There’s no denying the profound impact MTV had on pop-culture in America had all over the world. The term “game changer” gets thrown around too often these days, but that’s exactly what the network’s arrival was.

When MTV launched on Aug. 1, 1981, it marked the dawn of a new generation of music consumption. Fans didn’t have to depend on records or the radio anymore, as the hottest new songs were now available right on your television set.

Even better, music was now a visual medium. From glam rock spandex to provocative pop outfits, viewers could now see everything artists had to offer. Quickly, the medium developed an artistic lens, too. Videos became more than just companion pieces: They were short films designed to enhance a song’s impact.

MTV was suddenly the epitome of cool, heavily influencing the minds of young adults. The newest band, the latest fashion, the popular trend – if it was on MTV, it was the next big thing.

From day one, rock was at the heart of MTV, in both sound and attitude. Many classic rockers saw their stars shine even brighter thanks to the station’s support, while other acts got their big break on the MTV airwaves.

Check out Rock's 40 Biggest MTV Moments below:

1. Aug. 1, 1981: MTV's Debut

Though the network’s arrival is looked back on as a watershed moment, few could have guessed it at the time. MTV aired a space-shuttle countdown leading to its own launch, with the footage of an astronaut planting MTV’s flag on the Moon signaling the official beginning. “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” were the first words uttered on the fledgling network, courtesy of a voiceover from MTV’s first Chief Operating Officer, John Lack. Appropriately, the first music video aired on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. Despite its obvious message, some executives opposed the choice. "Nobody wanted to launch with 'Video Killed the Radio Star,'" MTV program director Steve Casey recalled in the book I Want My MTV. "They thought we had to play a hit. I said, 'Nobody's going to be watching. It's symbolic.'"


2. Billy Squier Leads an MTV Holiday Singalong

The excitement behind MTV amongst its creators and staff members was palpable in its first year. Not long after their launch, the team gathered together to back up Billy Squier for a rendition of his 1981 song "Christmas Is the Time to Say 'I Love You.'" Later, original VJ Martha Quinn would call it her favorite MTV moment. "What you see in that video, it was recorded within months of our launch, and we were all so starry-eyed, such believers," she told Yahoo. "We were all one big happy family, fighting for MTV. We believed so strongly in the power of rock ‘n’ roll. And you can really see it there."


3. Kiss Unmasks Themselves

Kiss looked like a band on its last legs by the early '80s, hobbled by the exit of original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley and a series of creative and commercial misfires that not even 1982’s excellent Creatures of the Night could remedy. Desperate not to get relegated to the dustbin of history, they staged a last-ditch publicity stunt on Sept. 18, 1983, and removed their iconic makeup on MTV. The gambit paid off, and Kiss launched back to the top of the hard-rock heap with their first bare-faced album, 1983's Lick It Up. They also began adopting the glam-metal stylings that had begun to dominate the charts.


4. David Bowie Calls Out MTV's Lack of Diversity ... on MTV

David Bowie, who had multiple of his videos on the station's rotation at the time, sat down to be interviewed by host Mark Goodman just two years after MTV's launch – then wasted little time in shifting the questions back the other way.  “It occurred to me having watched MTV over the past few months, it’s a solid enterprise and it's got a lot going for it,” Bowie calmly said before pointing out the obvious: “I’m just floored that by the fact that there’s so few black artists featured on it. Why is that?” Goodman attempts to explain, noting that MTV was "trying to move in that direction," while Bowie looks on, unimpressed. His work here is done.


5. Beatles and David Bowie Win First-Ever Video Vanguard Awards 

It is one thing to receive an MTV Video Vanguard Award, a prestigious achievement for recording artists and music video directors alike, but it is another to receive the very first Video Vanguard Award. In 1984, it was only fitting that the band who kickstarted the careers of so many others, the Beatles should be recognized for “essentially inventing the music video” along with Richard Lester, who directed both of the group's feature films, "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" (Their award was presented by the non-Sting members of the Police.) David Bowie, who beamed in from London for a performance of "Blue Jean," also took home the award, which was presented by Herbie Hancock.


