Video Killed The Radio Star

Album: The Age of Plastic (1979)
Charted: 1 40
  • Trevor Horn wrote this after reading a science fiction story about an opera singer in a world without sound (she was rendered obsolete). Said Horn: "Before I started Buggles I was a sort of loser record producer, I spent four years producing records for various people without ever making any money out of it or having any success at all. Mainly I just produced unsuccessful records because I couldn't seem to lay my hands on a good song. Eventually I got so fed up doing things that weren't successful I decided that if I couldn't find a good artist and a good song then I'd write it myself and become the artist, so I wrote this song called 'Video Killed The Radio Star' with Bruce Wooley. I know the name's awful, but at the time it was the era of the great punk thing. I'd got fed up of producing people who were generally idiots but called themselves all sorts of clever names like The Unwanted, The Unwashed, The Unheard... when it came to choosing our name I thought I'd pick the most disgusting name possible. In retrospect I have frequently regretted calling myself Buggles, but in those days I never really thought much about packaging or selling myself, all that really concerned me was the record."
  • Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes of the Buggles replaced Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson in Yes in 1980. The Buggles did record a second album in 1981. While recording the album, Downes was invited to join the band Asia; Horn decided to finish the album with musicians from both Yes and The Camera Club.
  • This was the first video to air on MTV. The network launched August 1, 1981, and this provided the first evidence that MTV was going to make it.

    The song was a big hit in England in 1979, but pretty much unknown in America, where it peaked at #40 in December 1979. When MTV went on the air, it was on only a few cable systems, but record stores in those areas started selling lots of Buggles albums. Radio stations weren't playing the song and almost no one in the US had heard of the Buggles, so it was clear that MTV was selling records - an early indication of the network's influence.
  • Russell Mulcahy directed the video, which had more production value than most others MTV had to choose from. At the time, if artists did make videos, they were usually just scenes of the band performing a song. Mulcahy used a lot of theatrics in his work, and went on to make videos for Duran Duran - including "Wild Boys," "Rio" and "Is There Something I Should Know?" - before directing the 1986 film Highlander.

    Trevor Horn's wife agreed with his assessment that he was "dumb-looking" in the video. After his stint with Yes, she persuaded him to leave performing and go full-time as a producer.
  • The Buggles were predicated on the idea that everything in life is artificial, including music. That's why Trevor Horn sings in a robotic voice and why the instruments are all processed for a computerized feel. It was a commentary on the intrusion of technology into every aspect of our lives.
  • Trevor Horn said of this song in the book I Want My MTV: "It came from this idea that technology was on the verge of changing everything. Video recorders had just come along, which changed people's lives. We'd seem people starting to make videos as well, and we were excited by that. It felt like radio was the past and video was the future. The was a shift coming."
  • After Trevor Horn and Bruce Woolley fleshed out the song's lyric and musical theme, Geoff Downes took over. "I came in and did all the orchestrations and the intro, the bridge section," he told Songfacts. "Once we got it into that shape, we felt it had some potential, and that was it. It just came about like that."
  • The female singers on the record were Linda Jardim (later Linda Allan) and Debi Doss. The Buggles asked Debi and Linda to perform in the video with other band members, keyboard player Hans Zimmer and drummer Warren Cann (from Ultravox). Debi was on tour with Hot Chocolate in 1979 when the song went to #1 and Errol Brown gave Debi a bottle of champagne and the day off to rush off to London to perform on Top Of The Pops with the Buggles.

    Linda Jardim explained: "The singer on Video Killed the Radio Star and on the album was me (on the album there was also input from Joy Yates and Debbie Doss). The females in the video were NOT models. One of the other girls was an Australian model who we all called Sydney Australia, but I was present."

