This year marked the 30th anniversary of the first showing of a music TV show that was truly groundbreaking for its time. Before 1984, Irish teenage music fans survived on a meagre diet of Top of the Pops or, if you were really desperate (and/or a little bit strange), The Old Grey Whistle Test. All that changed when MT USA was launched on RTE 2 in early 1984. Suddenly, Sunday afternoons were never quite the same again. In those dead hours between compulsory attendance at mass and the dubious pleasure of an evening with Biddy and Miley in Glenroe, we gorged ourselves on non-stop music videos in the company of VJ Vincent Hanley, aka 'Fab Vinny'.
Three whole hours of colour, excitement and the latest sounds from the top artists from around the world - we could scarcely believe our luck. Granted, a lot of it was crap, but there was always a chance if you waited it out, The Cure or The Smiths might get an airing. It reigned for three glorious years on RTE 2 - tragically, Hanley died from an AIDs-related illness in 1987 - but is fondly remembered by a generation who largely have him to thank for bringing a little colour and glamour to drab Irish Sunday afternoons.
Here are 10 songs that were MT USA staples; defining videos that will be instantly recognisable to all aficionados of an era when 'music never looked better'.
Words: Paul Page
Gimme All Your Lovin' - ZZ Top
ZZ Top were directly responsible for the first pre pubescent 'stirrings' for swathes of young lads the length and breadth of the country. Not the bearded rockers themselves, we hasten to add, but a series of videos starring the kind of girls you would never, ever encounter down at the local disco. 'Gimme All Your Lovin' was the best of the bunch, but 'Legs' ran it a close second. When this came on, the cheeks began to redden, the eyes began to water but you never looked away, not for an instant.
Love Is a Battlefield - Pat Benatar
The notion of love as some kind of happy ever after fairytale romance was well and truly obliterated by tough Brooklyn broad Pat Benatar. Every week (and we mean every single week) Pat and a troupe of serious looking dancers would advance towards us menacingly, shaking various body parts in an extremely aggressive way reminding us that Love was War. That it was best avoided. Did we listen? Hell, no.
Time after Time - Cyndi Lauder
Cyndi Lauper exploded onto the scene with a party anthem to beat them all - 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' was largely responsible for gaining her the reputation as the Queen of Kooky and then she came out with this. Talk about morose with a capital M. A Sunday afternoon downer but we loved it nevertheless.
Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
Jackson was at the height of his fame and his willingness to embrace music video as a means to promote his music was a massive factor in his growing popularity. 'Thriller' showcased just how far music video could be pushed but Billie Jean was a better song, with the King of Pop pulling all manner of serious dance moves we could only hope to replicate in our wildest dreams.
Take On Me - A-Ha
The first pop band from Norway EVER. Ok, that's not strictly true, but they were the first band from that neck of the woods to enter our closeted little lives in the Ireland of that era. If you don't include obscure Norwegian Eurovision acts from the late seventies and early eighties. In Morten Harkett, they had the kind of Nordic heartthrob that set teenage Irish girls pulses racing. And quite a few of their mammies too, if truth be told. The scratchy animated video for this perky pop song was genius.
99 Red Balloons - Nena
Nena. Even saying her name now is enough to make grown men of a certain vintage go glassy-eyed. She was German, she wore leather chaps and she didn't shave her armpits. But we didn't care. Some weeks MT USA played the German version, and some weeks they played the English version. We barely noticed. She sang about 99 Balloons. Red ones. What was it all about? Still haven't a clue.
I Should Have Known Better - Jim Diamond
Diamond was an unlikely looking pop star but this emotive ballad was a massive hit, reaching number 1 in the UK Charts, spilling raw, messy emotion all over our living rooms on Sunday afternoons. Our burgeoning macho side sneered outwardly at this naked show of sensitivity but secretly, we were more than a little impressed. His impassioned cries of 'Why I-I-I-I-I-I-I should have known better!' became a catchphrase of sorts. His first and only hit of any note.
Like a Virgin - Madonna
Madonna made us uncomfortable. Made us squirm a little. Never more so than when she was writhing around suggestively on a bed in a white wedding dress mouthing the words: 'like a virgin, touched for the very first time...' This was not Sunday afternoon viewing in a typical Irish household, raised on a diet of John Wayne movies and Mart & Market. If the parents were in the room you could almost certainly guarantee that one of them would start talking loudly about some inane topic in an effort to block Madonna out. All the girls wanted to be her and the boys? They were kinda terrified of her.
When the Going gets Tough - Billy Ocean
This was bloody awful. We hated it. Or at least the cool version of our teenage selves did. But they kept on playing it. Week in week out, without fail, while all we wanted was The Cult or the Smiths. Billy was annoyingly cheerful, and looked like someone who when the going got tough, might be the first one to get the hell out of there. The years have been kind to this song and we can now view this video through the prism of nostalgia and not feel the urge to put our boot through the TV screen.
Ghostbusters - Ray Parker Junior
'If there's something strange, in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!' Massive hit from one of the blockbuster movies of the 80s. Incredibly, while this got to number 1 in the States, it stalled at number two for three weeks in the UK. Huey Lewis, another MT USA stalwart, sued Parker, claiming he had ripped off one of his songs. The matter was settled out of court. Shame on you Huey, shame on you.