV Video Music Awards had indeed arrived...and things would never be the same again.