MTV’s 30th has prompted a lot of web chatter. My friend Marc Myers took a conversation we had recently and turned it into a sweet piece on the MTV logo on his wonderful JazzWax blog (a lot more detail from me for you detail freaks here). Thanks Marc!
MTV turned music inside out on this date 30 years ago. On August 1, 1981, the 24-hour music channel not only added a powerful visual component to rock but also helped usher in a third pop British Invasion that influenced virtually all forms of music and music videos in the 1980s. By extension, MTV created a new appetite for music sales. Before MTV, rock, pop and soul were radio and record affairs. For a visual look at your favorite artists, you had to turn to album covers and fan magazines. MTV forced stars to become larger than life personalities, dancers and actors.
Music videos for MTV may have killed the radio star but they also sparked an employment boom for video directors, choreographers, cameramen, tape editors, hair and makeup artists, costume designers, and graphic designers. When most people think of MTV in the ’80s, what comes to mind first is the channel’s cartoony logo and endless clever ways in which the letters M, T and V were displayed.
The person largely responsible for the logo was Fred Seibert [pictured in 1981], a creative director then and now a television and film producer who owns Frederator Studios in New York. Thirty years ago Fred had a vision for the network’s brand and inspired artist Frank Olinsky to solve the challenge. Today, on the anniversary of MTV’s start, I asked Fred to recall the story of the logo’s birth, a fabulous tale he told me over lunch recently.
At my MTV office, 1981. Photograph by Alan Goodman.