Donielle Flynn

Weekdays 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

MTV sign

Do you remember the first video you saw on MTV? I do. It was “Rock the Casbah” by The Clash. My mind was blown. I have to give MTV credit for exposing me to music that I didn’t know existed.  Because of this, I attribute my lasting love of 80’s-90’s Alternative Rock to my days of watching MTV. As much as I loved my MTV, it was back in the early days when MTV really was MUSIC TELEVISION.. that’s when you had me, fools. One of our recent Throwback Thursday tracks, “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel, made me think about MTV and wonder, “What were the most played videos on MTV?”

“Sledgehammer” HAS to be on the list. In my opinion, this video was groundbreaking. It was one of the first to use stop-motion claymation. “Sledgehammer” had Stephen Johnson directing the video… he had given a similar treatment to The Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere” the year before. These types of videos are not plentiful. I have to believe that the budget dollars and time required to put them together were all insanely high.

The “Sledgehammer” video cost a ton of money and had some crazy issues. Peter Gabriel kept getting electrocuted by his light-up suit. They had to Scotchlite tape HIM and THE ENTIRE SET to fix the problem.  I read that they also used model chickens for the chicken dances in the video.  The chickens are postmortem.  As a result, the shelf life was an issue. I’m going out on a limb and saying they went through a LOT of chicken models. I know. It is gross.  Suddenly, the chicken dances seem less funny to me, but let’s move along.

The end result was amazing. In 1987, “Sledgehammer” swept the MTV Video Music Awards.

What Were the FIRST videos played on MTV?

MTV debuted on August 1st, 1981. Chances are good you and I both know the first song: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.  The second was Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run.”  The third video played on MTV was Rod Stewart’s “She Won’t Dance With Me.” Oh, and a sidenote of trivia that I love, did you know that the first “rap” song played on MTV was actually Blondie’s “Rapture?” To check out more of the first day of MTV’s videos CLICK HERE.  Now let’s find out which songs got the MOST SPINS on MTV.  My list is reflective of actual play on MTV.  For a list of 29 videos with over a billion YouTube hits, CLICK HERE.

The 8 Most Played Videos on MTV

  • #8 "Addicted to Love" - Robert Palmer

  • #7 "Sabotage" - The Beastie Boys

  • #6 "Sweet Child 'O Mine" - GNR

    Side note:  I have not heard this song the same way since I discovered the story behind the lyrics “Where do we go now?”  You can read the story here: Classic Rock Songs that Started as Jokes.

  • #5 "Walk This Way" - Aerosmith / Run DMC


    Many would agree that this collaboration revived Aerosmith’s career.

  • #4 "Sledgehammer" - Peter Gabriel

    I KNEW it had to be one of the top videos!

  • #3 "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Nirvana


    Not only is this song one of the most played by MTV, but it also has more than 1.5 BILLION hits on YouTube. Personally, I love a lot of the music that gets put in the box of “grunge.” When “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came out, it was a game changer, It was different than anything I’d heard before it.

  • #2 "Vogue" - Madonna


    No, Madonna is not rock, but she is number two (who does number two work for?)

  • #1 "Thriller" - Michael Jackson


    “Thriller” is 100% iconic. This video stands the test of time and is still bad a$$ in my book. “Thriller” has been changing Halloween costumes and wedding party entrances since its inception.