Rhino's BEST OF MTV's 120 MINUTES [1991-1998]

Got 174 hours to kill?

120 Minutes premiered on MTV in March 1986.  The playlist above has over 2,500 songs that were played on the show during its original 17 year run.  Is it weird that HERC never saw a single episode?  Maybe.  If he wanted to, HERC could kinda sorta watch episodes.  '120 Minutes' Rewind is a popular recurring feature over at slicingupeyeballs where they feature interview clips from the show.

As he's said before, HERC wasn't much of a music video viewer growing up (or even now).  He'll watch vintage performance clips from shows like American Bandstand, Soul Train, Top Of The Pops and The Midnight Special sure but he doesn't trifle with the majority of music videos as shown on MTV and other video channels and shows. So when the albums featured below were released in 1991, he had no idea that 120 Minutes was a show on MTV.  He bought the discs based on the tracks they contained, both the ones he was familiar with and the ones unknown to him. Each disc has 16 tracks.

The release of Never Mind The Mainstream: The Best Of MTV 120 Minutes 1 actually preceded the release of Rhino's expansive series Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits Of The 80s but it dovetailed nicely with that series (which covered the period from 1979-1985) with several artists from 120 Minutes later turning up on Just Can't Get Enough with their earlier recordings.  Here are HERC's highlights from the first 120 Minutes disc which, like the second disc, has four bonus tracks that aren't on the cassette version:

  • "Higher Ground" - Red Hot Chili Peppers [1989] #11 Modern Rock  Flea's thumping bass takes it to a different level (Higher Ground?) of funk yet it still breaks HERC's heart every time someone tells him they didn't know this is a cover of a classic Stevie Wonder song from 1974.  
  • "Fools Gold" - Stone Roses [1990] #5 Modern Rock  Another funky, danceable song especially in its full length album version that clocks in just under ten minutes.  The Roses were HUGE in the UK for a couple of minutes but barely made a blip here in the Colonies.
  • "Under The Milky Way" - The Church [1988] #2 Mainstream Rock, #24 Hot 100  Has a dreamy, nighttime quality to it, both musically and vocally, that relaxes HERC almost instantly.  Pairs nicely with INXS's "Don't Change".
  • "World Shut Your Mouth" - Julian Cope [1987] #22 Mainstream Rock, #84 Hot 100  A punky rocker in the vein of The Jam or Elvis Costello that makes for good driving music. Don't make HERC's mistake and sing Girl instead of World.
  • "Put The Message In The Box" - World Party [1990] #8 Modern Rock, #33 Mainstream Rock  Former Waterboy Karl Wallinger knocked it out of the park with his first two singles - "Ship Of Fools" and "Way Down Now" - and this one is only slightly less magnificent. Also successfully tackled Bowie bon Mott "All The Young Dudes" for the Clueless soundtrack.
  • "Dear God" - XTC [1987] #37 Mainstream Rock  A quietly beautiful  and powerful protest song from Partridge & Co.  Controversial for some who took the song's language too seriously while its message sailed over other people's heads entirely.
  • "Ana Ng" - They Might Be Giants [1988] #11 Modern Rock  The Giants' music possesses the catchy melodies and witty intelligence of XTC and Squeeze and then adds a dash of nerdy quirkiness that almost enters novelty song territory.
  • "I Melt With You" - Modern English [1983] #7 Mainstream Rock, #78 Hot 100  The oldest song in the set would go on to appear on more than half a dozen other Rhino compilations including Volume 9 of the Just Can't Get Enough series.  HERC prefers this original version to the 1990 do-over although for some listeners the two are indistinguishable.

Never Mind The Mainstream: The Best Of MTV 120 Minutes 2 actually featured songs dating back to 1980, predating MTV. One track ("The Killing Moon") would later reappear on Volume 13 of the Just Can't Get Enough series in 1995. Here are HERC's highlights from the second disc of 120 Minutes

  • "Orange Crush" - R.E.M. [1988] #1 Mainstream Rock, #1 Modern Rock  The boys from Athens, GA have this as the first song on the second side (the "Metal" side) of their sixth album Green.  It wasn't released as a commercial single and yet still topped both Rock charts as a promotional single.
  • "This Is Not A Love Song" - Public Image Ltd [1984] did not chart  While Rotten/Lydon's voice grates on some ears, it has a strange, unexplainable appeal to HERC.  The cinematic "The Order Of Death" with its incessant "This is what you want/This is what you get" chant and the sweetly snotty (yeah, read that again) "Rise" with its own chant of "Anger is an energy" are also favorites of HERC.
  • "Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?" - Ramones [1980]  did not chart  More of a call to arms to return to rock's roots than a trip down memory lane, this one was from the Phil Spector produced album, End Of The Century, a failed bid for commercial acceptance with longer songs and a more polished production.
  • "The Killing Moon" - Echo And The Bunnymen [1984] did not chart  It's a quiet, spooky, atmospheric tune that transcends its Eighties origin date.  The extended All Night version is highly recommended.  A perennial Halloween favorite here at the Hideaway.
  • "Love Will Tear Us Apart" - Joy Division [1980] did not chart  Possibly the most influential song of the last 40 years and certainly one of the most critically acclaimed.  The droning, bouncing music obscures the hopelessly bleak lyrics.
  • "The Perfect Kiss" - New Order [1985] #5 Hot Dance Club Singles Sales, #5 Hot Dance Club Play  A gem on an album (Low-Life) full of them, this one is even better as a 12" remix.
  • "Personal Jesus" - Depeche Mode [1989] #3 Modern Rock, #28 Hot 100, #12 Hot Dance Club Play, #9 Hot Dance Club Singles Sales  A fairly radical departure from the band's previous sound that became one of their biggest worldwide singles.   Along with "Enjoy The Silence" and HERC's favorite "Policy Of Truth", one of three massive sounding songs from the multi-platinum Violator.
  • "We Care A Lot" - Faith No More [1987] did not chart  This stomping chant is prototypical rap metal. The band would add Mike Patton as vocalist for their next album and have a huge hit with "Epic" in 1989.  HERC saw them open a concert on triple bill with Guns N Roses and Metallica.  Actually, he heard them as his car was snarled in traffic when concert began but he was on the field just after they finished their set.
  • "Eardrum Buzz" - Wire [1989] #2 Modern Rock  This one lives up to its title and gets stuck in HERC's head every time he hears it.  Wire began as an unabashed punk band but has consistently reinvented itself musically over the past 36 years; their 2013 album Change Becomes Us is a rewarding listen for longtime fans and an easy entry point for new fans as well.

A video collection was released on both VHS and LaserDisc (above) alongside the two albums in 1991.  The 45 minute video features seven of the songs from the two discs as well as "No New Tale To Tell" by Love And Rockets, a 1987 release that made it to #18 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

In 1998, a collection of performances from 120 Minutes was released as 120 Minutes Live (below).  HERC never got it and looking at the track list, he can clearly see why - there are only two tracks he likes.


  1. Herc, I don't think I ever saw an episode of 120 Minutes either. So you are not alone.

  2. But you liked some of the music right? Can't remember if college rock was your bag or not.

    Legions of fans of the show and the music have made this post the most viewed post for the month of October after just two days.

    Thanks, everyone.