MTV debuted on August 1, 1981. Music videos existed before then, but since the circulation was so much lower there wasn't much money in them, and because there wasn't much money in them they didn't attract much in the way of directorial talent, and because they didn't draw much in the way of directorial talent, a lot of them ended up looking like this:
Laura Branigan - Gloria
I actually kind of like Laura Branigan. Her songs could only have been hits in the mid-80's, and her career didn't really last into the 90's, except for a few obscure songs that only gay dance clubs ever played, but her 80's songs were a lot of fun. Her music videos would get a lot better (more on that in future posts) but the video for "Gloria" shows exactly how simple music videos were in the early days.
Hall and Oates - Private Eyes
What do you prefer? A music video as bare-bones as "Gloria," or one like "Private Eyes" which makes an attempt at sophistication at ends up looking this ridiculous? I actually find it sort of endearing - like cheering on your friend's little kid at a softball game. I've written about Hall and Oates before; I think their music actually holds up better than that of most 80's bands. Nobody remembers this, but Darryl Hall was the Justin Timberlake of the 1980's - the one pretty blond white guy who was cool even relative to cool black guys. That's pretty rare. And its one of the reasons Hall and Oates is sampled more often than just about any band other than James Brown and Parliament.
The Cars - Touch and Go
The Cars were one of the bands that helped usher in the video era, but some of their videos - like their 1980 hit "Touch and Go" - have great reputations that aren't entirely deserved. A lot of people consider "Touch and Go" to be a classic, and maybe it is, but try muting the sound to see how simple it looks relative to its higher budget brethren which the Cars released just a few years later. Simple videos of a band singing a hit song may not give the viewer much to look at, hold up better than videos like this, which age worse for having aimed higher.