This week marked the 30th anniversary of MTV. While a few retro bloggers paid tribute to the milestone, I was fondly thinking about the local (and free) music video TV channel that I grew up with, V-66. For me and fellow kids whose parents didn't have cable, V-66 (which has been referred to as "the poor man's MTV") was truly our savior and a way to keep current with 80s music videos.
I discovered V-66 quite happily and accidentally while flipping the channels on the TV in my bedroom one day. I believe they were airing a Duran Duran video at the time--"The Union of the Snake" to be exact--in all its glory and I was hooked immediately! Quite often I had to fiddle with my rabbit ears to eliminate the static on this station, but it was worth it. It was the first time in many cases that I could put a face as well as a personality to the names of my favorite singers and bands, and gain exposure to new ones I hadn't heard on the radio. At first, V-66 apparently had a very limited run of videos because I seem to remember the same ones being repeated constantly (including some of Weird Al Yankovic's...you can imagine what a drag that became!) but as word-of-mouth and their popularity grew, so did their video music library. In fact, they eventually developed a reputation for airing videos of lesser known, local Boston area bands among the heavy hitters.
Some of the earliest videos I can recall seeing were those by Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club (the first time I ever saw what Boy George actually looked like was from the video to "Karma Chameleon," Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates (my faves!), the local band 'Til Tuesday, as well as heavy metal groups (Twisted Sister--yikes) and rap acts (Run DMC.)
V-66 first took to the Boston area TV airwaves on February 12, 1985. The two guys who launched it were long-time New England area radio personalities, John Garabedian and Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg. Of course, the goal was to compete with MTV and that meant hiring several "VJs" to host shows and interview musicians (I mostly remember VJ David O'Leary, since he was the cutest one.) Some of the acts who visited the V-66 set included local Boston band Aerosmith, Howard Jones and Fiona. After 66 days on the air, V-66 had amassed a pretty nice fan following and celebrated its new found success.
Since this was a local station with limited revenue, the channel had a very off-the-cuff, unrehearsed, but fun personality all its own. No, the VJs were not as polished as the ones on MTV and maybe the set wasn't as cool, but that was its endearing quality that many viewers still remember. It seems that everyone who worked at this station knew how to have a blast on the air, and that often resonated on the screen.
In 2008, a documentary was made about the history of the channel called "Life on the V: The Story of V-66." This trailer should give you a better idea of what watching it was like...and check out the 80s hairstyles!
Sadly, this station only existed for about two years before a lack of advertising revenue forced it off the air. This tribute site has several wonderful comments on moments from the station's history that I don't remember. Seeing as how MTV doesn't really show music videos anymore, it seems that this programming format and concept holds a ton of fond memories for folks of my generation.
Do you remember V-66, if you grew up in the Boston area during the 80s? Or did you have a local music video channel in your area? If so, leave a comment--I'd love to hear your memories!