Why Unplugged matters, even when it doesn’t

by Rachel Baker on May 19, 2014

Below is a really good article reflecting on the history of MTV’s Unplugged and why it matters to the world of music, viewership and fans.

According to I Want My MTV: The Uncensored History Of The Music Video Revolution, an oral history by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks, Unplugged has a few self-proclaimed creators. Producers Jim Burns and Bob Small (both of whom ended up with the official “created by” credits) claim they came up with the idea after seeing Bruce Springsteen perform acoustically at Madison Square Garden; executive producer Joel Gallen says he thought of it after arranging for Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora to play unaccompanied at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards. (In I Want My MTV, Small says Bon Jovi himself has claimed creator status, and implores Tannenbaum and Marks, “Please do not credit Bon Jovi for creating Unplugged. Jon Bon Jovi thinks he was the inspiration for it. He wouldn’t even do the fucking show until 2007.” Note to self: Do not mention Jon Bon Jovi in the presence of Bob Small.)

It’s easy to see why so many people would want to be the one responsible for Unplugged: It was a phenomenon. The show, which began in 1989 with then-host Jules Shear and musical guests Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze (who, unclear on this brand new concept, showed up with electric guitars), has won an Emmy and a Peabody Award, and started an acoustic craze in the ’90s that spawned imitation records ranging from eye-opening (The Pretenders’ Isle Of View) to cash-grabbing (The Rolling Stones’ Stripped).


Previous post:

Next post: