video did not kill no radio stars (they was already mostly dead anyways)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

WAY BACK IN 1979, nerdish singer Trevor Horn and his band Bug­gles re­leased single ti­tled Video Killed The Radio Star. (It had been recorded ear­lier by Bruce Woolley and Camera Club.) The song’s theme was pro­mo­tion of tech­nology while wor­rying about its ef­fects. This song re­lates to con­cerns about mixed at­ti­tudes to­wards 20th cen­tury in­ven­tions and ma­chines for the media arts. 

The song’s video was written, di­rected, and edited by Rus­sell Mulcahy, and is re­mem­bered as the first such video first music video shown on MTV at 12:01 AM on Au­gust 1, 1981. For better or worse, it turned out to be prophetic!

Es­sen­tially, Video Killed The Radio Star kicked off the video rev­o­lu­tion that may have al­tered the course and his­tory of rock-based pop music. For all of the pre­vious gen­er­a­tions of music lovers, that love was based on the music—listening to it first in person (often at home with the family), then as live and pre­re­corded music brought into homes through the magic of radio, and then as pre­re­corded music hat could be played over and over on record and tape players.

The dawning of music television

MTV, orig­i­nally an ab­bre­vi­a­tion for Music Tele­Vi­sion) is an Amer­ican basic cable and satel­lite tele­vi­sion channel owned by the MTV Net­works Music & Logo Group, a unit of Vi­acom. The orig­inal pur­pose of the channel was to play music videos guided by per­son­al­i­ties known as ‘video jockeys,’ or ‘VJs.’

In its early years, MTV’s main target de­mo­graphic were young (mostly white) adults, but today its pro­gram­ming is pri­marily tar­geted at ado­les­cents and teenagers in ad­di­tion to young adults. 

There have been thou­sands of clever, en­ter­taining music videos made along with the blasé and the dreck. I have no in­ten­tion of de­bating the merits of the form or MTV, but I want to men­tion a three­some of early videos that I found de­lightful: the Kinks’ Come Dancing (1982) and its com­panion piece, Don’t Forget To Dance (1983), and Dexy’s Mid­night Run­ners’ out-of-nowhere charmer Come On Eileen (1982).



Not just for teenyboppers

That these videos fea­ture music and vi­sual con­tent that ap­peals to ac­tual adults tells anyone un­fa­miliar with MTV’s early days that it wasn’t just for teenyboppers.

So, that said: video did not kill no radio stars as the good ones was al­ready mostly (but not all) dead anyways.

Leave a comment

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments