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The Buggles

Geoff Downes (left) and Trevor Horn (right)
Background information
Origin United Kingdom
Genres Synthpop
Years active 1977–81
Labels Island, Carrere
Associated acts Yes, Asia, The Producers
Former members
Trevor Horn
Geoff Downes

The Buggles[1][2] were an English New Wave band consisting of Trevor Horn (vocals, bass guitar, guitar) and Geoff Downes (keyboards, drums, percussion). They are mostly remembered for their 1979 debut single "Video Killed the Radio Star" that was #1 on the singles chart in 16 different countries.[3] Its music video was the first to be shown on on MTV in North America at 00:01 on 1 August 1981.

Contents

Early days

Horn and Downes first met in the mid 1970s while members of the backing band of British singer Tina Charles of "I Love to Love" fame, though they did not actually play on that record. After this stint they briefly went their separate ways, Horn playing bass guitar in the house band at Hammersmith Odeon for a while, where he met Bruce Woolley. During this period Horn yearned to become a record producer, but was frustrated by not being able to find ideal songs or artists to work with. As a result he reunited with Geoff Downes, and the trio of Horn, Downes and Woolley began writing their own songs to record themselves as a studio band.

The Buggles' sound was characterised by a deliberately synthetic quality in keeping with the technological subject matter of their songs. Two different stories are claimed for the origin of the band's name. Horn said he chose "The Buggles" because "It was the most disgusting name I could think of at that time", but the booklet for the CD remaster of The Age of Plastic says that it arose out of a private joke between Horn and Downes and was actually a pun on "The Beatles".

"Video Killed the Radio Star" (1979)

Their first song was "Video Killed the Radio Star", and in the summer of 1979 a demo recording was submitted to Island Records, who signed them immediately. This demo featured vocals by Tina Charles, who incidentally helped fund the project. Although the song was chiefly a Bruce Woolley composition, he left shortly before its release to form a new band, the Camera Club, which included Thomas Dolby and Hans Zimmer. The Camera Club also released a version of the song. Three months after the demo was sent to Island, "Video Killed the Radio Star" was at number one in the UK. The female vocalists on the "proper" recording were Debi Doss and Linda Jardim, now known as Linda Allan.

"Video Killed the Radio Star", released in late 1979, was the 444th number one in the UK charts, spending one week at the top and shooting The Buggles to fame. At the time of the single's original release, The Buggles did not actually have an album's worth of material to record, and so they wrote most of the other tracks for their debut album The Age of Plastic (1980) while travelling around Europe promoting "Video Killed the Radio Star".

Follow-up singles (1980)

The novelty value of "Video Killed The Radio Star" led to The Buggles being perceived as being a one-hit wonder. However, three subsequent singles also charted in the UK, although they were modest chart performers at best.

Merger with Yes (1980-81)

Later in 1980, Horn and Downes began work on a second album, working in a studio next door to progressive rock band Yes, who had recently lost vocalist Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Both members of The Buggles, and Horn in particular, had been long-standing fans of Yes, but felt that the quality of their recent music had been slipping. The Buggles offered a song to Yes, "We Can Fly from Here", but at the suggestion of Brian Lane, manager of both bands, Yes' bassist Chris Squire invited them to actually replace Anderson and Wakeman as fully fledged members of Yes. This they did, in one of rock music's more surprising shifts of personnel.

The fruit of their labours was the album Drama (1980, UK #2, U.S. #18). A track called "Into the Lens" was released in its full eight-and-a-half-minute form, on a limited-edition one-sided 12-inch single. Essentially it was an unfinished Buggles song originally titled "I am a Camera", re-worked and completed by Yes. "We Can Fly From Here" did not in fact appear on Drama, but the band did perform the song on the Drama tour, and a 1980 performance can be heard on Yes' The Word Is Live CD set (2005), along with another unreleased Yes track from that era, "Go Through This". As a point of interest, another track from Drama, the somewhat brief "White Car", was extended in live performance to incorporate sections of "Video Killed the Radio Star", much to fans' amusement.

On the whole, the team-up of Yes and The Buggles was well received by fans both on record (the UK chart position for Drama is testament to that), and on stage. Trevor Horn was the first to admit that he did not have Jon Anderson's vocal range or style, and many fans missed this, but most were still keen to give the new incarnation Yes a chance. The critics and some fans, however, were far less forgiving, especially in the United Kingdom, and poured scorn on the band. Yes officially disbanded, although temporarily, in early 1981, shortly after the Drama tour came to an end.

