Aug. 1, 1981 was the day that MTV invaded cable systems across the U.S. for the first time. “MTV” stood for “Music Television,” and the network operated as something of a loosely formatted radio station that played videos. However, as artists didn’t routinely film videos, the channel was somewhat limited in what it could play; the channel’s early days were particularly free-form; this is definitely reflected in their first-day playlist.
The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” is famous as the first video that was played on the network. What what was the first heavy metal video to make the MTV airwaves? That honor goes to Iron Maiden, who were just an emerging band at the time with their self-titled debut disc arriving in 1980. The Paul Di’Anno-led group’s self-titled clip for “Iron Maiden” was the 16th video played on MTV’s opening day, sandwiched in between Rod Stewart’s ballad “Sailing” and REO Speedwagon’s megahit of the day “Keep on Loving You.”