Music videos in decades before YouTube
Toronto was on forefront of productions that shaped the rise of Much Music, MTV
With artists like Adele and Drake dropping high-profile music videos on YouTube in recent weeks, it’s easy to forget that local television programs used to covet such content. Toronto was once a hotbed of innovative music programming on TV, paving the road for the video-obsessed ’80s where brands such as MTV and Much Music built massive networks predicated upon these shows’ prophetic formats.
Here are six great examples of cutting-edge, Toronto-produced music shows that predated MTV and Much: Nightmusic, TV Ontario Created as mere late-night filler in the mid-1970s by the visionary Jim Hanley, Nightmusic was a canny exploration of the stranger corners of music at the time. Hosted by the indomitable Reiner Schwarz, the series featured a mixture of music video art, interviews, session performances and moments of abject surrealism. Artists as diverse as FM, Frank Zappa and local legend Nash the Slash were frequent guests and contributors. The New Music, Citytv The true ground zero for both MTV and Muchmusic, The New Music was a magazine-style music series hosted initially by J.D. Roberts and Jeanne Beker, and created by salty ex-pat John Martin, who described it as the bridge between NME and Rolling Stone magazines. The series featured videos, concerts and interviews with a range of new artists and established acts. Metro Music, CFMT In their infancy, music video shows were simply treated like radio with pictures.
People forget that CFMT — now Omni, but known at the time as MTV, for Multicultural Television — was at the forefront of the genre, with a slew of music video shows including Flipside, Something Else and, of course, Metro Music. This series featured almost all rock videos “hosted” by established Q107 DJs such as Samantha Taylor, Bob Sega- rini and John Majhor who often did little more than introduce the videos and then answer phone calls live on air from gushing music fans. Video Singles, CFMT Heir to the earlier Metro Music experiment, Video Singles was the first truly dedicated music video show in Toronto.
Initially hosted by Majhor, Jonathan Gross, then more memorably Taylor, many of the conceits later offered by Much Music could be first seen here. Taylor replaced Majhor, who had been lured away to Citytv to do Toronto Rocks, while she was later poached by CBC to host Video Hits after Much’s bold arrival soured CFMT on the whole genre. Toronto Rocks, Citytv Majhor’s unmissable daily rock video show aired at 4:30 p.m. on Citytv, forcing a generation of kids to race home from school so as not to miss the latest hair metal band’s fresh offerings. Operating out of a tiny booth, Majhor always brought a magic touch to the proceedings. Notable also for the screen debut of fabled VJ Erica Ehm, who used her appearance as a demo tape for her Much audition. City Limits, Citytv Groovy late-night mix of videos, clips from B-movies, skits and general TV mayhem, City Limits was hosted by a pre-Much Music VJ Christopher Ward. Its offbeat nature soon helped inform the “feel” of City’s punky ’80s ethos, as well as attracting a legion of fans dubbed “limitoids.”
One such limitoid was a young lad from Scarborough who used to camp outside the studio at 99 Queen St. E. in the hopes of getting on the air — which he eventually did. His name was Mike Myers. It was for City Limits that he created the Wayne Campbell character, who went on to great fame at SNL and a pair of Hollywood films.