Back in the early ‘90s, when I was first getting into MTV — my parents didn’t have cable TV so I had to make up for lost time when I got to college — there was still something called “alternative music.” It was pretty amorphous, but you knew it when you heard it. Of course, nowadays, everything is so atomized and granular and genre-specific that putting everything under one blanket term is silly, but 20 years ago, lumping The Cure, Red Hot Chili Peppers, They Might Be Giants, and Bad Brains all together somehow made sense.
Much of this was probably due to “120 Minutes,” MTV’s series devoted to alternative music, and back then, there was nothing cooler. Yes, it’s easy to crack a joke about how MTV used to play videos, but “120 Minutes” was something special. Where else could you find videos from the likes of Belly, Morphine, Björk, and Matthew Sweet?
Much of that was lost in time, but now, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of contributors, “The 120 Minutes Archive” exists, and it’s an alternative music fan’s dream. For starters, it contains exhaustive playlists for nearly every episode of the series, with links to the actual videos on YouTube. (So now you can finally rediscover that Rude Buddha or Dead Milkmen video you previously watched via a battered VHS copy that you borrowed from a high school buddy.) But the archive also contains interviews with the series’ hosts, and much more. So basically, it’s a massive nostalgia rush for those of us watching MTV in the late ‘80s and early-to-mid ‘90s.
Sidenote: I wonder if somebody’s doing something similar for “Liquid Television”? I wouldn’t mind rewatching some old episodes of The Maxx.