Video killed the radio star – Polly style


The old The Buggles’ hit Video killed the radio star has re-appeared in a down tempo version by none other then with Mute signed Polly Scattergood. We’ve covered Polly before here on Stereoklang but this time we are in for a real treat both visually and audio wise, as Polly moves around with synthesizers and Sci-fi retro robots in a kaleidoscopic scenery.

Polly Scattergood has teamed up with Bruce Woolley and his Radio Science Orchestra, a theremin-led ensemble founded in 1994, which included founder members composer/arranger Chris Elliott (Moulin Rouge!) and Andy Visser (ONL). In relation to the release of the new video Bruce said: “Polly is often described as ethereal, dark, intense and experimental, while her musical style has been described as “early 21st century electro-dance-pop of London proper”. We simply couldn’t think of anyone better to breathe fresh life into this classic song.”

Polly describes herself as a storyteller. “I write about emotions and moments, not all are biographical.” Scattergood’s debut single entitled “Glory Hallelujah” was released in 2005, followed by her September 2007 single “Nitrogen Pink” that was released on the legendary Mute Records and deals with the fragility of life and how quickly things come and go. So as with Bruce, Polly has a strong back catalog and two of her more recent additions is Wanderlust and Subsequently Lost, smart electronic tunes paired with the characteristic vocals of Polly. Taken from the album Arrows released in 2013 on Mute.

Subsequently Lost was directed by Tom Payne, and Tom who Polly met at a film night he runs in London, explains: “I’ve always thought Polly’s music had a very strong visual aesthetic to it, I really wanted to bring this out. It was very important to me to collaborate with Polly rather than dictate a narrative and I’m very proud of what we produced with this video”

Scattergood, taking about working with Tom Payne, said “Tom has a great eye, he knows exactly how to capture women and make them feel comfortable which results in very honest footage. Subsequently Lost is very close to my heart, it’s all about striving for something but never quite getting there and ultimately losing your mind. I loved the idea of the juxtaposition of the harsh reality and twisted fantasy, which is why we decided to go from the cinematic widescreen dreamscape asylum, to the close up reality”

Coming back to the main feature – Video Killed the Radio Star;

The original track was written by Bruce Woolley, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes and is famous for being the first video shown on MTV when it launched in 1981. Although written by Bruce, he was never a member himself of Buggles, or as he stated himself “I was merely on the design team”. The new video features cameo appearances from Thomas Dolby and The Retronaut’s Wolfgang Wild, as well as animations by video artist Louise Bellairs.

Writers have labeled The Age of Plastic as the first landmark of another electropop era. In his book Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s, Theo Cateforis wrote that the album’s title and the songs “I Love You (Miss Robot)” and “Astroboy” “picture the arrival of the 1980s as a novelty era of playful futurism”.In a 1979 interview, Downes defined the album as “science fiction music. It’s like modern psychedelic music. It’s very futuristic.” Writers have described it as a mixture of synthpop and new wave music, with elements of disco, punk, progressive rock and pop music from the 1960s. The music on the album was also influenced by groups such as 10cc, ELO and Kraftwerk. Geoff Downes used five synthesizers in making The Age of Plastic.

Journalists noted the tracks’ instrumentations of guitars, bass guitar, drums, vocoded, robotic and female vocals, and synthesizers used to emulate orchestral instruments, and well as compositional elements of a variety of complex builds. Downes said that he used five synthesizers in making The Age of Plastic, which were used to “fake up things and to provide effects we won’t use them in the manner that somebody like John Foxx does.” According to Horn: “We used about three different drummers including one from Landscape and Johnny Richardson from The Rubettes, who’s really good. We also used the occasional session guitarist to play various bits and there were three or four girl singers involved. Apart from that, we did everything ourselves.” Downes claimed of using George Shearing’s trick of doubling melody lines in block chords very heavily on some of the songs. 

Trevor Horn stated at the time: “My stuff just sounded weird. I couldn’t make records like Elton John and I hated punk – I thought they were all shit musicians, although I grew to understand it in retrospect. I envied those guys who played with Elton John. They seemed so unassailable. What am I going to ever do that’s going to get close to that? I don’t have a great feel or a great blues voice. Then I heard Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine and I thought, that’s it! A mechanized rhythm section, a band where you’re never old-fashioned, where you don’t have to emote. It sounded so new and exciting, so full of potential.”