6. Fan Wins a Lost Weekend With Van Halen

MTV has had its share of memorable contests, including John Mellencamp giving away a pink house and Jon Bon Jovi gifting his childhood home. Perhaps the earliest, and arguably craziest, was the lost weekend with Van Halen. In 1984, a 20-year-old named Kurt Jefferis from Phoenixville, Pa., won the network’s contest to spend a wild getaway with the group. A private jet and limousine took him to the band’s concert in Detroit, where he was welcomed on stage, only to have a cake smashed in his face. Things got crazier from there, as the winner partied with the band backstage, enjoying many drinks, some pot and even a little cocaine. As it turned out, the antics could have killed Jefferis. He’s suffered a serious injury months earlier that required a metal plate be inserted in his head. Drinking and drugs were a big no-no, but he wasn’t going reveal that until after he’d had some fun. "I didn't tell MTV about my accident because I didn't think anything of it," Jefferis said decades later in a documentary short about the contest. "I was the grand-prize winner and I was going to go experience a lost weekend with Van Halen."


7. Dire Straits Breaks Ground with Computer Animation for 'Money for Nothing' Video

One of the biggest video hits MTV ever aired, Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing," nearly didn't happen. With its own name peppered throughout the song, the station was eager to play the tune, but insisted the video would need to be more engaging than simply frontman Mark Knopfler performing at the mic. The guitarist was eventually convinced — "I never did hear a yes, nor an OK, or a 'let’s go for it,'" the video's director Steve Barron later recalled, "But there wasn’t a no, or a never, or anything that said we couldn’t. We’ll just do it and pray that our Bosch FGS4000 [also known as Paintbox, the computer workstation used to create the video] delivers the goods.” It was one of the first uses of computer-animated characters in videos.


8. Jan. 1, 1985: VH1 Launches

The success of MTV spawned a sister station, VH1, in 1985. The channel skewed toward an older demographic, playing music videos from classic artists, usually from the soft-rock and pop genres. Tina Turner, Elton John, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton and Fleetwood Mac were some of the early acts found in regular rotation. VH1 also made a greater effort to showcase styles not prevalent on MTV at the time, including R&B, smooth jazz, early-rock hits and international acts. Like its predecessor, VH’s programming evolved. Successful series would later include Behind the Music, Pop-Up Video, Storytellers and Divas.




9. Twisted Sister’s 'Be Chrool to Your Scuel' Video Gets Banned 

In 1985, the Parents Music Resource Center added a new layer of censorship to music, labelling songs with violent, drug-related or sexual themes with Parental Advisory stickers. Among the “Filthy Fifteen” songs the group decried at the time was “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. Frontman Dee Snider believed the organization had a personal vendetta against his band, and that their public interference caused MTV to avoid Twisted Sister videos. Case in point, the zombie-themed clip for "Be Chrool to Your Scuel," which the network banned for questionable reasons. "They told us that the zombie content was 'too gross' for MTV and absolutely no amount of editing would fix it," Snider wrote in his memoir Shut Up and Give Me the Mic. “It was no worse than Michael Jackson's 14-minute, MTV Award-winning zombie opus for 'Thriller,' but ours was un-airable? Like the fans, MTV discovered they could throw concerned parents a bone with Twisted Sister that would have little effect on their viewership. Scumbags."


10. July 13, 1985: MTV Broadcasts Live Aid

Musicians Bob Geldof and Midge Ure organized Live Aid to raise money for the famine that ravaged Ethiopia from 1983 to 1985. The "global jukebox" comprised two simultaneous concerts on July 13, 1985, at London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium, featuring performances from Paul Mccartney, U2, Sting, the Who, Dire Straits, Black Sabbath, Tom Petty, Queen and the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin, to name a few. Live Aid drew 172,000 in-person fans and an estimated 2 billion television viewers, with MTV broadcasting the event in the United States. The shows raised a reported $127 million and forced Western audiences to pay closer attention to humanitarian crises across the globe.


11. March 10, 1986: First Episode of '120 Minutes,' Featuring Alternative Music Videos

Like other classic music television programs such as American Bandstand and Soul Train, MTV’s 120 Minutes represented the sound of a generation. Premiering in 1986, the show began as a place for underground artists, but quickly earned a reputation for launching new artists to the mainstream, primarily during the alt-rock boom. Artists such as Weezer, Oasis, New Order, Blur, Butthole Surfers, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine and the Offspring got their earliest exposure via 120 Minutes. Notably, Nirvana’s iconic video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” received its world premiere on the show. Exclusive performances also became a hallmark of the program, which lasted for more than a decade before jumping to MTV2 in 2001.


