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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Poll Question: Should MTV Revamp Headbangers Ball Or Kill It Off?

Let's be honest. What's happened to Headbangers Ball is a disgrace and an insult to all those who support the genre of metal. Yes, a new demographic rules, there's no toxic waltzing your way around it. MTV now markets to teens with buns in their ovens or those scraping through sexuality issues. Music videos, the foundation of this network, are so passe it appears MTV, generally-speaking, has surrendered to YouTube, podcasting, iTunes and on-demand video presentations. Sure, there's plenty of video-themed offshoot channels between MTV and its sister station VH-1, but the special in the word "specialty" has long vanished when you mention MTV anymore. Call it sour grapes at age 41, but I'm one of millions who helped make MTV a media sensation, speaking as an original diehard viewer.

I'm proud to say I was there in 1982 when MTV first broadcast. I'm also proud to say I caught nearly every single episode of the original Headbangers Ball back in the day, even if it meant coming home at midnight on a Saturday night and going back out or hijacking the tube wherever I might be at that unholy hour. HBB was religion. Even though the eighties' incarnation of The Ball eventually became a fluff parade designed to hook both the nothin' but a good time pop metal partiers and the serious metalheads waiting for most of the show to see a Mercyful Fate, Overkill or Metal Church clip, it was a mandatory element to headbanger culture.

After Headbangers Ball first blew into the dust once grunge smacked heavy metal aside in North America, I was overjoyed in my adult life to see its return more than a decade ago. Formerly hosted by Jamey Jasta, the new Headbangers Ball had it right--at least for awhile. Interview segments, upcoming release and news blurbs and some righteously heavy videos. Goddamn, it was like a true metalhead got the production and editorial job in one fell swoop.

Then one day, it all swooped and fell, period.

If you've been paying attention over the years, Headbangers Ball has been treated like a commodity with a worn shelf life. Yeah, it attracts people by name and for what it stands for, yet the instability of keeping a proper Headbangers Ball has flushed a genuine institution down the Manhattan sewers from whence it quasi-broadcasts. You likely have to DVR Headbangers Ball now on (random) Tuesday mornings at 3:00 a.m. and it's only for a measly hour with guest artists presenting videos. Seriously, though, where's the passion in it? While packing up my dungeon recently, I came across a generous handful of tapes from the original Ball and the new and something felt even more remiss in my heart than the empty basement I'm leaving behind. I even had enough presence of mind to have taped 24 hours worth of MTV X, you know, the one-time metal channel that was later golfed away into the mainstream fairways of hip hop.

God bless Eddie Trunk and the boys at That Metal Show on VH-1 Classic, or else there'd no be no real commercial sanctum for metal freaks, one of the remaining few sects of hard copy music buyers out there. Metal releases are scattered all over Billboard and yet it only warrants a jackoff pittance in a time slot obviously bestowed as a bitch slap. The least MTV could've done was release DVDs of the original Headbangers Ball and even some of Jamey Jasta's era, because metalheads would buy that shit! Wake up and smell the digi-dollars, MTV!

At this point, for MTV to even hold onto Headbangers Ball in its current state is posturing. The show deserves an overhaul or it deserves death. At 3:00 a.m. at irregualar intervals for a lousy 60 minutes with commercial interruptions, you might as well put up the tombstone and suck up to the faux hawks and their pregnant, pretend-tanned waif wives. Beavis and Butthead are coming back, cheers to that. Why not bring back one of the best game shows ever, Remote Control? Because the only people who want their real MTV and Headbangers Ball as a fan-oriented two to three hour program the way it used to be are now the parents they once rebelled against when MTV actually stood for something.

What are your thoughts, readers? Reboot The Ball properly or stick a Flying V in it?


Metal Mark said...

Actually MTV began in 1981. When has MTV ever stood for anything? Please don't answer that it once stoof fopr Music Television. It was cool in it's earlier days, but it wasn't any kind of rebelious movement. It was a new format and the record companies took advantage of it as another outlet to promote their bands. They and their bands got more exposure and fan's got tp see their bands instead of just hearing them on the radio. I have not kep up with in recent years, but videos are easier to come by now. You can just check out Youtube and get a bunch of these clips sent to us from PR people as well. It's a different time we don't have to sit there waiting for one show to give us our fill. There and good and band points to the way it is, but mostly good. I think most people find ways to see the videos they want to.

bob_vinyl said...

