From 1977 to 1982, a new synthpop/new wave version of the Beatles obligated to give serious warnings of what technology could possibly do to ruin planet Earth in the future. They were named The Buggles.
The group formed in Wimbledon, England, originally consisting of keyboardist Geoff Downes, bassist future producer Trevor Horn, and Bruce Woolley. With demos of three early compositions already done, the group used one of them, “Video Killed the Radio Star”, to spend 1978-1979 finding a record label. Although they originally set to be signed to Sarm East Studios, a label owned by Horn’s girlfirend, Jill Sinclair, the demo for “Video Killed the Radio Star” caught the attention of a personnel from Island Records, and Island set the group up for a bigger recording and publishing contract.
The group did three months of producing their debut single “Video Klled the Radio Star”, which would make a #1 hit in 16 countries, some of them including the UK, France, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Austria, Italy and Ireland. The song’s video, directed by Russell Mulcahy, has become very notable as the first music video ever to air on MTV, which the video aired on the channel on August 1, 1981 at 12:00 PM.
The Buggles also had a brief stint with Progressive rock band Yes, Horn taking over the place of vocalist Jon Anderson and Downes replacing keyboardist Rick Wakeman, performing with the group on Yes’s record Drama which featured the song “Into the Lens” that was also performed and recorded as “I Am A Camera” under the Buggles moniker. The two’s involvement in the group, especially with Horn taking over a singer with wide a range of style and range as Anderson, was met with negative responses from several critics and Yes fans, leading to Yes disbanding for a brief period in 1981.
But the killing of the insect stars didn’t stop there. Downes abruptly took his position down as a Buggle and left Horn to form the band Asia with Steve Howe, given that he was more into performing than production. Then Island, figuring that the career of The Buggles was over, dropped Horn from the label.
The age of this plastic group would’ve ended there hadn’t Horn’s wife, Jill Sinclair, managed to make a deal with the French label Carrerre so he could a record a second Buggles album. These “Adventures in Modern Recording” involved horn experimenting with a numerous amount of production tricks, especially with the use of sampling with the first-ever version of the yet-to-be-popular Fairlight Computer. How Horn had these adventures made eventually realize that he was better off a production star than a performing star, and with the album and its single failing miserable to match the success that was “Video Killed the Radio Star”, he eventually killed the insect stars in 1982.
Along with groups like Kraftwerk, the works of this “plastic group” of robotic Beatles has been the influence and inspiration of several synthpop acts, especially in the French electronic scene including Justice, Daft Punk and Phoenix.