12. Aerosmith and Run DMC's 'Walk This Way' Thrusts Rap-Rock Into Mainstream

The newly reunited Aerosmith needed a course correction after their 1985 comeback LP Done With Mirrors floundered. So when producer Rick Rubin called Joe Perry and said he wanted ascendant rap-rock trio Run-D.M.C. to rap over Aerosmith’s '70s classic “Walk This Way,” the band obliged. Their resulting collaboration peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and its video — which features Steven Tyler symbolically breaking through the wall separating both bands — became the first hip-hop video to enter heavy rotation at MTV. "Walk This Way" turned Run-D.M.C. into superstars and resuscitated Aerosmith's career, beginning their decade-long reign as MTV darlings.


13. Trio of Original MTV VJs Leave

Three of MTVs five original VJs – Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson and Nina Blackwood – would depart the network in 1986. Quinn, who had been in college radio and appeared in TV commercials prior to her MTV stint, decided to pursue further acting opportunities. She’d enjoy roles in the film Tapeheads and the short-lived Brady Bunch spinoff The Bradys, before returning to MTV from 1989 to 1992. Jackson was a radio veteran before landing the MTV gig. While with the network, he covered Live Aid in 1985 and helped launch the series 120 Minutes. The host returned to radio after his MTV tenure came to an end. Also departing in '86 was Blackwood, the former Playboy model who had scored her gig at MTV after responding to an ad in Billboard magazine. Blackwood’s post-MTV career included a regular segment on Entertainment Tonight, as well as guest stints on A Current Affair, Access Hollywood and regular appearances on VH1

Mark Weiss / WireImage, Getty Images
Mark Weiss / WireImage, Getty Images

14. Headbangers Ball Premieres with Motorhead

MTV launched Headbangers Ball on April 18, 1987, shining a light on the heavy-metal sound that was commandeering airwaves and charts. Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor co-hosted the first episode, which featured videos from Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, Accept and more. Other high-profile hosts in the early days included W.A.S.P.’s Black Lawless and Chris Holmes, Ace Frehley and Ronnie James DioHeadbangers Ball delivered a balanced diet of radio-friendly pop-metal and underground and extreme metal, becoming so popular that it spawned tours featuring the likes of Anthrax, Exodus and Megadeth. The show pivoted to heavy alternative and grunge in the '90s before being canceled in 1995.

mtv headbangers ball 1987 logo

15. MTV Bans Motley Crue's 'You're All I Need'

“You’re All I Need,” the third single off Motley Crue’s Girls, Girls, Girls, was a deceptively gruesome power ballad about a man killing the woman who doesn’t reciprocate his love. So it’s not exactly surprising that the grisly, Wayne Isham-directed video, shot in black-and-white and mimicking a TV news broadcast, was deemed too violent to air on MTV. Bassist Nikki Sixx shrugged off the ban, saying in a statement: “There's a positive and negative side to everything. …  ‘You're All I Need' doesn't condone or exploit this tragedy. It clearly shows how one life is destroyed and another ruined forever. And it's probably a lot less graphic than much of what we see on the 6 o'clock news every night."

16. MTV Covers the Moscow Music Peace Festival

As part of the plea bargain stemming from his 1988 drug trafficking bust, veteran music manager Doc McGhee launched the Make a Difference Foundation and orchestrated the Moscow Music Peace Festival the following year. McGhee’s robust client roster — Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue, Scorpions, Skid Row and Cinderella — joined local Soviet rockers on a two-day bacchanal designed to promote world peace and urge global support for Russia’s war on drugs. (Never mind the stateside rockers hoovering drugs on their transcontinental flight.) MTV broadcast the event, which drew more than 100,000 rapturous headbangers. But egos clashed over perceived favoritism, and when the dust settled, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi both relieved McGhee of his managerial duties.

17. Neil Young Wins Video of the Year for 'This Note's for You' After Being Banned

At the height of the era in which rock stars frequently appeared in big-brand commercials, Neil Young was having none of it. He said so in his 1988 song "This Note's For You," lamenting the overtaking of advertisers in the industry. MTV would not air the video. "MTV, you spineless twerps,” Young wrote in an open letter. “You refuse to play ‘This Note’s for You’ because you’re afraid to offend your sponsors. What does the ‘M’ in MTV stand for: music or money?" MTV attempted to defend their decision: “I happen to think it’s a fantastic video,” MTV/VH1 General Manager Lee Masters said at the time. “Everyone in Programming loved it: It’s spectacular and it’s very funny." He went on to note that the main reason for not playing the video was due to the likenesses of people like Michael Jackson and Spuds MacKenzie, which "could leave us open to trademark infringement charges." It all came full circle later on when MTV awarded Young the Video of the Year award for the song at the 1989 VMAs.


