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VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave Hardcover


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VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave + I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451678126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451678123
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

MTV, the American cable-television music channel, started in New York in August 1981. Among the original VJs, or video jockeys, as they were called, were Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn. In this oral history, these first-wave VJs, celebrities in their own right at the time, tell their personal stories and describe the early days of the channel, including numerous on-air highlights, such as, most famously, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean video, prior to which MTV played the videos of very few black artists unless, like Joan Armatrading or Garland Jeffreys, they sang in the rock genre. They also discuss the cultural impact of MTV and the broadcasting of live concerts such as Live Aid. Behind-the-scenes stories are here, too, such as the time that Bob Dylan invited Quinn to accompany him to Ireland on his private jet and tales about Madonna, John Mellencamp (or John Cougar as he was then known), Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, and many others. Fun and gossipy. --June Sawyers

Review

“Nirvana for pop culture fans…a totally tubular testament to the excess of the ‘80s.” (Associated Press)

"Delicious...A slice of nostalgia from the people who were there, and wading through those pages is like going home again." (Huffington Post)

"[A] highly entertaining snapshot of a wild-frontier moment in pop culture." (Rolling Stone)

“This is an essential read for anyone who was there or for those who missed it when MTV really meant Music TeleVision. These 5 VJ's were thrown into a completely new format and made it work beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Mine included.” (Rick Springfield)

“At last--the real inside story of the MTV explosion that rocked the world, in all its giddy excess, from the video pioneers who saw all the hair, drugs and guitars up close. VJ is the wild, hilarious, addictive tale of how one crazy moment changed pop culture forever.” (Rob Sheffield New York Times bestselling author of Talking to Girls About Duran Duran)

“Dishy, hilarious, wild, and poignant.” (CBS News)

“In this wry, engaging oral history, the original veejays recount with bemusement—and occasional horror—their meteoric rise during MTV's heady first years. The first chapter commences with a big-haired, big-mouthed David Lee Roth— and from there the rollicking pace never lets up.” (Jancee Dunn co-author of New York Times bestseller Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir)

“There was no such job as a 'VJ' when this unlikely crew was chosen to serve as our hosts at a revolution. Their story is a revealing inside look at the highs, lows, and hairstyles that defined a generation.” (Alan Light author of The Holy or the Broken)

VJ is a near textbook on ingenuity, luck, perseverance, fame, and the adjustment to life post-fame. There are also at least fifteen paragraphs that made me think, "I can't believe they're actually revealing this!" (Richard Marx)

“For latchkey kids of my generation, the original MTV VJs were the best babysitters we ever had. When our parents weren't looking, they gave us secret glimpses into a better, sexier world. They were the coolest people, on the coolest TV station, with the coolest jobs on the planet. This is their story.” (Michael Ian Black New York Times bestselling author of You’re Not Doing it Right)

“MTV hit the airwaves during the golden age of album rock radio and massive rock touring, and took it all to another level. VJ is a fun and informative ride, told through the eyes of the five people who experienced the MTV phenomenon from the most intimate perspective possible.” (Kevin Cronin REO Speedwagon)

“Crazy days and nights in a different time--Nina, Mark, Alan and Martha will bring it all to life for you. This book is a joyride!” (Jane Wiedlen The Go-Go's)

Customer Reviews

It was fun, quick to read and enjoyable.
B. Pearson
If you were into MTV in the 80's this is a great behind the scenes look from the VJ's that made it what it was.
John A. Paolillo
This book took me right back to 1981 and all the things I loved about it.
K. J. Sheridan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By ReaganGirl80 on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If, like me, you were a teenager in the early 80s and were fortunate enough to have cable, MTV was probably a pretty big part of your life. And if, like me, you love a good nostalgic stroll down 80s lane now and again, this is a fun way to accomplish it.

There are no big gasp-worthy surprises here (Some of my favorite rock stars were druggies or jerks? Martha had a crush on David Lee Roth and Rick Springfield? Uh, yeah we knew all that.) Perhaps what's most surprising is how much of it I remember--Alan's neon colored drawstring pants, Nina's head bobbing, Martha's shameless flirting with Al, Live Aid, the US Festival, the contests. Wow, did I really watch that much MTV? You bet I did!