Buggles revival (1981)

After Yes broke up, Downes and Horn resumed work on a second Buggles album, entitled Adventures In Modern Recording. However, Downes left the group during the recording of the album, citing musical differences. Horn finished up the album using session musicians; neither the album nor any of the associated singles charted, and The Buggles name was quietly retired.

Live performances and videos

Being largely a studio creation, The Buggles never toured. There were a couple of Top of the Pops appearances, and later some performances for promotional purposes in support of the second album, but the first live outing by the original duo came in a low-key appearance in 1998.[4] In terms of radio broadcasts, on the Aplauso show in Spain, they performed "Living in the Plastic Age", "Clean Clean", and "Video Killed the Radio Star". Further live performances came on BBC Radio 1 in 1980: "The Plastic Age" on 2 July 1980 and "Clean Clean" on 4 October 1980. Later an appearance at a Prince's Trust concert celebrating Horn's career as a producer in 2004 was billed as the band's first-ever live appearance.[5]

The video for "Video Killed The Radio Star', directed by Russell Mulcahy, was the first video aired on MTV two years later, at midnight on 1 August 1981. By this time, the Camera Club had released their version of the song.

As with other songs from The Age of Plastic, the songs were shortened in their music video versions and "Video Killed the Radio Star" lost the long instrumental coda found on the album. This also applied to their follow-up album, Adventures in Modern Recording — all of their videos were shortened from the length of their original recordings.

In a 2006 Channel 4 television poll, "Video Killed The Radio Star" was ranked 19th out of 50 of the biggest one-hit wonders.

After The Buggles

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Downes

After leaving The Buggles in 1981, Downes joined his former Yes bandmate Steve Howe in "supergroup" Asia, together with John Wetton (ex-King Crimson), and Carl Palmer (ex-Emerson, Lake & Palmer). There he remains to this day, the only member of Asia to have been in the band continually since its beginnings. He has still found time for other projects though, including a double album (single CD) which he issued in 1986 under the name New Dance Orchestra, titled The Light Programme, production work: "GTR" and work outside of Asia with Wetton under the "Icon" banner.

Horn

Horn continued to work on the second Buggles album, Adventures in Modern Recording, with several new players, the most prominent being Simon Darlow. The album included "I am a Camera," brought to completion as a Buggles song as originally intended, and under its original title. Adventures in Modern Recording did not chart, nor did four singles released from it— the title track, "I am a Camera", "On TV", "Lenny" and lastly "Beatnik". Shortly afterwards Trevor Horn brought The Buggles to an end, and finally embarked on his new career as a record producer, achieving enormous success, with bands like ABC, Dollar, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Art of Noise, and even the albums 90125 and Big Generator from a re-formed Yes, with Jon Anderson back on vocals. In 1985, Horn won the Best Producer BRIT Award. More than twenty years on, he is still active, still producing, with Seal, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Cher, Simple Minds, Belle and Sebastian, t.A.T.u., Charlotte Church, Captain and Pet Shop Boys among his many credits. In 2009 Horn teamed up to produce the album Reality Killed The Video Star for ex Take That member Robbie Williams. Aside from the album title paying homage to Horn's first single release with The Buggles back in 1980, it also reflects Horn and Williams' mutual disdain for the ongoing crop of reality TV programs in the UK and elsewhere. The irony of Robbie Williams choosing to make his first TV comeback appearance on one such show Simon Cowell's The X Factor in the UK appeared to be missed by the British media.

In late 2006, Trevor Horn formed a new band, The Producers with other musicians and producers. At live performances, they mainly perform songs from each of the band members' pasts, however, they have played some original material, which is expected to be released at some point.

In the 21st century

In June 2005, Geoff Downes faintly hinted on his blog at an arrangement with Trevor Horn for a new Buggles album to coincide with MTV's 25th birthday, although the blog has not been updated for a while, and an album has not materialised.[6] With the worldwide re-release of Adventures in Modern Recording by Horn's own ZTT Records on February 15th 2010, completely remastered with 10 bonus tracks however, there is still a sign of Buggles activity.

Horn's current band, The Producers, have covered "Video Killed the Radio Star" at all of their performances so far.

