At 12:01am on August 1, 1981, history was made when MTV, the first 24-hour video music channel, launched onto our television sets and literally changed our lives with the birth of the music video.
The first video ever played on the network was quite ironic — “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles.
Though virtually unknown in the States, The Buggles would be reborn and become one of the biggest one-hit wonders of all time thanks in large part to the “Video Killed The Radio Star” music video airing on MTV.
“It was very much an afterthought,” Downes told Business Insider via email when asked if he watched the video launch MTV. “It was kind of cool to hear about, but it didn’t really seem groundbreaking at the time. How wrong we were?”
The music video was shot in one day and before airing on MTV had only played on BBC’s “Top of the Pops” when the single came out in 1979.
The British new wave band was made up of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. They formed The Buggles in 1977 and released their debut album “The Age of Plastic” in 1979 through Island Records. The debut single off the album was “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The song topped singles charts in the UK, Australia, France, Italy and other countries, but barely made it on the top 40 in the United States.
As quickly as The Buggles formed, they disbanded. First, following the release of “The Age of Plastic,” they joined the band Yes. But that version of Yes broke up in 1981, so Horn and Downes reteamed as The Buggles and came out with their second album, “Adventures in Modern Recording.” The album turned out to be a commercial failure, leading to Horn and Downes breaking up The Buggles for good.
The memory that stands out most for Downes about making the video was the last second change they had to do to the ending.
“When we first saw the original edited version, everyone was up in arms with the shot of the young girl exploding on top of a pile of old radios,” said Downes. “I thought it was pretty cool, but the label thought [the video] might not get shown, so the video director Russell Mulcahy had to edit that bit out. The end result was the radio exploded on its own, and the girl was just shown standing on them. In hindsight, there was a wisdom in the decision.”
Though the music video would launch the imagination of countless artists and filmmakers for the decades that followed, Downes believes it’s the music itself that is responsible for the song’s longevity.
“We make the music,” he said. “That was the most important aspect for us was to get the record. We spent months recording the song to that end. The video itself was a byproduct of our endeavours. The song was already a hit and had picked up massive airplay prior to the release of the video. So, I still think the song stands on its own as an iconic piece of work.”
Watch the complete “Video Killed the Radio Star” music video here:
Attempts to contact Trevor Horn to comment for this story were unsuccessful.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.