Although there is now an entire generation of kids who could never comprehend it, once upon a time MTV actually played music videos. All day long, every day of the week, nothing but music videos. For a solid three-year period from 1981 to early 1984, MTV was a visual jukebox - a radio station on TV.
During that period, the only Punk Rock you might see would be The Ramones or The Clash, both of whom were considered "safe" by mainstream standards. Punk bands didn't make music videos - heck they barely had enough funds to self-release their records, and "selling out" by making product for Corporate Television went against the DIY ethos anyway, right? Well, at least until Green Day realized there was a buck to be made...
But in those early years, Punk was not represented in the MTV world. At least, not very well. However, those of us who stayed up late at night as endless Triumph and Def Leppard clips flickered on our screens were, on rare occasion, rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime viewing of a real, honest-to-gawd Punk Rock video. Here are 5 of my favorites from that era that I still can't believe actually got airplay on MTV:
The Minutemen: "This Ain't No Picnic" (1984)
Brilliantly intercut with footage from one of then-sitting President Ronald Reagan's war movies, San Pedro's The Minutemen find themselves under attack as they blurt out one of the best of their sub-two-minute blasts. Find this one on the stunning Double Nickels On The Dime, which, if you do not already own, you need to.
Black Flag: "TV Party" (1981)
Don't know which is funnier: seeing a very young Henry Rollins, listening to the band rattle off TV show titles of the era (remember Fridays? Quincy? That's Incredible?), or the whole generic-beer-and-beanbag chair aesthetic of the clip. A classic nonetheless, and a song which Black Flag recorded several times, most notably on the Damaged album.
The Anti-Nowhere League: "Streets of London" (1982)
That's Nick Culmer, better known as Animal, spewing out slightly re-written lyrics to a UK '60s folk chestnut and wielding an axe as frontman for The Anti-Nowhere League. The track can be found on the album We Are...The League alongside other sick-joke punk extremities as "I Hate...People," "Let's Break The Law," and the stunningly offensive "Woman." At least, I think they were joking...
Kraut: "All Twisted" (1983)
New York hardcore band Kraut were the only Punk band that I discovered via MTV! Came home from school one day, turned on the TV, and this gem came blaring out at me. Ran out and bought the album, the long out-of-print An Adjustment To Society, that weekend. Quickly learned that the boys had cleaned up the song for broadcast (the line "Can't you fucking see?" was changed to the obviously dubbed "Can't you people see?" in the clip). Thankfully, the entirety of their recorded output can - and should! - be had these days on one disc, Complete Studio Recordings
Angry Samoans: "Time Has Come Today" (1982)
To me, the most surprising clip on this list. Who'd ever expect LA's snarkiest cartoon-punk assholes to see airtime on MTV? That's former music critic "Metal" Mike Saunders on vocals as Angry Samoans snarl through their take on the old Chambers Brothers classic, found on their outstanding (and guaranteed to offend almost everyone) Back From Samoa LP.