So this will be a round-up of what I remember liking about early MTV. Before I discovered punk rock, I basically liked the music played on the channel - such as my Top 40 Top 40 Songs of 1982. I definitely enjoyed the free-format where you never knew what to expect next. Except for a few actual shows that I remember being regularly scheduled.
"Punks & Poseurs: A Journey into the L.A. Underground" (1985)
My main weekly favorite was the "Saturday Night Concert" - check out the intro. I don't remember Punks & Poseurs, but I'm really glad that it exists! The Dickies, GBH, Plain Wrap, The Breakouts, Raw power... Wild.
Metal was much more common. I do remember the AC/DC show (with this intro), but I think GnR 1988 was quite a bit after my time. In fact, I'm surprised they were still showing regular live shows that late (might've been a special though).
"Moving in Stereo" live in Houston, 1984
But the one they showed all the time was The Cars at The Summit (Houston TX, 1984). I remember distinctly because it was originally pretty cool to see a show filmed locally, but the charm was lost after the same concert reappeared every third weekend.
I also found some evidence of a Pretenders show.
"Race of Slaves" by Talmadge D'amour (1983)
Another show I watched pretty regularly was "Basement Tapes," which was a video competition between unsigned local acts' submissions. It always featured some hilarious terribleness and some occasional hidden gems. Honestly, I don't remember many details.
I think there was some audience voting, with some kind of prize either for each show's winner or eventually. Here's someone's blog post about the show. Actually, the first video there includes the show intro, which explains a bit... Monthly finalists!!
The Young Invaders - "Play It Cool"Did Screen Test win the final slot? I have to know...
Messendger (from Tifton, GA)
Rail (eventual winner?) - "Hello"
Joe Salvo - maybe this guy?
Slyder (from Miami, FL) - on MySpace
nooooo, Friday wins!
"Paranoid" by Black Sabbath (Mtv Closet Classic, 1972)
At first, "Mtv Closet Classics" were really just individual videos for music from before the MTV era - with a special video-tag to make sure no-one confused it with modern music. I mainly remember Sabbath, but this 1986 VHS tracklist will give you a general idea.
Also, apparently by 1987, they had an actual show. Not sure if I was onboard for that, because I just remember surprise treats in the free-form.
Then of course, there was "120 Minutes" (1986-2000). I don't remember JJ Jackson hosting, but I do remember Alan Hunter (still one of the original VJ's) and Kevin Seal - then a bit later, series creator Dave Kendall.
Not too much video evidence of the early days I'm talking about, and I can't find the hilarious Dave Kendall/Jack Officers SXSW interview (or maybe BHS), so here's Ween in 1995.