120 Minutes (my take)

First off I’d like to acknowledge that this post was inspired by the amazing work over at The 120 Minutes Archive. The contributors there lovingly went through every recorded episodes of 120 Minutes, created tracklists, and–with very few exceptions–linked to online copies of the music videos. So–wait a minute, what was that sonny? Come closer. “What was 120 Minutes, you ask?” Well, pull up a chair while your grandpappy tells you the story.

Mojo Nixon, 120 Minutes

Mojo Nixon, 120 Minutes

By the mid-1980s MTV was flying high. They’d made a cultural impact out of all scale with their budget and the station was the impetus for a lot of kids to beg their parents for cable. But most of the time the stuff they showed was, frankly, repetitive and eye-rollingly dull. The ratio was something like 1/3 hair metal (Ratt, Twisted Sister), 1/3 commercial R&B (Bobby Brown, Janet Jackson), and 1/3 pop (Madonna, Mr. Mister). To round things out MTV aired specialty shows like Headbangers’ Ball for metalheads and Yo! MTV Raps for hip hop kids. For fans of progressive, punk, new wave, the music that would later be known as alternative, there was 120 Minutes. It aired quite late once a week on Saturdays–11 at night until 1 in the morning IIRC. Sometimes it would be hosted by a veejay, but sometimes it’d be an alternative artist just starting out–I remember episodes hosted by the Sugarcubes, Mojo Nixon, They Might Be Giants, and the singer from the Stone Roses.

The show was revived a few years back but as of now it’s canceled again. It’s not suprising; MTV has just been a youth programming channel for more than 20 years now, with music videos an occasional afterthought. But it’s hard to overstate how formative 120 Minutes was to me growing up in the rural south. It was a link to a wider world of culture, a reminder that all over the world there were kids like me who loved Siouxsie Sioux, the Dead Kennedys, New Model Army.

All this to say that I miss the chance to sit down every so often and just watch good alternative music videos. In case any of you feel that way too I put together a YouTube playlist of some great music videos from this year. Note that if you have a modern gaming console you can probably view these right on your television. Sit back with a friend or two, watch some videos. Skip the ones you don’t like, talk about the ones you do. Enjoy.


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