18. Vince Neil punches Izzy Stradlin at the 1989 VMAs

Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses reveled in excess when they toured together in 1987, but relations between both bands had soured by Sept. 6, 1989, when Motley Crue presented Duff McKagan and Steven Adler with the Best Metal Video for “Sweet Child O’ Mine” at the VMAs. Vince Neil was incensed after learning that Izzy Stradlin had allegedly assaulted his wife at Los Angeles’ Cathouse club in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. Neil confronted Stradlin about the alleged assault backstage, and when the guitarist apparently got mouthy in response, “I decked him good, right in the face," Neil wrote in Motley’s sordid tell-all The Dirt. Axl Rose promptly threatened to kill Neil, and the two traded barbs in the press, challenging each other to public fights that never came to fruition.

19. Guns N' Roses Performs With Tom Petty 

In one of the most interesting stage pair-ups in music show history, Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, both on heavy rotation on MTV, took the stage at the 1989 VMAs for a rendition of Petty's smash hit "Free Fallin,' before segueing into a cover of "Heartbreak Hotel."

20. Bon Jovi Unplugs

Riding high on the success of their mammoth 1988 album New Jersey, Bon Jovi could have easily phoned in a performance of "Bad Medicine" or "I'll Be There for You" at the 1989 VMAs and called it a day. Instead, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora ditched their amps and delivered jaw-dropping acoustic renditions of Slippery When Wet smashes "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive." The stripped-down format sacrificed no power, as the duo flexed their vocal interplay and Sambora fired off a fleet guitar solo on "Wanted Dead or Alive." The acoustic performance scored Bon Jovi major cool points and helped set the stage for MTV's massively successful Unplugged series, which debuted a few months later.

21. Christina Applegate Ditches Brad Pitt for Sebastian Bach

When Christina Applegate, then riding high on the success of Married … With Children, showed up at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, she brought with her a hunky date that most people at the time had never heard of: Brad Pitt. At some point during the evening – possibly after she presented the award for Best Group Video alongside Alice Cooper – Applegate ditched Pitt, choosing instead to cuddle up with Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach. The decision looks pretty questionable in hindsight. Still, you won’t see us shedding a tear for Pitt: He’s done alright for himself in the years since.

1989 MTV Video Music Awards
Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Getty Images

22. Def Leppard Performs for the Last Time With Steve Clark

Def Leppard lit up the 1989 VMAs with a fiery rendition of the barnstorming Hysteria B-side “Tear It Down.” Unbeknownst to the band and their fans at the time, it would mark guitarist Steve Clark’s last live performance with Def Leppard. He'd battled alcoholism for years, and in 1990, Clark took a leave of absence from the band in an attempt to get sober. It proved unsuccessful, and on Jan. 8, 1991, Clark died at age 30 after taking a lethal mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs.

23. Andrew Dice Clay Gets Banned Indefinitely 

It only took three minutes for comedian Andrew Dice Clay to get himself banned from MTV for life. Initially, the notoriously raunchy comedian kept his material clean, appearing during the 1989 VMAs and delivering a light-hearted rap about himself. Still, it didn’t take long for him to slip back into his tried-and-true material, delivering some of his infamous "dirty nursery rhymes." “My MTV moment was hands-down the biggest moment that ever happened on the MTV Awards,” the comedian declared during a 2016 interview. “And I say that because the press that I got off of that moment didn’t just go on for a week or two, it went on for two years. It was more about what Dice did than what the actual singing artists did on the show. And that moment’s just never been topped.”

