Video Review

Panic at the Fertilization Clinic: Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star”


  Trivia tidbit: The was the first music video ever played on the fledgling MTV network back around 1981-ish. This factoid will not change your life in any way, just thought I’d mention it, in case you want to be “that person” at cocktail parties who tries to impress everyone else with his arcane knowledge. You know, the person that everyone stops talking to after a while because they really don’t care? That one.

Anyway, prepare for a shocking display of primitive art, because nobody knew what they were doing back then (a trademark of the Reagan Era). And here we go…

We start out with a cherubic little girl in a red jumper thing fiddling with what I think is supposed to be an old-timey radio, but really looks like a washing machine. There’s a black and white image of some guy with odd glasses and a microphone who keeps intruding from the left side of the screen. It takes exactly one second for this to get annoying.

We pull back so that we can see a full moon shining down on the tyke as she continues her ministrations with the radio washer. I have no idea what the moon symbolizes. Maybe the girl is going to turn into a werewolf if she finds the right station, but werewolves won’t become popular for another thirty years, so who knows.

Oh look, the girl did find a station, and she throws her hands back in a crappy simulation of surprise. She’s a terrible actress. No wonder we never saw her again after this video. Cut to some guy wearing a suit made out of silver Saran wrap and playing some keyboards. He doesn’t seem happy to be here. Maybe he’s the little girl’s agent and just saw her performance.

Okay, now the black-and-white dude is taking up the whole screen. He’s very proud of his curly hair and his odd resemblance to Elton John before EJ did that fake marriage thing. He slides to the right and continues singing while we get another shot of the bad actress, once again jacking around with the radio knobs. One would think she’s supposed to leave that thing alone now. The song is already playing and her limited functionality has been depleted. She’s a bad actress and she doesn’t know when to stop. Wait, is this actually Vanna White before she started flipping letters in sparkly dresses?

Then we get a couple replays of the child’s horrid attempt at method acting, throwing her hands up in a slight seizure as she finds the radio station again and again. Even the radio can’t stand looking at her, and just decides to explode. The little girl then stands there amidst the rubble and looks at us, like she did nothing wrong, but we all know she’s been very, very naughty.

Now we have TWO of the black-and-white singer guys, bellowing from both sides of the screen. It’s a crappy-looking shot now, but it was very high-tech at the time and probably indirectly led to two Lindsay Lohans appearing in a Disney movie. You know, that movie Lindsay made back in the day when she was still interested in having a career and not self-imploding, spinning the roulette wheel of her sexuality and running about flashing her panties.

Another shot of the worthless little girl standing there, but this time she transitions into a woman sporting a strange outfit that is probably supposed to represent futuristic fashion, but really just looks like the wrong people were going to design school at the time. This woman is very accusatory, and she points her finger at us. Hey, I didn’t break the damn radio, that little girl did.

Close-up shot of reels of magnetic tape turning. Fascinating. Could do this for hours.

Then the black-and-white singer guy is there, as a real person this time and not a distorted image. He’s walking around on what might be a stage, because Shiny Jacket Guy is playing a synthesizer next to him, but it might also be a laboratory, because there are computers and such. Then Stupid Outfit Woman suddenly appears again, sliding down the inside of a giant test tube and clutching at her heart while impersonating a coma victim. She wakes up, does a short mime routine, and then stops moving again, as if suddenly realizing that this mess is doing nothing for her career.

I have no idea what she represents. Please don’t send questions.

Then we cut to a monitor of some kind, showing just the heads of two women wearing matching wigs and more stupid sunglasses. They seem to be having difficulty figuring out where to look as they sing the chorus. (Shot of the shiny keyboard player still mad about whatever.) Then the main singer is back, playing peek-a-boo behind another giant test tube. Oh, and there’s the little girl, apparently not fired as she should have been, and now she’s staring at frozen Stupid Outfit Woman. Even Stupid Outfit Woman doesn’t want to be around the little brat, so she zips back up the test tube, which hopefully leads to the wardrobe department and a better couture decision.

Quick shot of the Wig Girls doing hand movements to the lyrics. They’ve finally agreed to look in the same direction, one that doesn’t appear to involve the camera or any degree of sense. Then we have several odd-angle shots of random people playing instruments, and another turn at watching Stupid Outfit Woman shoot up that tube. (Apparently the video director is very invested in this tube action, perhaps intent on turning the image into a branding concept for the band, which is sad. All of the marketing possibilities out there, and he’s going to go with a jacked-up take on in-vitro fertilization?)

And now the talentless brat is back, climbing some unexplained stairs so she can be on top of giant cardboard set decorations designed by people who are clearly not skilled craftsmen. This, naturally, leads to another explosion. You would think these folks would have figured out by now that the little Firestarter has got to go.

