Thursday, August 04, 2011

Did Video Really Kill the Radio Star?

Playing right now: Fruit Bats - Tripper (Sub Pop)
(Working on a review for Blurt.)

Yesterday I heard a story on the radio about this being MTV's 30th anniversary. I also came across a headline online a few days ago. It's kind of funny because everyone's talking about how much of a cultural impact MTV had in the '80s and now it seems pretty behind the times. Or else it's just another cable station now because they gave up on the regular rotations of music videos a long time ago. Meanwhile the institution of the music video is alive and well. Even artists like the Sun Drops and Katherine Calder have videos for their last albums.

But I'm not here this morning to defend and bury MTV. I'm hear to talk about something else.

At the end of the story on the radio yesterday, NPR faded out by playing - what else - "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles. This of course was the first video to be played on MTV in 1981. By today's standards, it looks pretty quaint, what with the tween girl listening to a big wooden radio and all sorts of washed out images of the Buggles superimposed over it. And there wasn't anything all that polemic about the song. Really, it was just catchy.

That got me to thinking that when the Buggles wrote the song, they surely didn't know what they were getting into. They couldn't have possibly known about the video craze that was just around the corner. The title might've just been a line they dreamed up, and said, "Hmm, that's clever. Let's write a song around it." Their album also included a very of-its-time noo wave song called "Living in the Plastic Age," which ironically was on WDVE's playlist briefly while "Video" was not. And of course Trevor Horne and Geoffrey Downes, the two Buggles, went on to join Yes for Drama, replacing the big shoes of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman.

However, they were right on. 30 years later, radio stars are pretty much dead. Not "stars" like Jim Krenn and Randy Baumann, who are a big part of my morning (although not right at this moment) but the medium of radio doesn't break musical acts like it used to. It's been relegated to background music or a motivating factor to get us out of bed in the morning with commentary and songs we know to assure us that things will be okay.

Not only that, video has been killed by the Internet. In a way that's fine with me, because that medium always put the image before the song.

But yesterday I started wondering where we'd be now if "Video Killed the Radio Star" wouldn't have been such a well-crafted song. Or if the MTV programmers thought, "No, that song is, like, too weird. Roll the Mike Nesmith video."


The "I Heart Radio" ad campaign has been going pretty hot and heavy on commercial radio as of late, which to me sounds like an act of desperation. To deal with the exodus of listeners to digital, one-format radio stations, this program has sprouted up allowing you to listen to radio stations around the country (good thing, especially if you're homesick or nostalgic for bygone days [I have no problem with that on a limited basis, and relate to it, in fact.]) or coming soon, the ads say, you can create your own Pandora-like programs with the application. You mean, just like we do with our iPods now? Or just like we do with Pandora, which we do since we gave up on listening to radio in the first place? I don't see the point in creating a program that'll do something that a lot of listeners already do on their own.

In other news, one of the reasons I haven't posted lately is due to the fact that a couple weeks ago, a friend dropped off 50 crates of albums and I'm trying to make my way through them all. Four crates immediately went to the curb due to a high concentration of mold. It's never a good thing when you have to peel covers off of each other. It's even more heartbreaking to find Nina Simone albums on Colpix that are in good shape butin covers that have been eaten away by dampness. I also found doubles of some Barbara Streisand and Englebert Humperdinck among them. (They're at the South Side Goodwill in case you're interested. )

But there are some nice items in there. I'm just trying to figure out what they are, and where to put them so we can walk about the house without obstructing any major paths.

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