24. MTV's Buzz Bin Helps Boost Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'

The timeline of Nirvana’s groundbreaking hit single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is already well known. The track was released Sept. 10, 1991, and slowly began gaining momentum on college radio stations. It wouldn’t truly hit the mainstream until early ‘92, when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Rock chart and peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100. Still, an important stepping stone from underground awareness to worldwide hit came via MTV’s “Buzz Bin.” The feature – which shone a spotlight on music videos from up-and-coming artists – was somewhat of a graduation from the network’s 120 Minutes programing. While that show mainly aired in the evening hours, those videos dubbed worthy of the “Buzz Bin” were aired throughout the day, including valuable prime time viewing. EW called the feature “alternative rock’s best friend,” noting that 75% of “Buzz Bin” videos reached gold status or better thanks largely to the added exposure. That mojo certainly worked for Nirvana, as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was selected as a “Buzz Bin” clip in October 1991. The video's success on MTV’s airwaves directly aligned with the song’s ascent to genre-defining hit.

25. Prince Dons an Assless Mesh Outfit While Performing 'Gett Off' 

If there was one person who could pull off a pair of banana yellow assless pants, it was Prince. Performing his song "Gett Off" at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, Prince's outfit, dance moves and vocals perfectly matched his provocative lyrics: "Now move your big ass 'round this way, so I can work on that zipper, baby," he sang, confidently moving his own rear end around stage. It was an evening that the audience, particularly those seated up front, would not soon forget.

26. Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain Butt Heads at the 1992 VMAs

The schism between bombastic, misogynistic hard rock and socially conscious, ostensibly anti-corporate grunge was on full display at the 1992 VMAs — and who better to represent the opposing sides than Guns N' Roses and Nirvana? The beef began when Nirvana declined Axl Rose's offer to open for GN'R on tour, and Rose responded by slamming Kurt Cobain and his wife Courtney Love during a concert, calling the frontman “a junkie with a junkie wife.” He also suggested that “if the baby [Love and Cobain’s newborn daughter, Frances Bean] is born deformed, I think they both ought to go to prison.” The following week at the VMAs, Cobain and Love asked Rose to be Frances Bean's godfather. Not one for sarcasm, Rose wheeled around and told Cobain, “You better keep your wife shut, or I'm gonna take you to the pavement." Unfazed, Cobain looked at Love and shouted, “Shut up, bitch!”

27. Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic Smashes Himself in the Head With his Bass

Nirvana was one of the biggest acts taking the stage at the 1992 VMAs and, with an international spotlight on his group, bassist Krist Novoselic suffered an embarrassing on stage injury. Toward the end of Nirvana’s performance of “Lithium,” Novoselic flung his bass in the air, only to have the instrument smash his head when he tried to catch it. “I’m plugged into some awful bass rig that’s distorting terribly. I can barely hear what I’m playing, and the tone deteriorates into an inaudible mess,” Novoselic recalled years later. “Fuck it — time for the bass-toss schtick. Up it goes! I always try to get good air — I bet I hit over 25 feet, easy! But no matter how high it went, I was not on my game — the only time I’ve ever dropped it was then in front of 300 million people. Ouch! I was fine, but I faked like I was knocked out, perhaps expressing my inner torment over a taxing evening.” The bassist later admitted that his band's aforementioned encounter with Axl Rose had left him shaken. Still, it was a different rock star who helped the bassist recover after his embarrassing moment. “Paramedics came in and put a little bandage on, then handed me a long medical release form to sign. Standing behind them was Brian May, the guitarist of Queen, with a glass of chilled champagne. I signed the release just to get the medics away from me so I could take a sip of Mr. May’s wonderful medicine.”

28. Howard Stern Appears as Fartman

Love him or hate him, there was no avoiding Howard Stern in the '90s. The so-called “King of All Media” was enjoying the height of his career when he took the stage at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. Of course, Stern could never make an understated appearance. Instead of showing up as himself, he arrived as “Fartman,” the flatulence-powered superhero which he’d originally created on the airwaves of his popular radio show. As Fartman, Stern descended from the rafters of Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, landing on stage next to co-presenter Luke Perry. “Behold, the most beautiful of sites,” Stern proclaimed, turning around to reveal his exposed butt cheeks. “Luke, look at my ass. Touch it for power. Rub it.” Perry willingly grabbed the radio host’s behind, to the delight of the audience. As it turned out, Fartman was being prepped for his own feature film, though it never ended up getting made. Was the hero’s VMA appearance immature and borderline gross? Sure. But it was also memorable.