    On the record were Linda Jardim (now Linda Allan) and Debi Doss. The Buggles asked Debi and Linda to perform in the video with other band members, keyboard player Hans Zimmer and drummer Warren Cann (from Ultravox). Debi was on tour with Hot Chocolate in 1979 when the song went to #1 and Errol Brown gave Debi a bottle of champagne and the day off to rush off to London to perform on Top Of The Pops with the Buggles. Linda Jardim also sang on a single for The Northampton Development Corporation that was released nationally by EMI, entitled "60 Miles by Road or Rail," in an attempt to generate publicity for the growing town. It was not a hit. (Quotes courtesy:
  • The video was shot in south London in a day. The girl who starred in the clip was a friend of director Russell Mulcahy who was trying to become an actress. For the scene where she is lowered into the test tube, about 30 takes were shot, and the wrong take was used - you can see the tube falling over, which wasn't supposed to happen.
  • Artists to cover this song include The Violent Femmes, Pixies, The Offspring, Radiohead, the Japanese indie rock band Rocket K, and The Presidents of the United States of America, whose cover was included on the soundtrack for The Wedding Singer.
  • When MTV went on the air and started playing this video, Trevor Horn was on tour with Yes. It took him a while to figure out why kids were recognizing him.
  • "Video Killed The Radio Star" was #1 in 16 different countries and was Australia's best-selling record for 27 years. (It was usurped by Elton John's "Candle In The Wind '97").
  • There is an error in the recording, at least according to Trevor Horn's ears. Though Horn was unhappy with the mistake, it was too late to change. He recalled:

    "I was actually worried because we'd made one mistake in the mix - at the end where the girl comes in singing, 'You aaarreee a radio star' in the distance. Initially when she comes in she's just coming from the reverb plate, but the problem was we had a tape delay running and it meant she was basically out of time. I only heard it when we were doing the cut, when it was too late, so I was kind of dreading that bit. But the funny thing was the fact that she was a bit delayed sounded better. So I was relieved." (Source of quote Mojo magazine)
  • The second Buggles single was "Living In The Plastic Age," which spelled out the concept of an artificial existence. Like "Video Killed The Radio Star," it came with a bonkers video directed by Russell Mulcahy, but MTV ignored it, so few Americans have heard it. The song reached #16 in the UK. The group released an album the following year, then called it quits.
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Comments: 57

  • Anton from Chicago If you read the lyrics on iTunes The second verse is not what he actually sings. Are there any versions of the song with the alternate

    Instead of...
    “they took the credit for your second symphony.
    Rewritten by machine and new technology.
    And now I understand the problems you can see.”

    Second verse on iTunes is ....
    ”I saw your picture in magazine I read.
    imagined footlights on the wooden fence ahead.
    Sometimes I thought you were controlling instead...”
  • Phil from Neenah, WiPretty ironic on how this song is called 'Video Killed The Radio Star' and it was the first song on MTV. I'd have to agree with Craig (Manitowoc, WI) on that point on MTV not playing music videos or music anymore and VH1 Classic is playing 80's hits and metal. Talk about irony a channel rightly named 'Music Television' not playing any music whatsoever while the first music video to start it off, as fore mentioned is a video for 'Video Killed The Radio Star'. I guess what we have here is '"Reality" TV killed the Video Star/TV'
  • Richie from Honesdale, PaWhat Is the name of the back up singer on the 2004 live performance. On the far right wearing the greenish sweater?
  • Ronny Byrne from Sydney, AustraliaAs a radio announcer some years ago for the Triple M network, I interviewed Russel Mulcahy, thanks to a mate of mine who had hired him in the 70's to get and/or produce filmclips for the 70's TV show "sounds unlimited"...Later to become just "sounds." I asked Russel plenty of questions, one of which was, "do you have any slant on the song Video Killed The Radio Star and if it was written about anyone in particular?" His answer was: "Trev (Trevor Horn) wrote it about good ol' Kenny Everet." Russel later confided that Tina Arena did the distinctive "oh-ah oh-ah" as a favour to Trevor.
  • Lisa B from St. Petersburg, FlVideo did kill the radio star. with radio you were completely judged by your talent of music, lyrics, and vocals. With video, many stars were made due to their look and marketing. This is why people like Justin Beiber and Britney Spears got to be so famous and sold many albums. The quality of music has sharply gone down since the 80's in my opinion. Looks do matter. If Neil Diamond recorded "I'm A Believer" and we saw him sing it, instead of The Monkees with perfect teeth and the adorable Davy Jones, the song would had been popular since it's a great song yes, but doubtful it would had stayed #1 on the charts for 7 weeks. Looks do have an influence.
  • Matthewphoto from Exeter, United KingdomThe studio that this video was shot in was called Ewart & Co (Studio) Ltd usually called Ewarts.