Discography

Studio albums

Year Title Peak chart positions
GBR
[7]
CAN
[8]
NOR
[9]
SWE
[10]
USA
[11]
1980 The Age of Plastic 27 83
[12]
23 24
1981 Adventures in Modern Recording 50 182
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Singles

Year Title Peak chart positions Album
GBR
[13]
AUT
[14]
CHE
[15]
FRA
[16]
GER
[17]
IRL
[18]
ITL
[16]
NLD
[19]
NZL
[20]
SWE
[21]
USA
[22]
ZAF
[23]
1979 "Video Killed the Radio Star" 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 16 2 1 40 6 The Age of Plastic
1980 "Living in the Plastic Age" 16 29 29
"Clean Clean" 38 60
"Elstree" 55
1981 "I Am a Camera" 27 46 Adventures in Modern Recording
1982 "Adventures in Modern Recording"
"On TV"
"Lenny" 17
"Beatnik"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Videos

  • "Video Killed the Radio Star"
  • "Living in the Plastic Age"
  • "Clean Clean"
  • "Elstree"
  • "I Am a Camera"
  • "Adventures in Modern Recording"

References

  1. ^ "Biography". Official Geoff Downes Website. Geoff Downes. 3 July 2005. http://geoffdownes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=29. Retrieved 2008-12-01. (see para 8)
  2. ^ "Geoff on Sirius Satellite Radio". Official Geoff Downes Website. Geoff Downes. 31 July 2008. http://geoffdownes.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 
  3. ^ Peel, Ian (2010). Release notes for Adventures in Modern Recording by The Buggles (CD insert). Salvo Records (SALVOCD036).
  4. ^ Gig review: The Buggles
  5. ^ Prince's Trust performance on YouTube.com
  6. ^ Geoff Downes Blog
  7. ^ Roach, Martin, ed (2009). The Virgin Book of British Hit Albums (1st ed.). London: Virgin Books. p. 63. ISBN 9780753517000. http://www.virginbooks.co.uk/title.php?rnd=PAltkw1ioO6MqGTU1o1Q8phlJ0BWiDyczMbEQRe29Fo%3D. Retrieved 15 March 2010. 
  8. ^ "RPM Weekly - The Canadian Charts". Library and Archives Canada. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/index-e.html. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  9. ^ "VG-Lista - Norwegian Album Charts: Buggles". norwegiancharts.com. http://norwegiancharts.com/search.asp?cat=a&artist=Buggles&artist_search=exact&title=&title_search=starts. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  10. ^ "Swedish Top 60 Album Charts: Buggles". swedishcharts.com. http://swedishcharts.com/search.asp?cat=a&artist=Buggles&artist_search=exact&title=&title_search=starts. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "Buggles: Billboard Albums". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:aifoxqw5ldde~T5. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "RPM Top Albums - March 22, 1980". Library and Archives Canada. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?&file_num=nlc008388.9485b&volume=32&issue=26&issue_dt=March%2022%201980&type=1&interval=24&PHPSESSID=5il5rupc8mj4d7oljtoaq3tcv7. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  13. ^ Roach, Martin, ed (2008). The Virgin Book of British Hit Singles (1st ed.). London: Virgin Books. p. 74. ISBN 9780753515372. 
  14. ^ "Austrian Single Charts: Buggles" (in German). austriancharts.at. http://austriancharts.at/search.asp?search=Buggles&cat=s. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  15. ^ "Swiss Single Top 75 Charts: Buggles" (in German). hitparade.ch. http://hitparade.ch/search.asp?search=Buggles&cat=s. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Unsourced chart positions carried over from the 4 March 2010 version of the article. Should be replaced by a reliable source.
  17. ^ "Chartverfolgung/Buggles, The/Single" (in German). musicline.de. http://www.musicline.de/de/chartverfolgung_summary/artist/Buggles%2CThe/?type=single. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  18. ^ "Irish Singles Charts". irishcharts.ie. http://www.irishcharts.ie/search/placement. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  19. ^ "Dutch Single Top 100 Charts: Buggles" (in Dutch). dutchcharts.nl. http://dutchcharts.nl/search.asp?cat=s&cat2=s&search=Buggles. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  20. ^ "New Zealand Top 40 Single Charts: Buggles". charts.org.nz. http://charts.org.nz/search.asp?cat=s&artist=Buggles&artist_search=exact&title=&title_search=starts. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  21. ^ "Swedish Top 60 Single Charts: Buggles". swedishcharts.com. http://swedishcharts.com/search.asp?cat=s&search=Buggles. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  22. ^ "Buggles: Billboard Singles". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:aifoxqw5ldde~T51. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  23. ^ "SA Charts 1969 - 1989: Acts B". www.rock.co.za – The South African Rock Library. http://www.rock.co.za/files/springbok_top_20_%28B%29.html. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 

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