29. Clapton Goes Acoustic for MTV's 'Unplugged' Series

Eric Clapton played the first -- and thus far only -- completely acoustic performance of his career on Jan. 16, 1992. The legendary guitarist was the first guest on MTV’s third season of Unplugged, and he didn’t disappoint. The night’s setlist included material from throughout Clapton’s career, including solo work, Derek and the Dominos and Cream. Clapton also debuted several new songs inspired by the tragic death of his son Conor in 1991. Still, the most memorable moment of the night was Clapton’s revamped version of the classic track “Layla.” Completely redone to fit an acoustic setting, the previously freewheeling rocker became a jazzy shuffle. "Layla sort of mystified me,” Clapton later recalled. "I've done it the same all these years, and never considered trying to revamp it.” Assembled from his performance for the MTV series, the 26-times platinum Unplugged would become the best-selling album of Clapton’s career, and the acoustic version of “Layla” becoming a radio hit. He later earned six Grammy Awards, including Record, Album and Song of the Year.


30. MTV Launches Reality TV Series 'The Real World'

In hindsight, some will call it revolutionary. Others may decry it as a lowlight in television history. Regardless, MTV’s The Real World represents one of the first instances of what is now accepted as reality television. Many of the genre’s most common tropes – subjects living in the same home, the use of candid confessionals, soundtracks utilizing popular music – all of these things were established by The Real World. Aside from typical young-adult dramas, like cheating lovers and drunken tirades, the series also tackled some of the biggest issues of the time, including abortion, sexual identity and AIDS. The Real World would become one of MTV’s landmark programs, becoming the longest-running series in the network’s history. It also spawned MTV’s growing obsession with reality TV, which eventually led to the demise of music videos and music-related content on the network.

31. March 8, 1993: 'Beavis and Butt-Head' Debuts

Glam metal was as good as dead by the '90s, and Beavis and Butt-Head put the final nail in the coffin when it launched on March 8, 1993. Mike Judge’s animated series followed its titular metalhead protagonists as they banged their heads and offered snappy commentary on music videos by “cool” bands like Metallica and AC/DC, whom they memorialized on their omnipresent T-shirts. Beavis and Butt-Head also skewered floundering hair bands like Winger, a favorite of their tragically unhip neighbor, Stewart. “It was David and Goliath, really," Kip Winger told UCR in 2014 in 2014. “There was nothing you could do but take it like a man. It certainly didn’t help us, I’ll tell you that.”

beavis and butt-had

32. Nirvana Plays Acoustic Set for Unplugged Series

Clapton’s Unplugged appearance may have won more awards, and there are even some grunge die-hards who will argue that Alice in Chains’ 1996 appearance is the greatest in the show’s history. The fact remains, however, that no Unplugged performance came close to the cultural impact of Nirvana’s 1993 set. They were arguably the biggest band in the world at the time, thanks to their Nevermind LP, while follow-up In Utero had been released just a couple of months before. During the MTV performance, Nirvana showcased added depth to their songs, offering equal parts power, heartache and agony, without losing the edge that made them grunge kings. An album of the performance, MTV Unplugged in New York, was released on Nov. 1, 1994. Sadly, by then Kurt Cobain had already died by suicide.

33. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Reunite for 'UnLedded' Project

Members of Led Zeppelin and their fans have been of opposite views regarding reunification since the band called it quits in 1980. When Robert Plant was asked to record a show for MTV’s Unplugged series, he knew he needed his former bandmate Jimmy Page to make the occasion worthy. “It was obvious that I could either say: ‘Well, fuck off, I don’t like MTV anyway. You don’t play me because I’m too old, so why start worrying about me now?'" Plant told Rolling Stone in 1995. "Or I could think about how to team up with the one bloke who knew where I was coming from and see if we couldn’t go ahead." The duo had reunited the year before to reimagine several Zeppelin songs, along with Moroccan-inspired tunes. Their Unplugged session was later released as No Quarter: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Unledded.

34. Slash Teams Up With Michael Jackson at 1995 VMAs

Two superstars from very different worlds converged at the 1995 MVAs as Slash appeared with Michael Jackson. It wasn’t the first time the Guns N' Roses guitarist collaborated with Jackson. Back in 1991, he guest starred on the Dangerous song “Give In to Me,” though many mistakenly believed be played on “Black or White.” The VMA performance lasted an unheard-of 15 minutes, as Jackson delivered a medley from throughout his career. Slash, meanwhile, added just what you’d expect: soaring solos, guitar wizardry and enough gravitas to grab every viewer's attention. It seemed, at one point during the performance, that Jackson was upset with Slash, apparently perturbed that the guitarist for stealing the spotlight. As it turned out, this was a choreographed part of the show, though many watching at home were unaware.