    It didn't take 30 takes for the test tube lowering part - shooting the video in one day did not give enough time for that. Most videos were shot in one day purely because of the cost of taking longer. We generally started at 9 in the morning but then just finished when we finished which was either at 6 when s scheduled or a whole lot later which was usually the case.

    The lighting cameraman on the job was Jeff Baines (can't quite remember the spelling) but he was used to film and not video and hadn't worked in a studio with a hanging lighting grid so I effectively lit it for him after him telling me what he wanted. I did manage to set a pair of socks on fire which gave me quite a surprise but no real damage was done - well unless you consider the socks which were a right-off!!

    Patrick from Conyers, GA - totally wrong. We had made loads of music videos by this time including lots of the great stars and directors.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhIt's perfect that "Video Killed The Radio Star" was the first video to air on MTV. Prior to music videos, you could listen to all kinds of music on the radio and often, you never knew (or even cared) what the person or group singing the song looked like. It didn't matter. You tuned in for the music. You were not swayed one way or the other by the physical appearance of that person or persons singing your favorite songs. Once the visual component to the songs came to the forefront, "the music video" much more judgement was passed about how all these singers looked, how they portrayed themselves. There was more to package. Some singers did it well, while others fell to the wayside. It wasn't enough anymore to just sing a good song. So if all you had was the music but not the visuals, it potentially killed ya. Hence the song's name.
  • Jb from Hanover, NhI song is on the now 80's CD but it was Released in 1979.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxSo what killed the video star?
  • Zappy from Geelong, AustraliaI still think their second song which was the title song from the album, "Living in the plastic age" should have been much bigger. The video was very inventive for its time. Russell Mulcahey was a freakin genius who understood long before most the power of the music video.
  • Craig from Manitowoc, WiI agree that MTV now sucks. VH1 CLASSIC plays lots of 80's videos and Metal Mania. It reminds me of the old MTV. Too bad, MTV was good back then.
  • Mary from Phoenix, Az"it was clear that MTV was selling records and was an early indication of the network's influence."

    Too bad they rarely play videos anymore. MTV pretty much sucks now!
  • Stormy from Kokomo, InI always thought that the 70s and 80s had such great videos (really the birth of videos) that I've always been surprised that some inovative entrepreneur hasn't put together "videos by years" and sold them through Time-Life Music like they do with CDs such as "Hits from the 60s", etc. I'm not sure about copyright laws, but I'm sure that could be worked out monetarily. I know that I would buy every year from the early 70s on!
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmThe Buggles video was goofy, but the music soars! The lyrics of the song were really appropriate to start MTV. I just wish MTV would go back to their roots and play more music videos. Yeah I know a lot of videos are on YouTube...
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmThe Buggles video was goofy, but the music soars! The lyrics of the song were really appropriate to start MTV. I just wish MTV would go back to their roots and play more music videos. Yeah I know a lot of videos are on YouTube...
  • S.d. from Denver, CoSorry, Ron from Bend, but Lance from Minneapolis has it correct: "The Bugaloos" (taken from the earlier dance craze the Boogaloo) were the Krofft Bros. creation.
  • Paul from Watanobbi, AustraliaAndrew, you must be young, at the time when this came out, VCR was almost unknown. Instead, there was a machine called a Video Tape Recorder (VTR) that was sort of like a reel to reel recorder for video.
  • Tom from Marble Falls, ArUp until the late Seventies, Radio DJ's were so popular that everyone could name the local ones on their favorite station. They were celebrities. Now its hard to name even one!
  • Andrew from London, EnglandI think that the blame should be put on VCR as opposed to VTR (see lyrics)
  • Olli from Derby, EnglandI got hold of a cover of this song, but I am unaware of who sung it. The actual music has been created on synth and the vocals vary between 6 or 7 different people, both male and female. The odd part is it is almost spoken word. Anything about this will be useful...thanks! :D
  • Mike from Hueytown , AlThe video has to be the goofiest in history but you can't help but like the song hahahaha
  • Joe from Dallas, TxI've been listening to this song for 25 years, and I never get tired of it. There's just something magical about it.
  • Ron from Bend, OrGuys let's get this straight...It was "The Buggaboos" that were on the Sid and Marty Kroft shows...The buggaboos, the buggaboos, we're in the air and everywhere...flying high, flying free, flying free as a summer breeze...happy as a summer breeze...Okay now who's right, the guy that knows the lyrics to the theme song after 35 years? Or those other guys???