"MTV, generally-speaking, has surrendered to YouTube, podcasting, iTunes and on-demand video presentations." Well, isn't that mostly a good thing? These new formats have taken music back from the board room and put it on the (digital) back porch and the back porch is where it grew up and thrived.

Second, Eddie Trunk drives me nuts. Doesn't it irk you that some dude who knows relatively little considering how long he's been around the metal scene has his own show? Seriously, you and Mark would eat him alive in a game of Heavy Metal Trivial Pursuit! Those two buffoons on the show with him are not only dumber, but far less likable.

Third, I agree with Mark about MTV. Let's not forget that they were afraid to play Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" because they didn't want to "offend" their white audience until Epic threatened to pull all of their artists from the channel. I watched plenty of that crap too (I remember it being called Mindless Turgid Vapor), but I wouldn't exactly call it an act of rebellion.

cjk_44 said...

i suppose most of us in our late 30s and early 40s can say that MTV and Headbangers Ball was probably had a significant impact on our approach to music.

that having been said, if there is a decision to revamp Headbangers Ball in had better be spectacular in order to compete with the current means to hear new music or read about music.

Ed Nelson said...

I remember when Headbangers Ball began, I used to videotape the show, then use a 2nd VCR the next morning to dubb off the videos that I didn't have. At one time in high school, I had maybe 8-10 eight-hour video tapes full of different metal videos. It was pure bliss. I would give my left testicle to get those tapes back (they are long gone after I moved out years ago).

Today, the closest thing we have is "Metal Mania" on VH1Classic, which plays the same Poison, Whitesnake, and Def Leppard power ballads over and over. I have blogged a few times about how much I hate that $%$#@ show!

I feel old. "Back when I was a kid..."


Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Let's start with Ed. Thanks for sharing, brother. I too used to haul out my VCR and connect it to my parents' VCR and edit my HBB videos of only the "coolest" videos after taping the show a lot. Eventually I would just sit there and pause the VCR ad infinitum until I got only the videos I wanted, though that always consituted a lot of hiccups on the tapes with videos I either had or didn't want. In retrospect, given what I've done in the past 8 years, I wish I would've left the interview segments there. Only Megadeth has seen fit to slap on one of their HBB appearances on video, and it was the plane jumping bit with Mustaine dragging Riki Rachtman into it. I remember watching when it originally aired and thinking "Goddamn, that's what I want to do for a living...go on the edge with my favorite musicians with a mike in my hand." Well, I at least got to interview just about all of my favorite musicians. :)

cjk, I agree it would have to be spectacular, but really in the interest of the fans. Get out on the streets, find the metal fans, make them stars of their own segments between the videos. Battle of the bands on air, in-studio, 1-3 interview guests each episode and some crazy skits in between. I had a vision, lol...

Mark and Bob, I see and agree with both of your points. Whether the network itself actually stood for anything is debatable. The more I examine it, the less likely I see the executive branch viewing MTV as a counterculture revolution. However, the music videos themselves and the original VJs were indeed standing for something, at least in their day. Eventually the eighties went corporate and as those VJs vanished accordingly, so too did the inherent rebellious nature of MTV. Rather, I should say the rebellious nature of its viewers. The first number of years were pivotal from the viewers' point-of-view that something was there for "them" which wasn't before. MTV was revolutionary in the beginning and for awhile, it was (for the most part) in the interest of the fans. Eventually that gave way to being in the interest of the labels. Nowadays, it simply a numbers game of demographics. Who can they hit the most amount of using what device? I just miss those early years when MTV had the basement feel of the studio and those original jocks came off like urban pirates. When MTV swept them all away in favor of a new direction (again, driven by corporate sales), then its legitimacy swayed.

HBB felt legitimate at first, even though we never really bought Adam Curry as a metalhead. Still, he had some of the most memorable interviews (for better or worse), while we used to call Rachtman a poser each week until he actually started developing a feel for what he was doing and who he was addressing. By then, the powers that be rammed Def Leppard's Hysteria and Warrnt up our asses and it was the beginning of the end of that era.