35. Kiss Reunite Under the Brooklyn Bridge

“What do you say we seal this show with a great big, sloppy, tongue-in-the-throat, fireworks exploding, blood spurting lip-lock?” host Dennis Miller proclaimed before announcing the 1996 Video Music Awards’ closing act, Kiss. Performing remotely from a stage underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, Kiss then launched into a rendition of their classic song “Rock and Roll All Nite.” The band’s classic lineup had recently announced their reunion, appearing at the Grammy Awards before holding a press conference to unveil the Alive/Worldwide Tour. This was the first time the reformed classic lineup of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss performed on stage together. Kiss didn’t disappoint, delivering a powerful display with enough pyrotechnics to light up New York.

36. David Lee Roth and Van Halen Briefly Reconvene 

Time does not heal all wounds, as the members of Van Halen learned when they staged a disastrous reunion with David Lee Roth at the 1996 VMAs. The band had recently recorded two new tracks with Roth for its  Best Of: Volume 1 compilation, following Sammy Hagar’s murky ouster earlier in the year. Personalities instantly clashed on the VMAs stage, however, as Roth basked in the audience’s rapturous applause while Alex and Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony tried to get on with presenting the Best Male Video award. Roth and Eddie Van Halen nearly came to blows backstage, and Roth's bandmates tried to downplay the extent of the reunion in an awkward post-show interview. Before long, Van Halen announced Extreme's Gary Cherone as their new frontman, putting off a formal Roth reunion for another decade.

37. Jim Carrey Asks MTV to Play More Foghat

A classic rock band grabbed headlines at the 1999 MTV Movie Awards, but it had nothing to do with anyone in attendance. Actor/comedian Jim Carrey won the award for Best Male Performance for his role in The Truman Show, accepting his trophy in a character that resembled Jim Morrison complete with long hair, sunglasses and a thick beard. At one point during his speech, the actor questioned why MTV was avoiding classic rock. “I like rap music as much as the next frightened Caucasian but, you know, would it kill you every once in a while to play a little Foghat?” The request became one of the night’s biggest conversation topics around water coolers in the days that followed. Why Carrey chose the English rock group, best known for their 1975 “Slow Ride,” remains unknown. Still, Foghat's drummer was thrilled with the mention. "Thank you, Jim!," Roger Earl later proclaimed. “It’s great that he’s a Foghat fan.”

38. Axl Rose Introduces New Guns N' Roses Lineup at 2002 VMAs

Jimmy Fallon was practically levitating with excitement as he hysterically introduced Guns N’ Roses at the 2002 VMAs. The crowd felt the same way — for about 30 seconds. Sporting cornrows, baggy leather pants and an oversized hockey jersey, Axl Rose signaled the start of “Welcome to the Jungle” with his signature banshee wail. But the performance quickly crumbled as Rose entered his dreaded “Mickey Mouse” register and struggled to find his breath while sprinting across the stage, flanked by a ragtag group of hired-gun backing musicians. The Chicago Tribune memorialized the performance with the brutal headline "Paradise Pity," and after a string of late-2002 tour dates, Axl went back into hiding for four more years.

39. MTV Botches Pink Floyd's Live 8 Reunion Broadcast

Pink Floyd reunited for the first time in more than two decades in 2005 in London as part of Live 8, a string of benefit concerts organized by Bob Geldof. Fans were eager to watch the band come together, but they were met with questionable coverage from MTV and VH1 that dropped off during the show. "We ran 20 out of 21 minutes" of Pink Floyd's set, MTV Networks Music Group president Van Toffler admitted at the time. Other bands' sets were also heavily edited. "The only reason they were interrupted is that we had a local affiliate break, the cable affiliates had to go on break. It's in our agreements [with cable companies]."

40. 'FNMTV' Cancellation Marks End of an Era

Everyone remembers the TV show FNMTV, hosted by Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, right? Okay, that’s probably not true, but the series holds a dubious place in MTV history. Premiering in 2008, the weekly program was dedicated to premiering new music videos from music’s biggest artists. The program was unable to capture an audience after a few months on the air, however, and was eventually cancelled. When FNMTV went off the air, the network was left without a music video program hosted by VJs for the first time in its history.


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