I Wanted My MTV

When was the last time you could honestly describe a 600-page nonfiction book as a thoroughly absorbing page-turner? Such length is usually the province of academic works requiring an investment of patience and concentration from the reader. Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum’s I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution (Dutton, 2011) makes no such demands, at least not if you are of the generation that witnessed the rise and fall of Music Television. You  will recognize the names of the artists, videos, and VJs, and you may find yourself as riveted to this sizable oral history as you once were captivated by untold hours of MTV.

Like its subject – the first decade of MTV – Marks and Tannenbaum’s weighty tome unfolds as a series of easily digestible segments. The authors eschew editorializing in favor of letting people speak for themselves. Each of its 53 chapters begins with a brief introduction followed by artfully intercut interview transcriptions. The effect echoes the pace of vintage MTV, when the fledgling network actually aired music videos and the mesmerizing imagery turned over with the regularity of a kaleidoscope. Read More

Group Dynamics

Indispensible

The Beatles:  indispensable leads, colorful supporting characters, and no extras?

Imagine the public outrage that would ensue if Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were to announce their intention to reunite and tour as The Beatles.  Though they would have no trouble selling tickets, a critical consensus would condemn the endeavor as false advertising, even though the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison obviously would have prevented them from participating.  Yet there is no hue and cry over Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend appearing as The Who in spite of the unavailability of late bandmates Keith Moon and John Entwistle.  Why?  The answer rests in the peculiarities of rock group dynamics, by which the members of most bands can be subdivided into indispensable leads, colorful supporting characters, and extras.

Now let us entertain an alternative history in which Lennon and McCartney are today’s surviving Fab  Two.  They hold a press conference under a giant Beatles logo and announce a reunion tour.  The world rejoices.  Everyone laments the losses of Harrison and Starr, but few seem to mind Lennon and McCartney hiring session players and billing themselves as The Beatles.  This is because within Beatle group dynamics, Lennon and McCartney were the indispensable leads.  You can’t have The Beatles without either of them, but you conceivably could have The Beatles with both of them and some hired hands. Read More

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