The groundbreaking Music Television cable network launched on Aug. 1, 1981 with 250 music videos. "The good news," says the Los Angeles Times' Craig Marks, "was that the record companies had a few boxes full of these short clips just sitting around and would give them to this startup channel for free; the bad news was that a few boxes of clips could barely fill a 24-7 channel and most of the footage was either dull, incompetent, profoundly silly or even potentially career-threatening for homelier artists who’d managed to hide in the shadows until then." He adds: "The first weeks and months, which were not carried in either New York or Los Angeles, were filled mostly with dreary videos from has-beens, nobodies or earnest American rock bros like Journey who felt about dressing up and lip-syncing the way Allen Iverson felt about basketball practice. It wasn’t until MTV played more cinematic videos from fabulous-looking British exhibitionists like Duran Duran, Culture Club and A Flock of Seagulls that the network landed on its visual and musical identity: tuneful outrageousness with a narcissistic love for the camera. About a year later, still struggling for ad dollars and household penetration, MTV execs, trained in the segregationist playlists of rock radio, bowed to record-label pressure and aired the new 'Billie Jean' video by Black pop star Michael Jackson. Months later, with ratings ticking upward, they’d screen Jackson’s transformational 'Thriller' video every hour on the hour, and Michael and Madonna would become the network’s prom king and queen. Squadrons of hair-metal pretties followed the new-wave glamourpusses, and even paragon-of-rock-virtue Bruce Springsteen had to wiggle his bum for pop culture’s new star-making machine." To mark MTV's 40th anniversary, the Times' gathered four of the biggest music video stars of the early 1980s: REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Billy Idol, Huey Lewis and the Go-Go’s Kathy Valentine. “The market is so fragmented today,” says Lewis. “You can’t have a hit now like we used to. Because then, everyone was focused on one thing at the same time. Everyone was watching MTV.” As Idol notes, British musicians were making music long before Americans: "The Beatles did loads of them." Idol adds: "I think we just took it more seriously. If you came out of punk, you were invested in creating your own image. I wanted my image to be as edgy as it could be while still getting on TV. For my videos I borrowed a lot from old silent horror movies, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. There were a couple of black-and-white Boris Karloff images I took from a horror book I had. There was one where he’s on an altar with tons of crosses around him, and I just ran with it for 'White Wedding.' I thought, let’s do that but in color." Valentine says the Go-Go’s hated filming their first music video, “Our Lips Are Sealed." "It was half-baked and low budget, and I remember thinking, why are we aimlessly driving around in this cool car, doing nothing? There was no plan," she says. "It was my idea to jump in the fountain in Beverly Hills because I thought maybe we’d spontaneously get in trouble on camera. But nothing happened at all. I hated it until we got to the scene where we were playing live at the Viper Room, because it was really important that people saw us with instruments. That was the only part that made sense to me. Now, when the video got played on MTV, then I got it. That’s how a lot of young people found out about us. Relentless touring and being dumped into people’s living rooms on MTV. I remember being embarrassed about the video at the time, like why can’t we have something cool and slick and professional looking? But in a way it presented us like we were. No matter how hard we tried, nothing ever looked slick. It kind of worked in our favor."