The overall tone of this book is fun and fond memories. And while it's not a whine fest, the message does come across that these five people were not treated well by the Powers That Be behind MTV--today they are not billionaires nor are they really even famous anymore; their roles in music history have largely been relegated to little more than the answer to the trivia question "who were the original five VJ's?" And that just doesn't seem right. For most of us, once the novelty wore off and the same dozen or so videos were in heavy rotation, the main reason we kept tuning in day after day wasn't simply because you never knew who would drop by the studios, it was the VJ's. As the author says, because of the VJ's you were "always watching with a friend." And pathetic as it may be to admit, during those angst-ridden "no one understands me" teenaged years, their presence really was a comfort. These five amazing people who were such a big part of our youth just sort of faded into oblivion, as did the format of MTV.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Tom Sanchez on May 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
(nb: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley)

To those of us who grew up in the early 1980's, it's impossible not to remember MTV. The videos' quality was generally horrific--as was some of the music--but MTV was something fresh.

At the core of the MTV experience were the original five VJ's: Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson, and Martha Quinn. My friends and I each had our favorites (Martha was one of my earliest loves), and I found tons of music I never would have heard on plain old radio.

(I should note that MTV actually played music videos at the time, unlike today)

"VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave" is a group memoir. The four surviving First Wavers--J.J. Jackson died St Patrick's Day, 2004--reminisce about being hired as the first VJ's, early production hardships, and the channel's rise to success. As the faces of MTV, they sometimes found themselves to be more famous than the acts whose videos they played.

Part of MTV's early appeal was that it perpetrated the illusion that you weren't just sitting there watching music videos by yourself. There was somebody there, 24/7, hanging out with you. Another result was that it forever changed the way music markets itself. No longer did record companies have to schmooze individual radio stations to get airplay. If a record executive could get an artist's video into MTV's heavy rotation, that would all but guarantee nationwide sales.

There is no doubt that these five hip people helped MTV become successful, even though they did nothing more than record four one-minute drop-ins per hour. Was MTV a hit because of them? Or was it simply a phenomenon whose time had come?

It's hard to say.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Freddy22 on May 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book so accurately captures the feel of the 80s music scene (or what I would imagine it was like). The stories are amazing, their voices are so clear, and I couldn't help but longing for the early days of MTV and real (REAL!) music videos. A perfect gift for kids of the 80s or anyone who misses the gold old days.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Harrison on September 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Growing up with MTV is one of my great childhood memories. To this day, when I hear a song from that era I can not only identify it on the first chord but I can vividly recall the video. Reading the VJ's story to see what happened from their perspectives just made me want my MTV!!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rhonda C. Elsaesser on September 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is book is really good. Quick to read a chapter at a time, as I did at night, sometimes more than one when they were small. Each chapter tells a different story of MTV and the VJs. At first, after a quick scan, I didn't think I'd like the format of how each VJ speaks and it's not in like a story format, but it worked....it was really smooth and went along quite easily. I'm a slow reader and went through this book very quickly. It was fun to relive my own MTV past with the VJs and remember the good old days of videos on the music channel. I liked reading about things that I had no idea ever happened, just being the viewer, the goings on behind the scenes. If you're a 80s kid you'll remember this stuff and enjoy this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John B. Hall on July 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although a child of the fifties, I too was drawn into the video magic of MTV, with J.J., Mark ,Alan, Nina and Martha as my guides. With the exception of J.J., Jackson, who sadly passed away some years ago, each of the VJs (certainly an original moniker when the cable channel first went on the air) gives their perspective on becoming such world-wide stars just for being themselves. Documenting the rough spots of learning to be a team, basically inventing their own job descriptions, dealing with character clashes, supporting each other in times of trouble, identifying and coming up with solutions to performance problems (eliminating the interminable camera stare before the video started) and describing their lives post-MTV. Interestingly, each of them has gravitated to SiriusXM satellite radio, where they now do their individual 80s music shows. And yes, they are still good friends, even though they are now scattered all over the USA. I found it hard to put down; I wanted to know how they are doing, and how it all comes out. Thanks, guys, for the memories!
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