In 1985, Boston launched its own music television channel. The short-lived experiment featured live VJs with a localized approach, and though it only lasted 18 months, it was an immediate sensation. Documentary filmmaker Eric Green produced the film, "Life On The V: The story of V66." Green spoke with WGBH's Henry Santoro about V66 and the mark it made on Boston. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Henry Santoro: What intrigued you to make this film?
Eric Green: Well, I was a little kid just learning about music in 1985, and here was this TV channel that came on the air that was playing so [many] different genres of music. You would see a hard rock video, followed by a dance pop video, followed by a rap video. So especially if you're just learning about music, it was a terrific outlet for you to learn from at the time. So skip ahead to the mid-2000's. I'm out for drinks with some friends, and it just came up in conversation, 'Hey, do you remember V66?' I hadn't thought about it in years. But of course it unearthed all these memories, and we were talking for a while about it.
So I go home, I google it, and I found that there was this message board where all these fans had such specificity of memories of this channel. ... And the more research I did, the more I saw how this could come together as a film. Especially coming at it from a cinematic standpoint. It's a visual medium — it was television, so you have the footage of this channel to inter-cut with the modern day interviews of it.
Santoro: V66 was the creation of local radio legend John Garabedian. What did he want V66 to do?
Green: He saw an opportunity with this FCC license he got for a TV station here in Boston to bring his experience from radio to television, and he wanted this to be a sense of community. He wanted to be in the hands of the fans, where fans could really request what they wanted to see on the air. He wants to really make this all about bringing together a sense of community of music fans in this area.
Santoro: So it was very highly produced, but it was very low-tech. A lot of energy, not really polished, not nearly as slick as MTV. Why do you think this V66 station is so lovingly looked at to this day?
Green: Well, in 1985, cable penetration wasn't great here in New England. So even if you were excited about the music video phenomenon that was happening, if cable wasn't offered in your town, you were out of luck. So here was a free channel that was playing what was popular at the time, but it was local and it was live. So they were talking about, this is the weather, this is what's happening tonight, these are the bands that are playing. A band would come to Boston, and they would do press in Boston, stop by V66, and then play the Centrum in Worcester.
It was so much fun, it was, like, our channel. Boston had so many great superstar acts like Aerosmith, J. Geils Band, and The Cars. But then there were all these up-and-coming great bands coming up at the time as well. So they were really in the right place at the right time to showcase all this great Boston music, In addition to the national popular music.
Santoro: Yeah. [They're] talking to bands like 'Til Tuesday, Extreme, Del Fuegos, even Lizzie Borden and the Axes, which show up on V66. Were there any musical milestones that that you can think of that V66 can be credited with running?
Green: Oh yeah, definitely. A-ha's "Take on Me," which is now considered one of the greatest music videos of all time, that video had its premiere on V66 and soon thereafter MTV picked up on it.