No one knew quite what to expect at the first MTV Video Music Awards, which was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sept. 14, 1984.
The show seemed likely to have a younger, hipper vibe than the Grammy Awards or the American Music Awards. But no one could have predicted that Madonna would steal the show with a daring performance of “Like a Virgin” that would have broken the Internet if such a thing had existed back then.
Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler co-hosted the show. That may seem like an odd choice, but it made sense in the context of the times. Aykroyd appeared in Ghostbusters, which was the year’s top-grossing film. Midler’s 1983 album No Frills had emphasized her rock side, with its covers of songs by the likes of The Rolling Stones and Marshall Crenshaw.
Cyndi Lauper had the most nominations – nine – but won just one award, best female video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Even so, the exposure on the show no doubt helped her go on to win the Grammy for best new artist the following February.
Herbie Hancock won the most awards – five – for his quirky hit “Rockit.” It had won a Grammy for best R&B instrumental performance in February 1984.
This gallery of 17 vintage photos from the show and the afterparties will bring it all back, if you were alive at the time, or clue you in on what was happening at this hip new awards show, if you weren’t.