We hear the playback and it seems so long ago

Try as I might I can’t seem to catch the name of the hefty, earthy fellow sitting at his basement workbench.  He’s wearing a Kentucky tee shirt so I gather that’s where his “How-to” YouTube video was filmed and why these New England ears are unable to grasp the nuances of the accent. Still, his mannerisms express certitude and it looks like he knows what he’s doing.  What’s more, I managed to discern his explanation as to how “a guy he met up with one time who went to electronics school” had told him how to clean VCR tape heads using denatured alcohol, a business card, some Q-Tips, lubricant and a can of compressed air.

I’m perfectly satisfied with his credentials, seeing as this dusty old videocassette recorder hasn’t been used for nearly a decade and a worst case scenario is that, with my typical flair, I botch things up so much that I’m forced to resort to Plan B…which is turning to eBay to acquire one that still works.  My DVD burner is ready to roll in the mean time, and once I can get this (or another machine) back to the point where it doesn’t chew up my hundreds of hours of aging home video tapes, I plan to spend a number of winter evenings transferring decades of precious memories from one outdated medium to another…as DVDs at least reside in the digital realm…before it’s too late.

How fleeting are our modern technological trends.  Remember when home video (VHS or Betamax) hit the mass market? Not only did you have a seemingly endless supply of movies at your disposal, with video stores seemingly on every corner, but for the first time (assuming you could figure out how to program the timer and manage to properly set up the tuner) you could record anything that was being broadcast.  And this at a time when Cable and Satellite technology brought the average consumer, long accustomed to a handful of TV channels, a veritable cornucopia of viewing options.

One highly notable option was launched at Midnight on August 1st, 1981, with footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (that took place earlier that year) accompanied by the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll!”  Then theme music began, along with footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with a flag featuring the kaleidoscope-like logo of Music Television, known forever more as MTV.

Next came “Video Killed The Radio Star” the very first MTV music video, performed by a short-lived British New Wave group called The Buggles.  Initially released two years earlier,  it was the group’s debut single, topping the charts in sixteen countries, and would later be featured on The Buggles debut album, “The Age of Plastic”.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 16 November

Written by lead-singer and guitarist Trevor Horn (the one with the glasses), keyboardist Geoff Downes, and fellow musician Bruce Woolley (who was actually the first to record it), the song describes a radio (or “wireless”) singer whose career flounders in the face of technological change.  In 1952 BBC Television began to use high-speed, multi-track VTR (Video Tape Recording) equipment that was quicker and cheaper than anything that had come before it, and virtually transformed a medium that transformed everything else.

“Video Killed The Radio Star” was also the one-millionth music video to be aired on MTV, on February 27th, 2000 and like (no longer analogue) video technology, much had changed, and has continued to change.  Recently a group called ‪The Limousines released “Internet Killed The Video Star with its official music video readily accessed on YouTube.

Alas, the same can no longer be said about the Buggles own ground-breaking video.  Although there are alternative live versions, the original 1979 release comes with the following YouTube message:

THE UPLOADER HAS NOT MADE THIS VIDEO AVAILABLE IN YOUR COUNTRY

Instead, one must turn to the French video-sharing site, Dailymotion, as we have done here, and it’s with a touch of melancholy that I note that you’ll probably have to endure a brief commercial if you wish to view it.  “We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far” indeed.

Video Killed The Radio Star

 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

Oh-a oh

They took the credit for your second symphony

Rewritten by machine and new technology

And now I understand the problems you can see

Oh-a oh

I met your children

Oh-a oh

What did you tell them?

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Pictures came and broke your heart

Oh-a-a-a oh

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

Oh-a oh

You were the first one

Oh-a oh

You were the last one

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

In my mind and in my car

We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far

Oh-a-aho oh

Oh-a-aho oh

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

In my mind and in my car

We can’t rewind we’ve gone too far

Pictures came and broke your heart

Put the blame on VTR

You are a radio star

You are a radio star

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

(You are a radio star)

Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

(You are a radio star)

Oh-a oh

Oh-a oh

Oh-a oh

 

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