Liked on YouTube: Michael Nesmith – Rio

When presenting Michael Nesmith’s Rio as the first music video, the foremost idea up for debate is the definition of a music video.

Chris Blackwell from Island Records asked Nez to make a “clip” to promote his new record in Europe. Nez had no idea what a clip was — and rather than understand it as a low-budget recording of an artist miming their song on a stage, he recalled Hollywood musicals, Beatles and Disney films, and even The Monkees romps.

While editing, director Bill Dear and Nez discovered that music can take over the narrative to create continuity even when placed over discontinuous images. That continuity is what makes a music video as Nez defines it in Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff.

Today there is little distinction between performance videos and music videos — any video footage set to a single and released by an artist is called a music video. But in 1977, there was a clear difference and the artform in Rio was unique because of this found continuity.

Nez created the “video record” with his wife at the time, Kathryn, and director Bill Dear in 1977. This band, as he calls the trio in Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff, went on to create the longform Elephant Parts, which featured Rio, and won the first Grammy ever given for a music video.

Nez writes more about the emergence of the music video in Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff. Signed copies are available from

Visit our music video playlist to check out more music videos by Nez: