Just over three years after the launch of MTV, the network decided to start its own awards ceremony dubbed the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). The inaugural event took place on Sept. 14, 1984, almost exactly 39 years ago.
The 40th installment of the ceremony will take place tonight (Sept. 12) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and will be hosted by Nicki Minaj. Blink-182, Fall Out Boy, Paramore and Thirty Seconds to Mars are among the nominees for Best Alternative, while Foo Fighters, Linkin Park, Maneskin, Metallica, Muse and Red Hot Chili Peppers make up the candidates for Best Rock.
With the show airing just a few hours from now, we wanted to look back on the very first VMAs and see who was there, who won and who performed. Keep reading to find out.
What Were the Categories at the 1984 VMAs?
There were a total of 16 categories at the very first VMAs, in addition to the Video Vanguard Award and Special Recognition Award. The categories weren’t divided by genre the way they are today, but there were separate categories for gender, and the rest seemed to be based more on the visual components than the style of music.
The categories were: Video of the Year, Best Male Video, Best Female Video, Best Group Video, Best New Artist in a Video, Best Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Best Stage Performance in a Video, Best Overall Performance in a Video, Best Direction in a Video, Best Choreography in a Video, Best Special Effects in a Video, Best Art Direction in a Video, Best Editing in a Video, Best Cinematography in a Video and Viewer’s Choice.
Which Rock Artists Were Nominated for Awards?
The Cars, The Police, David Bowie, Pat Benatar, ZZ Top, Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, The Alan Parsons Project, Neil Young, Duran Duran, The Pretenders, Billy Idol, Elton John, Talking Heads, Queen, KISS, John Cougar Mellencamp and The Beatles were all of the rock or rock-related contenders at the 1984 VMAs.
Rod Stewart, Madonna, Huey Lewis and the News, David Bowie, Tina Turner, ZZ Top and Ray Parker Jr. all performed during the ceremony that night. Madonna’s performance of “Like a Virgin” went down as one of the most memorable moments in VMAs history.
Which Rock Artists Presented Awards?
Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler hosted the 1984 VMAs, but there were over 25 other presenters during the night. Among the rock artists who presented awards were The Who‘s Roger Daltrey, Jefferson Starship‘s Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas, The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood and Mick Jagger, Daryl Hall and John Oates, The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, The J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf, The Police’s Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, Rod Stewart, Billy Idol and Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes.
Daltrey smashed a guitar onstage while presenting the award for Best Overall Performance in a Video, since his bandmate Pete Townshend had made that his trademark stage move.
Which Rock Artists Won Awards?
The rock winners at the 1984 VMAs were: The Cars for Video of the Year with “You Might Think,” David Bowie for Best Male Video with “China Girl,” ZZ Top for Best Group Video with “Legs” and Best Direction in a Video with “Sharp Dressed Man,” Van Halen for Best Stage Performance in a Video with “Jump” and The Police for Best Cinematography in a Video with “Every Breath You Take.”
The Beatles, David Bowie and Richard Lester were the recipients of the Video Vanguard Award, also known as the Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given for artists who made a large impact on music and video culture. The trophy is a gold-plated moonman.
See a gallery of photos from the night and the after party at New York City’s Hard Rock Cafe below.
Photos From the 1984 MTV VMAs
Here are photos from the inaugural MTV VMAs.