“Life On The V: The Story of V66″ documents Boston’s local 24-hour mid-80s answer to MTV

By on September 18, 2017

The 2014 documentary Life On The V: The Story of V66 — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — tells the story behind Boston-based low-tech UHF station WJVJ-TV channel 66, who, in 1985, began calling themselves “V66″ and started airing non-stop music videos, in addition to occasionally showcasing concert footage of Boston-strong major label bands and local rising stars.

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The Live On The V documentary details how the popular local station became a 24-hour local answer to MTV, and how they ended up having a major impact on its local viewership’s musical tastes.

The entire concept was the brainchild of former WMEX program director and radio personality John Garabedian, who had the idea to launch a music television for the Boston-based college crowd after taking notice of how popular the cable network MTV had become nationally.

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V66 founder John Garabedian on-air with Kenny Loggins in 1985

MTV had premiered four years earlier, in 1981 — a few months after “Night Flight” had already begun broadcasting on the USA Network — but cable TV was only beginning to be made available in the greater New England area in the mid-80s. Some 63% of Boston homes at the time did not yet have access to cable.

It was Garabedian — who is perhaps best known as the creator and former long-time host, of the syndicated all-request dance music show “Open House Party,” from September 1987 to January 2017, broadcast to more than fifty stations around the world — who seized on the opportunity that seemed to be presenting itself.

He thought the local UHF station would be the perfect place to broadcast its exclusive programming over the airwaves both live and in “real time” (meaning lots of on-air flubs).

He also recommended that they also focus on programming that highlighted and featured bands and artists that had some kind of connection to the local Boston area.

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Lesser-known newer bands like ‘Til Tuesday, Extreme, and the Del Fuegos, to name just three, were soon being paired up with bigger touring acts like Aerosmith, J Geils Band and the Cars, and even local unsigned bands were showcased on the station from time to time.

Sometimes V66 even made their own music videos: one example int he film is the high-fructose cornball music video, “New England, the Patriots and We,” created for the New England Patriots football team and aired during the run-up to the 1986 Super Bowl.

Read more about Life On The V: The Story of V66 below.

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Filmmaker Eric Green with John Garabedian

Garabedian — along with radio veterans like former Boston-area disc jockey Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg, Roxy Myzal, Bob Rivers and former TV exec David Beadle — copied a lot of the MTV format, even hiring on-air “veejays” to introduce the clips and concerts.

Life On The V features interviews with all of the aforementioned, along with various musicians — including members of the Cars, J. Geils Band, ‘Til Tuesday, Extreme, the Del Fuegos, New Edition, Puddle of Mudd, Letters to Cleo, the Lemonheads, Dropkick Murphys and Morphine — not to mention you’ll see interviews with over thirty former V66 employees (executives, VJs, technical crew, interns, marketers, stylists, and editors) and fifteen V66 fans.

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V66 poster featuring (top left) Perry Stone, John Garabedian, Ian O’Malley, Bill Stephens, (bottom left) Mary Jo Kurtz, David O’Leary and Maribeth Cox-Livingston (1986)

When V66 went live on-the-air on February 12, 1985, their impact was immediate, and they began having a huge impact on local record store sales. For a low-watt non-cable UHF channel in a limited market, they soon became the talk of the town.

In July 1985, V66 was the only non-cable TV channel besides the ABC network to broadcast the historic Live Aid concert in the Boston area, and they also sponsored and broadcast live concerts and events.

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Weird Al Yankovich on V66

Just like it occasionally happened at “Night Flight” in New York City, celebrities and rock stars would often stop by V66’s studios to chat with the on-air talent.

In 1986, V66 expanded their programming by adding magazine news shows, sports highlight shows, music profiles, comedies, and syndicated programs, all in an attempt to increase their TV ratings.

Unfortunately, advertisers were hard to attract and V66’s short-burst audience would channel-surf when songs they didn’t like came on the tube, making it hard to get an accurate reading for ratings.

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Due to the financial issues that arose because advertisers kept their distance, V66 ended up being sold off, in the summer of 1986, to the Home Shopping Network, nearly nineteen months after it had launched.

V66 waved their final two-fingered “V” salute to the fans watching at home on September 21, 1986.

Today, some thirty years later, nostalgic fans of the popular UHF channel still remember that roughly year-and-a-half in the mid-80s when they had a local music TV station they could call their very own.

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Joe Perry and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith give the “V” salute on V66

This documentary was directed by Eric Green, who grew up in suburban Boston before getting into filmmaking. This is his first feature-length documentary.

He had originally pitched the idea to Garabedian about doing a V66 documentary back in August of 2007.

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Former V66 employees and V66 fans both ended up contributing a lot of the footage seen in the film, which is one reason why some of it comes from poor-quality homemade VHS tapes.

Life On The V: The Story of V66 has been awarded numerous best documentary picture awards from film festivals around the country, and it is now included in the permanent collection of The Paley Center for Media in both NYC and L.A.

Watch Life On The V: The Story of V66 over on our streaming channel, Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • Videonitekatt

    A Great Channel, Fondly remembered and sadly missed.