Milestones: MTV Unplugged

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]

Although decidedly far removed from the enormous influence and popularity it once had, MTV Unplugged is still around, two decades after its 1989 debut.

Originally hosted by singer/songwriter Jules Shear (who wrote Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night" and The Bangles' "If She Knew What She Wants"), it was a simple affair and not the big production showcase it became at the height of its popularity. During the program's humble beginnings the format consisted of 2 artists separately performing acoustic, stripped down arrangements of their chosen songs with minimal accompaniment--Shear would occasional participate on guitar--then both would join the host in a finale.

As Unplugged grew in stature it became practically a must to appear on the show, and many artists saw fit to release their appearances as live albums. But the show eventually got bloated and strayed from its modest origins and purported raison d'etre--certain artists bringing on a small army of backup musicians was not very "unplugged", as it were--and after 8 seasons, Unplugged was moved from regular program to special feature status in 1997.

The show had many memorable moments; for us the following stand out: the Stevie Ray Vaughn/Joe Satriani episode from the first 13 which were hosted by Shear; LL Cool J/A Tribe Called Quest/De La Soul/MC Lyte, all backed by Pop's Cool Love; and of course, Nirvana. The network's Spanish-language sister, MTV Latino, also featured great individual performances by Café Tacuba (Mexico), Robi Rosa (Puerto Rico), and Los Tres (Chile).

In 2009, MTV returned the show to its regular programming schedule with a six-episode run including a controversial turn by pop starlet Katy Perry, and indie darlings Vampire Weekend. Oy vey!


LL Cool J:

Nirvana w/The Meat Puppets:

Café Tacuba:

Robi Rosa:

Los Tres: