Adam narrates on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4. Sunday, 1st August at 4:30 pm

Adam Buxton uncovers the influence of British music videos in the early years of MTV, 40 years after the network first launched.

Going live on 1st August 1981, MTV made British new wave artists hugely popular in the USA – for example Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club and Adam Ant got extraordinary exposure – but it was also a golden age for music video production. Before the formula set in, and videos became extremely expensive, unit-shifting devices, directors were often given free reign to take risks and experiment.

Adam speaks to pioneering music video directors who were breaking new ground in techniques and imagery. Many came from art schools, were part of the underground music scene, or were starting out in the film industry – borrowing kit after work to film gigs.

Gale Sparrow was one of MTV’s first hires, and in charge of sourcing music videos for MTV’s launch. She turned to small British labels because they had them in ready supply. What she discovered was very different from the few American videos available – which was mostly concert footage of gnarly old rockers.

Will Fowler is curator of artists’ moving image at the BFI National Archive and an expert on the burgeoning underground film scene of the late 70s and 80s. He researched and created the touring exhibition This is Now, Film and Video After Punk, which involved tracking down and restoring films which had never been archived. There was an explosion of artists experimenting in film and video. Some – Sophie Muller, John Maybury, John Scarlett-Davis for example – would go on to have very successful careers as music video directors. He explains how the influence of Jean Cocteau and William Burroughs made their way onto MTV.

(From BBC website)

Available on the Sounds platform soon after first transmission.