For the past 31 years there has been a tumor on music and society as a whole, a cancerous, metastasizing growth which completely drives a consumerist, hedonistic attitude into the minds of world youth with the same reckless abandon as a strung out meth head with an UZI ."My job is to help destroy What's left of your imagination By feeding you endless doses Of sugar-coated mindless garbage" -Dead Kennedys MTV get off the air.
I remember when MTV changed America, and in turn, world media forever. In the beginning the programming on MTV catered to the safe; never avant-garde, and did little to promote anything else other than the most basic of pop music. You could also see the beginnings of an almost syphilitic corporate madness which pandered to the lowest common denominator of human instinct; sex, avarice and instant gratification.
I can't really remember ever watching MTV for any extended period of time, there wasn't anything ever worth watching on. Even in my late teens, I was more concerned with the changing world around me, the fall of communism, the hope for humanity which was spreading like wildfire. None of the bands which I was interested in would be given the time of day by that network, so why bother? Besides, the cable channel represented all which I most feared; becoming one of the mindless hordes which find meaning and entertainment in an endless drivel of idiotic nonsense. I shudder to think what would have become of my generation had MTV been what it has since become; a medium which has mutated into an orgy of voyeuristic perversion which is warping impressionable minds. A medium which usurped what was once supposedly "ours", repackaged it and regurgitated it back onto society. Changing the concepts of what was punk into that of Frankie Avalon and Bobby Darin; boiling down metal into a molten, repetitious soup of the boring.
In all fairness, MTV should not be held completely culpable for the state of music, it has been happening for decades; prefabricating bands, or changing musicians into what they never wanted to become...it's nothing new, but they hold, for all extensive purposes, a practical monopoly on the market of who to promote to the world. And they're not alone, I mean, when you get right down to it, they're in cahoots with large record labels that could care less about music and more about the bottom line; who will be hip, who will be hot, etc, etc. It's the nature of the beast, it's always been about product sales.
Now, rather than coming across as a pontificating hypocrite, I will readily admit that not all punk, and even less heavy metal, was socially and politically driven, there was a lot of meaningless crap out there..some of which, I still enjoy, but, the one big difference here, is we sought that music out for ourselves, no one told us what to listen to...we just looked for what wasn't being listened to by the masses; something new and exciting. We learned about bands via word of mouth.
Recently , I have caught glimpses of Mtv's current programming, and as a parent, I was horrified to say the least. I know, I kinda find it strange that I find myself even writing this.
I mean geez, I never thought as a kid, that one day I would be the one saying: "back in my day..." but it's true, most of what my children know about rock and roll and its evolution comes from me, I don't just jam metal and punk in my home, I throw down everything from classical to thrash; from the old bluesmen like Lead Belly, Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf; the first rockers like Jerry Lee, Janis singing Me And Bobby McGee, MC5 kicking out the jams, Zeppelin, right up to AC/DC and, of course, the Dead Kennedys with even some old timey blue grass thrown into the mix....why? Because, how the hell are the newer generations ever going to know what's good if they don't, at least, have a concept of where Rock n Roll came from? I want my kids to be able to, at the very least, have an understanding of music in all its forms from Symphony No. 25 In G minor by Mozart to Peace Sells by Magadeth.
While not banning the music from likes of Lady Gaga in my home, freedom of choice and expression is never negotiated, I do make a point of telling my kids how to distinguish between those that make music and those who are made by MTV. And yes, as a dad, I do keep an eye on what my kids watch, so if a lady Gaga vid comes on, the T.V. goes off and they're sent to draw or read. Whatever they ultimately choose to listen to is entirely up to them, all I can do is try to help them appreciate music for what it is; a fundamental expression of human existence.
The shows on MTV now is not much better than the music they promote; a tedious mash of "reality" programming which does absolutely nothing to help further musical expression as a whole, nor does it have any positive social relevance whatsoever. Seriously, if they wanted reality television, then why don't they follow a band around and show what it takes to become a successful artist, the pitfalls, the distractions and heartbreak? Why can't they take even one moment to show the achievements of humanity rather than concentrating on a bunch of skanks and numbskulls? It's simple; money. "Give the masses want they want!" people would defend, yeah but does it really have to be that way? I mean can't someone put out what the people need and still be entertaining?
Surely, there has to be marketing geniuses out there that can create a show which could do both. Perhaps, people just want to take the easy way out, rather than create something of worth.
I challenge Mtv to do the following; for every five hours of sensationalist programming you put out, place 15 minutes of quality content on your channel, place one friggen 15 minute program which highlights the achievements of kids who are free thinkers...artists, musicians, writers, activists, a show that perhaps spotlights a band no one has ever heard of before, any genre would suffice...show kids that they can be viewed as something other than just consumers which a channel markets to. When interviewing superstars, ask them a question or two about what it really took to get where they are. About the negative side of things, about addictions and challenges they had to overcome. Give viewers a 15 minute reprieve from the million dollar homes of spoiled brats, the antics of brain dead Neanderthals and the sludge of prefabricated glitter! We all know Mtv understands its importance in kid's lives, but we also know that they seem to be ignoring their own irresponsibility.
In the end, it's really up to us to turn off the television, it's up to us to disregard what the media feeds us, it's up to us to seek out good music. I don't think anyone should be told what to do, or laws passed to force people to act in accordance with what others feel is "right", that would infringe on one of the five fundamental rights guaranteed to Americans in the first amendment to the U.S. constitution. But, damn it, couldn't they at least have a concept of the power they wield? Perhaps they do, and that's precisely what the problem is.
If you're from the "MTV generation", I ask you to turn the box off, open your eyes, mind and ears and see if you can still find a non-franchised record store somewhere...walk in, tell 'em what kind of music you like and ask the person behind the counter if they could turn you onto some good tunes which you've never heard before.