You’re In A Coma With MTV!
November 29, 2006
No, it’s not ex-Congressman Mark Foley about to turn a new Page.. it’s Howdy Doody and “Buffalo” Bob Smith!
I’ve known about the power of television since I was seven years old, and charged other kids five cents to watch “Howdy Doody” at my uncle’s, who had the only set in the neighborhood! I also remember performing in grade school every wednesday at “Show and Tell”, with jokes I learned the previous night from my other uncle, “Uncle Miltie”. In 1956, however, my whole world changed when I saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show! Up until then I wanted to become either a nuclear physicist or a clown…now I wanted to ROCK!
Unfortunately, I was a “Rebel Without Applause”, until I performed Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe”, at a High School talent show. Now the girls started paying attention to me. I don’t know if it was my Ed “Kookie” Byrnes cool way of talking or my red Elvis jacket, but even the neighborhood gangs started to respect me and would give me a head start before they’d chase me home from school! My role models were high school bon vivant, “Dobie Gillis” and “Love That Bob”Cummings, who portayed a photographer/ playboy. I even sucessfully used many of their characters outrageous “pick-up lines” that me got me close to some of the most beautiful girls in the world!
I was in for a big shock though when I got married and realized that real life wasn’t, “I Love Lucy”, and problems weren’t always solved in a half hour. Unfortunately, we wound up in “Divorce Court”…but fortunately for me, I lost the TV in the settlement! For the next 2 years, my creative abilities and productivity increased significantly. I no longer sat in the front of a tv set and watch negative stories on the news, or look at a sitcom, where the laugh track would tell me where to respond! I read, I bowled, I had actual conversations, and then I moved to Hollywood!
I was General Professional Manager at Viva music for two months before I learned how to drive. I guess I had too much time on my hands, and against my better judgement I bought my first color tv set. I was just like a recovering alcoholic, testing ing himself with just one drink…then craving a half dozen more! All I needed was one more game show, one more made for TV movie or one more talk show then, I’d be able to go to bed.
When it became no longer enough to watch TV…I had to Live TV! I started flirting with sitcom stars I’d run into at the Hollywood market, Anne ( “Honey West”) Francis, Denise ( “Room 222″) Nicholas, have dinner with Yvonne ( “Batgirl”) Craig, go dancing with Linda ( “Happy Days”) Purl or just hang out with Sissy ( “Love American Style”) Spacek. In case there would be trouble at some of the wild parties I went to, I made sure to be around TV tough guys like Michael ( “Streets Of San Francisco” ) Douglas, Bill ( “I Spy”) Cosby, Max ( “Beverly Hillbillies”) Baer and David ( “Kung Fu”) Carradine. It was during this time that I also became friendly with a couple of TV comedy writers who “appropriated” some of my real life stories and used them on “The Bobby Sherman Show”…the adventures of a songwriter! Instead of suing, I settled for a few of my songs to be used on the program.
Then I got bored with TV and all the bullshit that goes along with it, even relegated my set to a little used room in the house. That’s when my career started to flourish at Warner Brothers Music, which had recently bought Viva music. I didn’t pay much attention to television for the next ten years.
Then one day in 1982 I was invited to the launch of a new 24 hour cable music network, called MTV…and that’s when I saw the future! I’d been a fan of Scopitone, a european jukebox that played musical film clips, but I knew it could never succeed in the US because of the “stronghold” American jukebox operators had on the market. I looked at “this” MTV, not just as another place to promote music but as having the potential to become the primary means of delivering music to the masses!
In less than 25 years, MTV not only fufilled the prophecy, but actually helped to change the music itself. In the first few years the network played the ubiquitous videos of English artists, Duran Duran, David Bowie and Phil Collins, Austrailian artists Men At Work and whet the appetite of the American public for more of the same! In addition to music, fashion and slang started to travel around the world at a record pace, but it took Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album and a near boycott by CBS Records to break the color barrier at the network! Soon Lionel Ritchie and Billy Ocean were being played as much as Blondie and became regular staples of MTV.
For years , the network thrived on it’s legitimate pop content, then something odd happened. There were fewer and fewer music shows aired in favor of reality shows. After the success of “The Real World” ten years ago, the “Reality” floodgates opened. Today when we watch MTV and it’s sister network VHI, we see endless episodes of “Laguna Beach”, where horny teens fuck with each others heads, and “Punk’ed”, where Ashton Kutcher plays practical jokes that would get him an ass kicking in real life! Then we have “Next”, “Breaking Bonaduce”, ” Road Rules”, “Made”, “The Fabulous life of…”, “Flava’ Flav”, “Best Week Ever”, and “Celebrity Deathmatch”. The most obnoxious, though, is “Sweet Sixteen”, which feature rich little bitches-in-training conning their parents out of expensive sweet sixteen parties and lavish presents. It’s a series that’s an argument for an official sanction of corporal punishment!
As far as the music goes, when you can find it, most of the groups have a sameness about them. if you don’t look at the lower left hand corner of the screen you might mistake Panic at the Disco for the Killers, or All American Rejects. It’s just about impossible to tell what rap video you’re watching, since Kanye West, “Diddy”, Lil’ Jon and “Snoop” Dogg appear in almost all of them, as either a guest or a featured artist!.
It seems like most of the artists today are conciously making music to please corporations and music directors who have narrow taste and program for an audience who prefers not to think too far outside their electronic boxes. I’ve read studies on how too much TV eventually overwhelms the viewer and diminishes productivity. I don’t want to be lulled into complacency, so I’ve decided never to watch MTV again…after I see the finale of “Laguna Beach!”
Copyright 2006 by Artie Wayne
If you want to hear a recording that Terry Mace and I wrote and perform called “You’re in a coma with EMPTY -V” click onto http://artiewayne.com/music/coma.wma
Special thanks to Alan O’Day http://alanoday.com for helping with the re-mix