I Want My MTV: Uncensored Music History at Its Sweetest

Long before a time where 10-year old girls straightened their hair, wore make-up, had cell phones, or knew what Dior, Chanel, or Louis Vuitton were, existed the 1990’s. A time where I was a lot younger, chubbier, frizzier, and poorly dressed. Emphasis on the poorly dressed aspect, but as was everyone in the 90’s.

It was a time when I ran home from the bus stop with my L.L. Bean backpack bouncing on my back after a hard day of fractions in the 4th grade. Why was I running?  To catch the last few minutes of TRL hosted by the hunk-a-saurus of MTV, Carson Daly, also known as the last of MTV’s VJs.  I ran into the basement, never taking off my backpack, and plopped myself in front of the TV to catch just glimpses of Brittany Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Brian Littrell.

I looked forward to those brief seconds of music videos every day after school and longed to be one of the chosen ones who stood outside the MTV studio in Times Square and waited to be plucked by, what seemed to be, the hand of God- God, being Carson Daly or one of his musical guests. Just as soon as the excitement of TRL and music videos entered my life, it quickly vanished in a sea of D-grade reality shows like Date My Mom and Room Raiders.  

MTV, music television, is notorious for not airing music other than as a backdrop to Jersey Shore, The Real World, or that Survivor-Gauntlet-Challenge show. You know which one I’m talking about- that show where retired Real World cast members appear on to catch another fifteen seconds of fame. Yeah, that one.

About a year and a half ago, I was on my way to work when I received an e-mail from one of my college professors, Rene Steinke. Rene was one of my absolute favorite, not to mention most fashionable, professors at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She also has the experience as a writer that every one of my classmates worked towards. All the males in my class wanted to impress her, and all the females wanted to be her, or at the very least, steal her shoes because they were always that fabulous. Students say, and I’m not sure if she knows this, that an A accompanied by perfect comments on an assignment in her Fiction Writing class is definitely a few sheets of paper to cherish. Needless to say, I decided to take a quick look at her e-mail.

She told me about a book her husband and his friend were doing about the history of MTV and wanted to know if I’d be interested in interning for them as an audio transcriber. Lets just say I was twenty minutes late for work that day because I couldn’t quite figure out how to tone down the overwhelming excitement that was in my e-mail response to her.  Surely twenty exclamation points is not appropriate in that situation.

I began working for writers Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbuam a week after speaking with Rene and received my first interview tape to transcribe at around 11 p.m. on June 21. I remember the exact moment because I felt as though the fate of my future career as a writer rests in my work on these interview tapes.

Thanks to the internet, I learned of Craig and Rob’s work as top editors of Blender magazine. I also learned that Rob wrote the infamous February 2010 Playboy article titled Sexual Napalm on John Mayer. While the rest of America was hyped up about the content of the article, I, with wide-eyes, asked the question: How did this guy get John Mayer to unapologetically say whatever was on his mind? Little did I know, a few months later I’d be listening in on his interviewing technique.

I was working for music journalism veterans, something very few college students had the chance to do. Myself and several other interns transcribed some of the most fascinating interviews we’ve ever listen in on.

The names just got bigger and bigger with each new assignment. It started with John Cannelli, a quiet and humble interview. Then, I received an interview with Al Teller, which was one of the funniest and loudest interviews I transcribed. There was the language barrier, Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions, which challenged my ability to decipher a German accent. The MTV sweetheart, Karen Duffy, who had the most passionate interview and literally brought me to tears with her appreciation for life. And then there was Michael Stipe, which I can’t talk about without getting fired up. There’s nothing like a pretentious, ironic, middle-aged hipster to really get my blood boiling. Talented? Absolutely, and he knows it.

I learned later that one incredibly lucky intern got to transcribe an interview with Snoop Dogg. But these names are just a sprinkle out of 400 plus interviews Craig and Rob conducted for their book.

The interviews were all engaging in different ways. I wondered for months how all these MTV characters would unify in the confines of a hardcover book. But today, the wait was finally over.

Today, I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum hit the bookstore shelves and I could not get out of work at Starbucks fast enough to see it in the flesh. Under full, heavy skies, I raced to Barnes and Noble with a mirrored thrill to when I raced home to watch TRL on MTV. I asked the sales girl for a copy of the book, which was not even on the shelves yet. The five-minute wait was the longest wait of my life.  I tried to pretend to be interested in some of the books on the New Releases table, but honestly, I wasn’t having any of it today. I just wanted my MTV.

Finally, the sales girl emerged from the back with a copy of I Want My MTV. It was as thick as a Bible and weighed roughly the amount of a newborn baby. Holding the book in my hands was the proudest moment of my life. Wait, I lied- seeing my name on page 573 under Acknowledgements, accompanied by kind words from Craig and Rob to the interns, was the proudest moment of my life. I was so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from such experienced writers on what seemed to be a larger than life project.

I literally grabbed the sales girl and showed her my name in the book along with my license. It was an attempt to not only convince this startled girl that I am the person whose name is nestled on page 573, but to convince myself that the book had finally arrived.

I then did what every normal writer and intern whose name appeared on page 573, would have done in that situation. I asked for five copies of the book and rearranged the New Releases table to include I Want My MTV. I would have asked for ten, but 500 plus pages are a pretty hefty load.

I want to thank Craig, Rob, and Rene for bringing me in on an opportunity of a lifetime, for being patient with my transcriptions while I juggled them among a mediocre part-time job, a full course load, and work as Senior Editor of FDU’s student newspaper, The Pillar and for inspiring me to keep on writing, even if it means I have to serve a hundred million more coffees at Starbucks just so I can afford to be a struggling writer. Hopefully, in the end, I’ll become the writer I always imagine myself to be.

Congrats Craig and Rob! And here’s an MTV cake!

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2 Responses to I Want My MTV: Uncensored Music History at Its Sweetest

  1. Pat and Angel says:

    That show is legend, great homage

  2. Andrea says:

    I love this!! I love the cake and the article. You are such a great writer!!! 🙂

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