Mystery Music March in April

Video Killed The Radio Star – Buggles

The thesis of Trevor Horn’s song (from the album The Age of Plastic) is that radio stars have become irrelevant in the world of video. With the growth of file sharing and youtube that message should be intensified but actually radio would appear to be as relevant today as ever, especially since the advent of podcasts. I recently attended a focus group for the local radio station and the opinions were a reminder that more than ever people want their lives lived to a background of music and chatter and that they hardly ever want to stop to watch that same song with pictures. Trevor Horn is wrong. There, I’ve said it.

In fact it’s very rare now for a song to become a hit on the back of a video alone – the promo’s become part of a general marketing campaign which can include talent show appearances, magazine and newspaper interviews, live appearances on radio and television, paparazzi baiting and radio air-play. And the DJ’s still king. On the asteroid I’m presently living on unfettered by popular music in which I’ve not heard of half the people in the Gallup Top 40 (or whatever it’s called these days) let alone listened to any of it, but even I’ve heard of Chris Moyles not that I could actually tell you about any of the songs he’s playing. Except Leona Lewis, because there was something about her on the news.

My suspicion is that the other reason that video hasn’t killed the radio star is because of the quality of recent work. Flicking through the freeview channels at umpteen time of the evening and stopping on The Hits, I’m yet to be impressed by what I see. Presumably because production costs have sky-rocketed, pop promos just seem so dull and samey, featuring large men shouting at each other in night clubs, women writhing up against each other in libraries or both being attacked by a giant CGI effect. If Beavis and Butthead were still around they’d have nothing to talk about. Except perhaps for the boobies. H-huh-huh. H-huh-huh.

Before you interrupt, I know I’m wrong and there is some very interesting work being done in pop videos, but since none of it is connected with music these kinds of channel generally show, we’re stuck with what looks like an inherent lack of innovation. The last really exciting video I saw was for Snow Patrol, the one with the POV from a car bonnet rushing through the streets of Paris, and that’s only because they’d appropriated the second half of Claude Lelouch’s short film C'était un rendez-vous (and makes better sense in its original form). The Culture Show recently featured an interview with Garth Jennings, the man who ruined the film of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and he seemed to be doing some interesting things with giant prop legs and Supergrass but really I miss the days when you could turn on the television and be sure to find Peter Gabriel turning into plasticsene or Madonna doing naughty things to Jesus.

But the song is about more than that. Horn was apparently inspired by a JG Ballard short story, The Sound-Sheep in which a deaf boy searched the world for stray music and stumbled upon a outcast opera singer hiding in a sewer. It’s about how new generations hardly ever appreciate the technology of the past, unable to comprehend that at one point, radio was the primary source of entertainment. Which is why, despite the record being available on cd and download, my only copy of Video Killed The Radiostar is a crackly but still playable original vinyl pressing. I know those clicks so well that a clean digital copy would just sound weird.

1 comment:

Annette said...

Interesting paradox that you point out. You have this song on vinyl?! Somehow that's very telling.

Strangely, the most entertaining music videos I've seen lately are on the country music stations, I think because they retain a lot of the cheesiness of the '80s videos.