    Ron P.
  • Steve from Youngstown, OhWhat were the original lyrics that were replaced by "video killed the radio star"?
  • Joe from London, EnglandThe up-and-coming British band "The Feeling" have released an excellent cover of VKTRS this morning as a B-side on their latest single called "Rosé". It's worth checking out.
  • Phil from Perth, AustraliaI was lead to belive that that video killed the radio star was about Kenny Everit. He was a radio star but his video show was the end (death) of his career. SO video killed the radio star.
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiai host a retro night here in Australia , when i play this song , the crowd looooove it ,
  • Charles Besong from Plymouth, EnglandWhen I frist heard this song, I was drivening back from work and the was been play by Radio two in London I just could't stop singing the song for it was good in which I feel let they should only play it the day and night what a great that is. Charles Besong from Plymouth in England
  • Christoph from Graz, AustriaI would'nt say the Presidents of the USA versoin is too bad. It's actually one of very few cover versions I like. Normally I hate remakes, but this is imho actually a good one.
  • Paul from Watanobbi, AustraliaI can't remember where I heard it, but I think that the Radio Star was supposed to be Kenny Everett of "The Kenny Everett Video Show" fame, prior to the show, he was a DJ on one of the pirate radio stations that broadcasted from ships off-shore around britain in the '70's. The show meant the end of his DJing career.
  • Jake from Spencer, NyWhile VKTRS hit number one in Great Britain, it peaked at number 40 here in the U.S. on the Billboard chart for the week ending Saturday, December 15, 1979, and stayed there only one week. That's rather odd considering that a few weeks before that, the song made a 65-44 jump up the chart. Usually songs with that kind of momentum fare better, but unfortunately not in this case. It's also strange that the song made that 65-44 move at all, given that the Buggles were relatively unknown at the time and the song wasn't very typical of late '70s popular music. But I guess radio must have been playing it fairly regularly and some people must have bought it at the record store, which is a good thing, since it's a good song!!
  • Jake from Spencer, NyThis is such a great, fun, sing-a-long song!! It's extremely catchy, and for a 1979 song, the recording is fantastic (with a studio wizard like Trevor Horn as producer, of course the results are stellar). I really love the synthesizers, drums, vocals, and the blend of new wave and hook-laden pop. VKTRS is one of the most memorable and instantly recognizable of all the new wave/pop hits of the late '70s and early-mid '80s, even though many people probably can't identify the Buggles as the artist!
  • Pete from Nyc, NyA brilliant song, hard to believe it's from the 70's. Truly ahead of it's time.
  • Don from Newmarket, CanadaIn Canada, this was released at the same time as a version of the song by Bruce Wooley & the Camera Club. I have no idea where Bruce ended up.
  • Sum Sum from New DelhiThe presidents of the USA sang a very bad version of this song. thats the reason i m grwoing a strong contemption towards the re-makes. They become horribly bad. but one exception, i just heard the remake of Seal's "crazy" by Alanis morisette. She has made it extraordinarily good.
  • Luis from Heredia, OtherIt would be interesting to know who are all those persons who appear on the video. At least one that I know appears on the video is the other keyboard player that appears on it, with the dark suit. He is Hans Zimmer, who is now a famous composer of film music (The Last Samurai, Batman, Hannibal). Who are the others? They woudl surely have a blast when they see themselves as they were a quarter of a century ago!!
  • Andy from Hamilton, Canadadamn i love this song...pop today is terrible uninspired untalented music that will be soon gone....hopefully
  • Andy from Hamilton, Canadathis song is actually about a "radio" star who is big in there day, but when different kinds of pop music come around and music is changed. this is kind of like how looks where what made the singer popular...not the music

    Andrew,hamilton, canada
  • Patrick from Conyers, GaNot only was this the first video aired by MTV, but it was probably the first "music video" music video. Before MTV, most music videos were scenes of the artist or group performiong the song on stage at a concert, with some visual effects added in for flair, or lighting and other special effects for the show. If the song was performed in a film, the video would have been that scene from the film in which the song is performed. This is probably the first video that created a "plot" of sorts around the song, instead of just showing the band performing.
  • Megan from Columbus, OhI absolutely love this song.
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InAmazing how a cynical song such as this was 1st played on what is now pretty much a non-music T.V. station. I wonder if history books in todays classrooms cover this bit of triva? I would like to teach a class on the rise and fall of MTV and the genral trend towards non-talented, over paid, attractive individuals who think they can perform music. There are a few that break through the typical mold, but not enough, and not ones who get what they deserve.
  • Arthur from Sydney, AustraliaMTV from a great channel turned to a channel that killed good music and too many rap and R&B, remember, if I were you and I was in a band, never sell your music rights to MTV.
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaI love H.R. Pufnstuf!
  • Jer from London, Canadaright on! Charlie in Huntsville. MuchMusic rules anyway!
  • Rock from Mke, WiExcuse me, but, Trevor Horn, is best known for his incredible musical offerings to the world in the form of the art of noise. The art of noise is weird. The art of noise is paranoid. The art of noise is responsible for all things that progress electronically in music. The Art of Noise.
  • Peter from Howard Beach, NyI think what the meaning of this song is that when video was introduced to the world at the time radio died out
  • Ash from Charleston, WvAn additional bit of trivia: anybody know what the 2nd video ever played on MTV was? It was "You Better Run" by Pat Benatar. I share because I love.
  • Lance from Minneapolis, MnSorry Ted, you're a zipper head. It was the Bugaloos that appeared on HR Pufnstuf and was spun off on their own show.
  • Amanda from Los Angeles, CaThe original singer on this song.. she screwed up or something, and Rachel Fury (later known for her work with Pink Floyd) actually did the vocals on this song!
  • Charlie from Huntsville, TxIts ironic that this is MTV's first video......that station is doing everything in its power to destroy music.
  • Steve from St. Louis, MoGeoff Downes joined Asia in 1982.
  • Shell from Riverdale, GaSorry, Ted, can't help it: It's "H.R. Pufnstuf" made by Sid & Marty Krofft.
  • Martin from Sydney, AustraliaTrevor Horn of The Buggles later became the house producer at Zang Tuum Tum records where he produced the monster hits "Relax" and "Two Tribes" for Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
  • Alex from New Orleans, LaJust wondering:what was the book this was inspired by?
  • Ted from Los Angeles, NyFYI: The Buggles also were famous for appearing on HR Puff and Stuff in the 1970s (TV show) and then it was spun out into their own show, produced by the Sid and Marvin Kroft.
  • Patrick from Conyers, created a parody called "Internet Killed the Video Star" detailing how the Internet has replaced the television and other forms of media in the world as being the new supreme source of all media outlets: MP3 for music, downloadable videos, etc.
  • Roddy from Southampton, EnglandThe presidents of the USA recorded a version which appeared on the Wedding singer sdtck.
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