120 Minutes: The Rise & Fall of MTV's Premiere Alternative Rock Show!

The rise and fall of MTV’s 120 Minutes!

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I had previously done a video on mtv’s headbanger’s ball and i was honestly taken aback by the number of people who watched the video and the positive response. After that video came out, I had a lot of people asking for me to do a video on another mtv show 120 minutes so here we are. Today lets talk about the rise and fall of 120 minutes, a show that’s been described as the Pitchfork of it’s time..

If you guys saw my headbangers ball video then you would know the mid 80s were a weird time for mtv. They had been playing a lot of heavy metal and i’m using the word metal as a catch all term for hard rock and glam metal because that’s how it was reported by the media at the time. It was by 1985 mtv started playing less metal because their management thought metal was a fad and their focus groups, at least they claimed, thought the channel played too much metal. I just want to interject and say that imo i am assuming the Parents Music Resource center may have had something to do with the network’s decision because it was apparent from lower level people who worked at the network the brass were more interested in pleasing advertisers than viewers.

MTV soon shifted to more pop and dance oriented artists and their ratings took a hit. By early 1986, on the eve of the network’s fifth anniversary, mtv’s relevance was being questioned. Something needed to change to make the network cool and hip again The network tried to change things up in late 1985 with the show metal mania, which served as a precursor to headbangers ball which premiered 2 years later. The show had big ratings, but a disagreement between host Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider and MTV over the fact that he was doing the gig for free led him to leaving the show..

In April of 1986 the LA Times would publish an article with the headline MTV FIGHTS BACK WITH ‘120 MINUTES’ . The article would read

Given up on MTV and its deja vu parade of look-alike videos? You’re not alone. The cable channel’s ratings have fallen lately. But in the last few weeks, MTV has instituted two programs, “The New Video Hour” and “120 Minutes,” that seem designed to pull back viewers and to answer complaints from record companies about lack of air-time for lesser-known acts.
The better show is “120 Minutes,” which concentrates on videos by new and/or relatively uncommercial artists.

While people may think of big budget music videos when the topic of mtv’s golden years comes up, the network also ventured into weird territory as they showcased lesser known acts who made videos on a shoe string budget. There would be a show called the cutting edge that debuted in 1983 on mtv and served as a precursor to 120 minutes. It was also referred to as irs records presents the cutting edge.

MTV would team up with irs records who produced the show & it was a great marketing tool for the label. They showcased a lot of their own artists and other groups not shown on mtv’s regular rotation. In fact IRS co-founder miles copeland the third would describe himself to billboard magazine as the only record company executive ever to have had his own show on MTV”

The cutting edge was instrumental in introducing Madonna, yes madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers and REM to mainstream audiences. the show aired monthly on sunday nights and went through a variety of hosts including jools holland before peter zeremba of the band The Fleshtones became the permanent host. He made $1,000 an episode, something which was a lot of money for him at the time. The show had a lot of creative freedom with the program’s director revealing in the book i want my mtv “it was bands that otherwise who might not appear on mtv. This was one place where you could see henry rollins read poetry, We filmed morissey in his bathroom at a hotel and gave him a stack of envelopes , each with a single word inside it. He would open the envelope and talk to a little camera. The word might be beauty so he’d talk a bit about beauty. “

The show would also feature Interviews with musicians and live performances The show was also notable in featuring underground or regional music scenes including in LA, North Carolina and Texas. In 1986 The LA Times would write a piece about MTV on the eve of it’s 5th

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