About the Show
Wednesday, September 04, 1996
The 1996 MTV Video Music Awards marked three in a row held at Radio City Music Hall in New York and two in a row with comedian Dennis Miller in the driver's seat. Not much changed, really. He was still smarter than us and left our head spinning. Or was that just the effect that VMAs have on people?
There was one low point that remains a sore spot all these years later. Billed as the "first awards show in space," Miller attempted to speak to the cosmonauts broadcasting live from the Russian MIR Space Station in the midst of the VMA broadcast. The delay in Earth-to-space communication and the language barrier were never taken into consideration, resulting in an uncomfortable interview between two people who had NO IDEA what the other was saying. Miller joked that was why our two countries never got along so swell and decided that nothing in the history of live television had ever gone so poorly. He wasn't wrong.
BUT, the rest of the show was a smash, especially for The Smashing Pumpkins, who were the big winners of the night. Billy Corgan's band netted a tasty five Moonmen for "Tonight, Tonight," a song they also performed during the VMA show, and "1979." Among the awards they nabbed were Breakthrough Video and Video of the Year for "Tonight, Tonight," while "1979" got them the Best Alternative Video Moonman.
Alanis Morissette -- having apparently scared the crap out of every male voter with the previous year's performance of "You Oughta Know" -- won three awards, including Best Female Video and Best New Artist for "Ironic."
Gavin Rossdale's gritty voice and pretty-man high cheekbones helped Bush win the Viewer's Choice award for "Glycerine," while Coolio won the Best Rap Video trophy for "Gangsta's Paradise," marking the only time that Michelle Pfeiffer would ever appear in a rap video.
In the performance realm, Nas joined The Fugees for "Fugee-la/Ready or Not/If I Ruled the World," The Cranberries offered "Salvation" and a reunited KISS, in nearby Brooklyn and in full makeup, ripped through "Rock N' Roll All Night." Add Metallica, Alanis, Bush, LL Cool J and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to the bill, and even a botched cosmic cosmonaut conversation couldn't blow this show.
Not that Oasis didn't try. During their performance of "Champagne Supernova," the band's forever feuding Gallagher brothers got into a snit, with Liam making rude gestures at brother Noel as he was playing his guitar solo, then spitting beer all over the stage before storming off. And that, kiddies, is how NOT to treat your family members.
But Oasis wasn't the only feuding band to take the VMA stage. No, 1996 was witness to an awkward moment in the Van Halen saga as Eddie and Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony were reunited with estranged lead singer David Lee Roth for the first time in more than a decade. Despite a rapturous standing ovation, the love was short-lived. With Roth hogging the spotlight, an exchange with Eddie during backstage media interviews almost came to blows and in the blink of an eye, a hugely anticipated reunion was off.
Rock and roll history at the VMAs, just how we like it.