Morning news: death of radio star

Yesterday’s morning name: the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” (which I’m inclined, for several good reasons, to recall as “Disco Killed the Radio Star”) — as recorded by the Buggles in 1979 (disco-inflected music, lead vocals in retro radio voice, electronica) and, deliciously, as performed by them in a, yes, video.

You can view the video here. Crucial lyrics (with my line numbering):

1 Video killed the radio star
1 Video killed the radio star
2a In my mind and in my car,
2b we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far
3 Pictures came and broke your heart
4 Put down the blame on VCR

Poetic form. The piece above functions as a chorus. It has four or five lines, deprending on how you count (some lyrics sites treat 2a +2b as one long line), all of them tetrameter, with end rhymes in /ar/ (for line 3, the half-rhyme /art/).

In the chorus, the meter can he heard as either basically trochaic (or dactylic) or basically iambic (or anapestic); most of the lines begin with a one-syllable accented foot (suggesting trochaic) and end with one (suggesting iambic), and lines 2a, 2b, and 3 have alternating accent (suggesting trochaic or iambic rather than longer feet). The (very conversational) verses argue for an iambic (or at least end-accented) reading, since most clearly begin with an unaccented syllable:

I heard you on the wireless back in fifty two
Lying awake intent at tuning in on you
If I was young it didn’t stop you coming through

They took the credit for your second symphony
Rewritten by machine on new technology
And now I understand the problems you can see

And now we meet in an abandoned studio
We hear the playback and it seems so long ago
And you remember the jingles used to go

About the song. From Wikipedia:

“Video Killed the Radio Star” is a song written by Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes and Bruce Woolley in 1977. It was first recorded by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club (with Thomas Dolby on keyboards) for their album English Garden, and later by British group The Buggles, consisting of Horn and Downes. The track was recorded and mixed in 1979, released as their debut single on 7 September 1979 by Island Records, and included on their first album The Age of Plastic.

… Like all the other tracks from the LP, “Video”‘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. Musically, the song performs like an extended jingle and the composition plays in the key of D-flat major in common time at a tempo of 132 beats per minute. The track has been positively received, with reviewers praising its unusual musical pop elements. Although the song includes several common pop characteristics and six basic chords are used in its structure, Downes and writer Timothy Warner described the piece as musically complicated, due to its use of suspended and minor ninth chords for enhancement that gave the song a “slightly different feel.”

… Musically, “Video Killed the Radio Star” is a new wave and synthpop song. It performs like an extended jingle, sharing its rhythm characteristics with disco.

… “Video Killed the Radio Star” was a huge commercial success

And it’s been covered many, many times.

One Response to “Morning news: death of radio star”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    On Facebook:

    Mike Pope: There is irony in that it was, as Wikipedia notes, the very first music video shown on MTV.

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