The MTV Video Music Awards show at Radio City Music Hall this year was, as it is every year, music at its most outrageous. There was Britney Spears doing a bump-and-grind strip; there was Eminem singing bleep after bleep; there was Jennifer Lopez flashing skin; there were Toni Braxton, ’N Sync, Ricky Martin, Sting, Janet Jackson, Limp Bizkit, LL Cool J, Christina Aguilera, Macy Gray, Steven Tyler, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers acting the royalty that they are. There, midst the klieg lights and the stretch limos and the red carpets, was the cultural phenomenon that is MTV….
What follows is the story of the cable television network that resulted, its building and formative early years—a time when everything was up for grabs, including MTV’s survival. It is told by the men and women who created MTV, their words edited and sequenced to clarify meaning. The titles that follow their names were those they held when the events described were taking place.