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The Late Movies: The First 7 Videos on MTV

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MTV turns 31 today. It launched one minute past midnight on August 1, 1981, with footage of Space Shuttle Columbia and Apollo 11 launches, then the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll," spoken by John Lack, one of the creators of MTV. An extended version of the MTV theme riff played, and then we were treated to the first set of music videos on MTV. Tonight, let's remember those early music videos by watching them. In order. First up, here's that intro bit:

0. "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll."

The first minute of MTV.

1. The Buggles - "Video Killed the Radio Star"

"They took the credit for your second symphony / rewritten by machine and new technology / and now I understand the problems you can see." Little-known trivia: the first video on MTV was a cover song. "Video Killed the Radio Star" was originally recorded by Woolley and The Camera Club (featuring keyboards by Thomas Dolby); you can hear the original along with some commentary. But this, right here, is the first video on MTV:

The Buggles Video Killed The Radio Star by rvdgu2006

2. Pat Benatar - "You Better Run"

It must be hard being the lesser-known second video on MTV (and thus the subject of pub trivia forever), but Benatar makes her presence known by kicking ass.

3. Rod Stewart - "She Won't Dance with Me"

Stewart kindly gives us access to a significant portion of his chest. His mullet actually somehow seems ahead of its time.

4. The Who - "You Better You Bet"

"I love to hear you say my name, especially when you say 'yes.'" A true classic.

5. Ph.D. - "Little Suzi's on the Up"

I'll admit, I have no real memory of this song. I'm at least somewhat familiar with their later hit "I Won't Let You Down."

6. Cliff Richard - "We Don't Talk Anymore"

Tight shirt, tight pants, fog everywhere -- yeah, it's 1981.

7. The Pretenders - "Brass in Pocket"

The reason this list goes to 7 is solely so I could include this video. This version is cropped to fit our new-fangled widescreen preferences, but the audio quality is great. Enjoy!


I wrote about this topic a year ago, collecting the entire first hour of MTV (put up by a YouTube hero). Sadly, the first few minutes have been taken down, but the remainder is still there, and it's an interesting look at the adorably glitchy opening hour. Check it out, even if it's just for the commercials. See also: A Brief History of Music Television and Quiz: Name the Original MTV VJs.

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:


This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.


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