The aftershock of Damianetta’s pyrotechnics has caused the Wig Girls to lose their temporary synchronization skills, and they are no longer staring in the same direction, standing rigidly and awkwardly, as if they received surprise enemas when we weren’t looking. Suddenly, television sets start bursting out of the ground for no apparent reason, because this always happens when the director tries to get too arty. Next we have several jump cuts around the studio/laboratory, ending with Main Singer also pointing an accusing finger at us. The people in this video are just vindictive and unwilling to accept any responsibility for what is happening around them. (Is this how the Tea Party started?)

More keyboard playing, followed by Stupid Outfit Woman flying over the set (twice), like a very unfocused super hero. If we’re lucky, she’ll snatch up the little girl and throw her into a volcano, thus saving the world. Instead, walls start sliding out of the way and we have Main Singer and Mad Keyboard Guy playing instruments, and a new musician whose issue seems to be that his tight plastic pants are neutering him. Stupid Outfit Woman is back in the test tube, so she’s either resting after all that flying or she’s hiding from the little brat, who is currently unaccounted for, not having been seen since she caused that second explosion.

And that’s basically it. We finish out the song on this same set, with the camera whirling all over the place because somebody thought that might be fun. Stupid Outfit Woman decides to do an interpretive dance in her tube, and no one bothers to make her stop because there are only a few seconds left in the video and she seems to be very invested in her writhing. Little did we know at the time that people doing inexplicable things in music videos would become the hallmark for decades to come.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how a new network was born.

I’ll give you a few moments to think about that…


Sadly, this video is no longer available on YouTube, at least not in an official capacity, indicating some type of copyright issue, so you’ll just have to envision the mayhem. Or you might get lucky and find a down-low version of it out there in the nether.

Originally published on 08/04/10 on one of my now-defunct sites, resuscitated on Backup Dancers From Hell on 07/03/16, and then finally stumbling over to this blog.


21 replies »

    • Kings of Leon are swell, indeed. I always enjoy artists who are not necessarily mainstream but still manage to break through. So much more enjoyable than all the pre-programmed mess out there…


  1. Ah yes! I remember it well. The Buggles. Those glasses. Members from Yes and Art of Noise. You are right, Brian. That kid was a horrible actress. She could have clawed her way to the bottom of B movie stardom for all we know. Love this blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hilarity is a wonderful thing and you’ve supplied it in abundance, Brian, thank you. I hope if the song is ever re released or covered the sleeve notes include this wonderful appraisal 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Phil. I would imagine that my musical irrelevancy is not looked upon kindly by anyone associated with The Buggles legacy, and there will be no invitations for me to contribute to a revival. Still, one can dream, right?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Cut to some guy wearing a suit made out of silver Saran wrap and playing some keyboards.”

    That was the de-facto garb for synthesizer players back then. I have personal knowledge. I try to be the normal one at parties, and not the arcane story one, but the result is the same. I usually stand behind the crockpot full of once frozen Market Pantry meatballs and people ask me to refill their drinks and serve them the luscious morsels of salt and meat textured by-products. Now I have a conversation starter. “Hey, do you know what the first video on MTV was?” “Who wrote all of Gary Lewis’s hit songs?” was getting old.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew you would have a personal backstory on this whole mess. (And I’ll refrain from sharing the details about me and some friends, relatively around this time, donning black plastic trash bags and going to a Halloween party as “The Spazmatics”.) But if you need some backup fodder for your conversation starter, the second music video played on MTV was Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run”, a ditty that I actually don’t recall right at the moment. (I googled it, natch.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is one of many pieces of music trivia that I’ve known forever – especially since I was fortunate enough to be able to remember seeing this video during the debut of Music Television (I WANT MY MTV, LOL). I always loved the song, and didn’t hate the video. Love your description of it, though – as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is one of the many things I admire about you, your adroitness with music trivia. And I didn’t dislike the video, even then. I thought it was pretty cool. Truth be told, though, I had already seen it before MTV, as I was always running to artsy film festivals back in that day, trying to do anything that would dispel the mundane drudgery of growing up in Oklahoma. Now, and you may already know this, but the first actual video on MTV was that snippet of the stylized astronaut bouncing around on the moon. But it wasn’t an actual MUSIC video, despite the guitar playing, and therefore Buggles gets the crown…

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL – you, know, you have a point there…an awesome guitar riff accompanying the footage of the astronaut hoisting the “MTV” flag didn’t really count as a music video – and, it might have been too short of a snippet to warrant the title, since ‘real’ songs have to be of a certain length to qualify as such!

        Liked by 1 person

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