MTV debuted just after midnight on August 1, 1981, with the broadcast of “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles.
The new cable channel was out to pioneer a new frontier in music broadcasting and for that, it’s first few minutes on air were very appropriate. At 12:01 a.m. Aug. 1, they played footage of 1981’s space shuttle launch and the 1969 moon landing (both set to rock music), followed by the first music video in the channel’s history — the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
Watch the original video below:
The single and video actually came out in 1979 and appeared on the Buggles’ debut album in 1980. So “Video” wasn’t exactly new when MTV made it its first pick, but it certainly set the tone for their vision. 19 years later, on Feb. 27, 2000, it became MTV’s one millionth video aired.
To celebrate, MTV is rebranding VH1 Classic today as MTV Classic. But instead of ‘80s, this station will be targeting millennials and their nostalgia for the 1990s.
We leave you with the opening seconds of MTV’s first broadcast — before the Buggles video — featuring introductions for many of the original VJs: