“On Saturday, August 1, 1981, at 12:01 AM Eastern Time, MTV launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by John Lack, and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (which took place earlier that year) and of the launch of Apollo 11.” And with those words, we entered a whole new era.
It was then that we were introduced to the five people who would shape and mold that blank canvas into what became the greatest social experiment of our generation. “Veejays” J.J. Jackson, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn and Nina Blackwood would soon become daily visitors to our respective homes, bringing us that “whole new world.”
In a follow-up to our blog with early MTV program director Neal Mirsky, we decided to add a Veejay voice to the mix, for contrast and comparison. I was most fortunate to sit down and exchange ideas and emails with Nina Blackwood recently. Nina was a driving force at MTV, and as one of the original five, I truly wanted to get her point of view on that ground-breaking time in our history. Her responses to our questions are as follows:
TD: What was your first impression of MTV?
NB: “Well…. we were creating it as we went.. so being a part of the whole process I did not view it from the outside. My impression of the work was that it became (an) all encompassing job…it was our lives. Not something we “left at the office” so to speak.”
TD: As one of the 5 original Veejays, what were your first thoughts of MTV, and the video format?
NB: “Prior to MTV, I was out in L.A. working on a couple of different TV pilot/projects functioning as what would later be called a ‘Veejay.’ I felt that video music would be something that would catch on as it combined 2 of America’s favorite pastimes – Music & TV.”
TD: What videos impressed you the most?
NB: “There are too many to mention. Two of my personal favorites are Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and later Foo Fighters “Learn to Fly,” which makes me laugh every time I watch it!”
TD: Were there any video directors who impressed you, or you thought were truly innovative?
NB: “Russell Mulcahy, Brian Grant, David Fincher, Steve Barron … just to name a few. Again, there are many and I don’t want to leave anyone out.”
TD: Who was the most fun to interview?
NB: “Early on, The Stray Cats came to our studio, and they were bouncing off the walls hahaha. I called them affectionately “my bunch of monkeys.” Interviewing the great Brian Wilson in his Malibu home, that as you would expect was right on the beach. I did an interview with Michael Hutchence and Andrew Ferris of INXS in a little paddle boat on Lac Leman in Montreux Switzerland. Touring London with Roger Daltry, including going to Abbey Road Studios. I could go on… many great experiences!”
TD: What bands/artists impressed you most? NB: “Of course I love what is now called Classic Rock… Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, along with Bruce Springsteen, U2, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers… Also many of the Classic Alternative acts… Depeche Mode, Cure, Talking Heads….”
TD: Did you ever, in your wildest dreams think it would be as wildly successful as it was?
NB: “We all went in as a gamble. There are no guarantees in life and ESPECIALLY in the entertainment business. But we all had faith, high hopes, and worked very hard to have MTV become successful.”
TD: What do you think of MTV now?
NB: “If you have nothing good to say about something than don’t say anything at all… 😄”
TD: Since your Veejay days, what have you been up to?
NB: “Well many things since it has been 4 decades after all hahaha! Currently, I host 3 syndicated radio programs. “Nina Blackwood’s Absolutely 80s,” “New Wave Nation & AB 80s Spotlight,” and I (also) have a daily show on SiriusXM 8 where I have worked for the past 18 years.
TD: To me, MTV was so innovative and mind-blowing. I will never forget that first night they aired. Lots of glitches, which they soon worked through. We sat up all night and watched voraciously. In the weeks to follow, we watched this hatchling grow into a fully developed station like no other before. I spent a LOT of nights in the early 80s falling asleep to MTV!
Nina was truly a joy to work with and answered everything we asked with grace and her own classic style about that ground-breaking and truly interesting time in our music history. You can currently catch Nina Blackwood on SiriusXM with her many 80s shows. Thanks so much again Nina for taking the time to sit down with us!!!
Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected].