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"Video Killed the Radio Star" is a song by the British synthpop/New Wave group The Buggles, released on the 7 September 1979 on Island Records. It celebrates the golden days of radio, describing a singer whose career is cut short by television. The song topped several music charts and has been covered by many recording artists. It was the first music video shown on MTV in North America at 12:01am on August 1, 1981 and has been widely parodied in popular media.

Structure and release

In an interview, group member Trevor Horn has said that his lyrics were inspired by the J. G. Ballard short story The Sound-Sweep, in which the title character, a mute boy vacuuming up stray music in a world without it, comes upon an opera singer hiding in a sewer. He also felt "an era was about to pass." The theme of the song is thus nostalgia, which is also echoed in the tone of the music. The lyrics refer to a period of technological change in the 1960s, the desire to remember the past and the disappointment that children of the current generation would not appreciate the past. In the 1950s and early 1960s, radio was an important medium for many, through which "stars" were created.

The music video for the song, directed by Russell Mulcahy, was the first to be shown on MTV when the music channel debuted on August 1, 1981; at 12:01a.m. On February 27, 2000; it also became the millionth video to be aired on MTV. At 2:57 in the video, Hans Zimmer can be seen playing a keyboard. Debi Doss and Linda Jardim, who provided the female vocals for the song, can also be seen in the video.

The song was written by Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes and Bruce Woolley. According to an interview given by group member Trevor Horn on BBC Radio 2 Drivetime, Woolley was primarily responsible for the musical content, while Horn wrote most of the words. Woolley was responsible for the addition of the words 'put the blame on VTR'. The first version was recorded by Woolley & the Camera Club (with Thomas Dolby on keyboards) for his album English Garden, which was a hit in Canadamarker. The Buggles later recorded the song and it reached number one in the UK charts the week of October 20 1979, the first-ever number one for label Island Records. It also would top the Australian charts, and made the Billboard Hot 100 in the United Statesmarker, debuting on November 10, 1979, peaking at number 40.

It appears on the album The Age of Plastic, where it has an additional piano coda. The complicated arrangement and production of the song, which includes a chorus sung by a group of very high-pitched backup singers, foreshadows Horn's later career as a producer.

A rare live performance of the song by Horn and Downes came at a ZTT showcase in 1998. In 2004, The Buggles re-united again with Bruce Woolley at Wembley Arena to perform "Video Killed the Radio Star" and another song ("Living in the Plastic Age") as part of a tribute event to Trevor Horn to raise money for the Prince's Trust charity. They were joined by Debi Doss and Linda Jardim, who performed the background singing on the original recording. Both Horn and Downes have performed the song live in other acts, including Yes (which Downes and Horn joined for the Drama album and tour in 1980), Downes in the 2006-2009 revival of Asia with John Wetton on lead vocals, and Horn in his band The Producers, also in 2006.

In November 2006, The Producers played at their first gig in Camden Townmarker. A video clip can be seen on the ZTT Records official website of Trevor singing lead vocals and playing bass in a performance of "Video Killed the Radio Star".

Robbie Williams performed the song with Trevor Horn at the BBC Electric Proms on October 20, 2009.

Chart Positions

Chart Position
Austrian Singles Chart
Dutch Singles Chart
New Zealand Singles Chart
Swedish Singles Chart
Swiss Singles Chart
UK Singles Chart

Presidents of the United States of America version

In 1998 the Alternative rock band The Presidents of the United States of America released a version of "Video Killed the Radio Star" for The Wedding Singer soundtrack.

Track listing

  1. "Video Killed the Radio Star" - 3:22

PUSA Chart positions

Year Chart Position
1998 Official UK Singles Chart No. 58

Other noted cover versions

Year Artist Album
1997 The Presidents of the United States of America Rarities
1998 The Presidents of the United States of America The Wedding Singer soundtrack

Pure Frosting
1999 Lolita No.18 ヤリタミン (YALITAMIN)
2000 Ken Laszlo Ken Laszlo 2000
2000 The Presidents of the United States of America Lump
2003 Erasure Other People's Songs
2005 Amber Pacific Punk Goes 80's
2005 Ben Folds Five Whatever and Ever Amen (bonus track on 2005 reissue)
2005 Len The Diary of the Madmen (in hidden track)
2007 The Feeling Rosé (CD single)
2007 Haruko Momoi COVER BEST - Cover Densha
2009 VV Brown Travelling Like the Light

See also


  1. The vocals are initially limited in bandwidth, giving a "telephone" effect typical of early broadcasts
  2. Dehnart, A. "Who really killed the video star?"., 2000
  3. Debi Doss – ‘70’s Rock Archive Photographs
  6. Gig review: The Buggles
  7. BBC Electric Proms Setlist Retrieved October 2009
  8. Positions @ Retrieved September 2009

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