Written and directed by Eric Green, 2014
Format: DVD with bonus features
Notable Quote: “We had a 24-hour channel that said, ‘Don’t f*ck with us. We can do whatever we want. We’re New Englanders and this is US.'” — Ian O’Malley, former V66 VJ
My quick 2 cents: New England-area music fans and lovers of 80s music and pop culture history will dig this. Buy it!
The full scoop: Those of us who grew up in the thick of the 80s remember the jaw-dropping excitement and visual craziness of the ‘rise of the music video’ on television, changing the way people think about, access, and enjoy music (for better or worse). And of course, for many of us, the cable access channel MTV was the vehicle that came driving that crazy world right into our living rooms.
But over in Boston, Massachusetts, a brilliant businessman and consummate radio personality decided that he could give Beantown a better experience, and provide it to the viewers for free. Life on The V: The Story of V66 follows the short but powerful history of this risky undertaking.
Award-winning broadcaster and V66 founder John Garabedian narrates the story himself, interspersed with interviews from several of the channel’s former employees and VJs sharing their insights. V66 was only on the air for about a year and a half during 1985-86, but you won’t believe what they packed into that time. Garabedian details his vision to create a hip, edgy party place for Boston’s music video lovers that followed one very strict rule: anything goes!
But it wasn’t just about the music videos… Garabedian wanted the viewers to feel that this was THEIR channel, something personal, and to this end he included lots of opportunity for watchers to participate through things like phone-in gimmicks, video voting, and live broadcasts from local concerts and Boston hotspots like The Metro. He also threw in plenty of airtime for up-and-coming local bands, alongside Boston news, sports and weather.
The result was a television experience that not only influenced the national and worldwide video markets (guess who premiered A-ha’s “Take On Me” video before anyone else even heard of it?), but one that fans, musicians, and former staff STILL gush over more than 30 years later.
Being from the west coast, I had never even heard of this channel when I popped in the DVD; to be honest, I only bought it because Greg Hawkes of The Cars participated in the project. I was a bit blown away… it was so fun to watch, I viewed it twice!
There are handfuls of cultural factoids in here, and so many interesting sparks of music history that flew off out of that hot Boston station. And the bonus? This documentary is crazy-packed with current and vintage interviews, cameos, and footage from a ton of the hottest artists of the 80s, including members of The Cars, Aerosmith, The J Geils Band, New Edition, ‘Til Tuesday, Extreme, and The Del Fuegos.
The many ‘firsts’ and ‘exclusives’ really made V66 a unique, go-to source for cutting edge music culture, and everybody looked like they were having a blast. It’s a shame it ended the way it did, but no spoilers here. You’ll just have to watch it yourself to find out what went down. It’s very worth it!