The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star
For many, “Video killed the radio star” is the first real song of the 80s. Technically it wouldn’t be, having been released in September 1979, but music critics of the 80s quite agree that it actually is for many reasons, a couple of which are absolutely important.
First of all, despite being released three months ahead of 1980, this song introduces a series of electronic effects and completely innovative sounds. Of course, there had already been experiments and successes in this sense, let’s think only of Kraftwerk, but there is no doubt that Trevor Horn has been able to bring these sounds into the world of pure pop. And so in that sense we can already consider it the first song of the 80s.
Then, as you know, there’s the question of when the 80s really started. And I think the real start was the weekend between July and August 1981. If in England the wedding of Charles and Lady D really opened the doors of the new decade, at midnight on August 1 in the United States MTV began broadcasting, and could not choose a more suitable song than this! In fact, after a long time, we may not be able to say that the video has completely obscured the radio star and the sounds of the songs, but it is certainly true that videos are as important a component as music and words, in determining the success of a song, and this has been happening since the 80s. And the song also lived a new popularity, pushed by MTV.
Trevor Horn was a composer and producer at the time, but he was not yet at the peak of his success. Indeed, he was living a period of frustration, and there was a growing belief in him: he was not working for the right artists, but for meaningless groups with rather trivial names. And so there was growing motivation to write something for himself, with fellows Geoff Downes and Bruce Woolley. Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes were also performers and they often joined other groups: in 1980 they joined Yes, and later Downes also joined Asia.
Trevor Horn had the right idea: he had been able to forecast the change that technology would soon introduce into the world of music through video, and he had fully understood the impact that this would have on people’s tastes and habits. And so not only did he write a great song, but above all he conceived a great video, and he called a person who would really become the quintessential director of 80s videos, Russell Mulcahy. The guy who would become the director of videos like “Bette Davis Eyes“, “The reflex“, “Wild Boys”, “Total eclipse of the heart“, “A kind of magic”, and many more.
The video is beautiful, and combines a funny idea of futurism with real and somewhat naive technologies of the time, giving a very retro effect, even if you see scenes from science fiction lab. The girl who was lowered into the glass pipe was a friend of Mulcahy’s; In the video the choruses are made by the real backing singers of the song, Linda Jardim and Debi Doss, who in the 80s also gave vocals for Chris De Burgh, Samantha Fox, Mike Oldfield and others.
Linda Jardim’s voice was recognisable and still fantastic when the Buggles performed the song live after more than 20 years.
“Video killed the radio star” is definitely one of the iconic songs of the 80s. If you’ve never felt a thrill to hear the song and watch the video, you’re probably not an 80s Dinosaur!
The Buggles on Wikipedia