Monday, December 14, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #46

One of those bits of music trivia that virtually everyone knows is the answer to the question, "What was the first song ever played on MTV?" Altogether now: "Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles. But, do you know the answer to this one: "Who recorded 'Video Killed The Radio Star' first?"

Wait, what? Who recorded it first? You mean it wasn't The Buggles' song to begin with? It's a COVER?!?

Well, yes and no. The song was co-written by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, the duo who would go on to record as The Buggles, and a third person. That third songwriter was named Bruce Woolley.

Woolley actually wrote most of the music, while Horn and Downes collaborated on the lyrics (although it was Woolley who added the memorable but now-dated line, "Put the blame on VTR.") And it was Woolley and his band, The Camera Club, who released the original version of the song in early 1979. Moving about a half-step more quickly and sounding slightly less polished than the more-familiar Buggles version (which they released later that year), and ironically having no video clip to promote it, the Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club version is preferable to my ears:

The Camera Club's lone, self-titled album is a wonderful artifact from the early New Wave era. (In the UK, the album was called English Garden and featured different artwork.) A second single, the fantastic "English Garden," followed on the heels of "Video Killed The Radio Star," and it seemed like Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club were well on their way to New Wave stardom. And then...nothing.

Apparently, battles between the band and their record label (the usual creative direction vs. commercial viability struggles) caused an irreconcilable rift before a second album could be completed, and The Camera Club was no more. Woolley formed a new band, Firmament & The Elements, who released one minor EP before disbanding, and then took a behind-the-scenes role writing and producing for other artists. New Wave stardom did come, briefly, to one member of The Camera Club, however: the keyboard player would go on to have an unlikely yet massive worldwide hit in 1982 as a solo artist, "She Blinded Me With Science." His name was Thomas Dolby.

Our NW4NW entry this week is an appearance by Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club on The Old Grey Whistle Test, performing "English Garden" and "Clean Clean," another song co-written with, and later recorded by, The Buggles. Watch for a young Thomas Dolby behind the synths:

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