At least HBB felt legit when it was resurrected. The right artists, the right temperature of the show's feel, a much heavier selection and it was much more enjoyable than what's occurred lately.

Yeah, the internet and on-demand video presentation has killed off MTV as we knew it. I'm sadly nostalgic for the old days and I do believe in the power of true music television. Unfortunately, people are more interested in how much music they can cram onto their cell phones than they are catching the latest videos. Culture shock, of course.

bob_vinyl said...

I'm not sure anything about MTV or its viewers was rebellious. It was certainly a revolution, albeit principally a commercial one, but I can't think of anything rebellious about selling and consuming a product. As far as metal is concerned, the genre, at least as it was portrayed on MTV, had already peaked by the time they devoted a weekly show to the genre in 1987. The difference between 1987 and now is that we were perhaps a bit more naive and didn't see that we were having our youth sold to us back then. I think, or at least hope, that we're a little more savvy today and can at least avoid having that same youth sold back to us again.

Metal Mark said...

Most of the videos of the early days of MTV were just video versions of the same songs that were dominating the airwaves of radio at the time. I fail to see any rebellion in that. The Headbangers Ball in it's earlier days were playing some more indie metal stuff, but then again radio shows like the Metalshop and other local shows (Friday Night Metal on 98 rock) were already doing that too. MTV was just different outlet for music, but hardly a movement.

"Unfortunately, people are more interested in how much music they can cram onto their cell phones than they are catching the latest videos"
People hit Youtube and other sources for videos. It's not much different than before just that it is more conveniant for people.

"I'm sadly nostalgic for the old days and I do believe in the power of true music television."
I can understand that first part to some extent. However I think people that want to see videos nowadays find them and getting people exposed to the music is what's important. So I think a "true music television" isn't more just a fragment of nostalgia than anything else.

bob_vinyl said...

Mark's comment made me think of something. In the days dominated by MTV as a music source or FM radio before that, we operated under a system that "pushed" music to us. Now, we are able to "pull" what we want. We don't have to wait for our favorite bands to show up in programming set my someone else. We get the video on demand from youtube. Today, it would be simple to create a playlist during the week and sit for two hours on Saturday night watching our own personalized HBB (or whatever we want to call our own selection of videos). It would be simple to a old favorites, new bands to check out and some old stuff we missed as we think about them and then watch (and even share) it whenever. We're still adjusting to the "pull" model, but I really do think it will be better in the long run.

bob_vinyl said...

In fact, Ray, you could create your own youtube playlist and link to it as a feature of the Metal Minute once a week. Screw MTV! Make your own Headbangers Ball!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

In the end, you gents are correct, believe me. When I say I believe in the power of music t.v. I'm talking about The Midnight Special, Rockpalast and The Old Grey Whistle Test, even if the latter had a lot of lip synching crap. I know MTV as we know is fossilized. I know this is an instant gratification oriented society. Gimme now or get bent. I understand it. Personally, though, I like the suspense of not knowing what you're getting because it's far more thrilling when something great comes up you've either been anticipating or caught by surprise with. I just don't identify all that much with this 24-7, get it in seconds world. It's convenient, sure. It's nice to have albums downloaded in minutes, but to me it just becomes part and parcel. Pull it, play it, purge it or keep it if you so desire. Great, awesome, I've accumulated plenty of extra albums in this new world order and I totally understand the business end of it all. I was trained in it. To me, it's sad to know all the tricks the corporate world has up its sleeve. That's why I prefer in my own deliberately naive microcosm, things were better then than they are now, even if that statement does stretch things a bit, depending on your topic.

Making my own HBB was definitely I've always dreamed of.

bob_vinyl said...

I can sympathize with your desire to slow down and there is a downside to everything. However, don't ignore the upside of things being self-directed. The corporations, major labels and MTV alike, are becoming less relevant and I'm still hopeful that that will somewhat purify things.

Dude, you CAN have your own HBB. Start by posting a playlist of videos once a week. Maybe later you can build in your own commentary clips and interviews, etc. I'm not saying it will take off, but I bet you'll have some subscribers. You don;t have to like everything about the "new world order," but you can at least make some of it work for you.

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