Return to the 80s Music: The Age of Plastic

rtt80s music logoHey Everybody, welcome back to Return to the 80s Music! As I mentioned in the last article, I will go through chronologically and cover as many 80s albums as I can. We’ll hear some classics, some hidden gems that not everybody may be familiar with, and maybe some nobody has heard of, which can be a great discovery, or something that will make you say What the HELL was that?!?!

I hope this is good and you all enjoy it. I hope we make some rad discoveries, and I know there will be songs that will bring us back to some great times! In either case, it is always awesome to Return to the 80s!

You can click on the song title to check out the YouTube video of the song. I’ll also include the Spotify playlist at the bottom of each article, if the album is on Spotify.

The first article was The Romantics self-titled debut album.
Now we are on to another debut album – The Age of Plastic by the English new wave duo the Buggles

The Age of Plastic was released on January 10, 1980 on Island Records

The Buggles were formed in London in 1977 by singer and bassist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoffrey Downes. They had gotten together with Bruce Woolley, and together recorded some demos – one of them, “Video Killed the Radio Star”.

Horn and Downes would sign with Island records. While Woolley was originally intended to be the band’s lead singer, he left the group to form his own band, the Camera Club, who also recorded versions of “Clean, Clean” and “Video Killed the Radio Star”, songs that appeared on the Camera Club’s 1979 album English Garden.

So, Horn handled vocals and also played guitar and bass; Downes was the keyboard wizard who programmed the drums and handled the synths.

We’ll get more into this later on in 1980, but Horn and Downes will go on to replace Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman on lead vocals and keyboards respectively on Yes’s album Drama.

But back to The Age of Plastic.

The Age of Plastic is a concept album about modern technology. There are only 8 songs on this album.

So let’s enter the Plastic Age

Side one

1. “Living in the Plastic Age
The first song on the album was the second single released from it.
It did not chart in the U.S., but it did well in the following countries:

Here are the chart positions
Belgium 17
France 3
Germany 29
Netherlands 2
Spain 18
UK Singles 16

According to SongFacts, Like “Video Killed The Radio Star,” the video was directed by Russell Mulcahy, one of the most visionary and experimental directors in the pre-MTV era. The video used cutting edge special effects and compositing techniques to create a warped reality that is disconcerting and unpredictable. It was much better than most of what MTV was showing, but the network ignored it. The album had been out for about 18 months when the network launched and the song never got any traction on US radio, so it wouldn’t have gotten any support. “Video Killed The Radio Star” became a mainstay because it hit right on the nose.

I feel like the U.S. missed out on this one. I like it a lot. This one sticks in my head. It was a perfect way to start the album.

2. “Video Killed the Radio Star

Best known as being the one millionth song played on MTV, which was on February 27, in the year 2000. I can’t believe they were still playing videos then!

But obviously, we all know it as the first ever video aired on MTV, which was at 12:01 AM on 1 August 1981.

Again, this song was written by Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes and Bruce Woolley in 1978.

It was actually first recorded by Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club (with Thomas Dolby on keyboards) for their album English Garden. I actually like that version a lot, and I like it more and more. It has some awesome guitar playing in it.

But, The Buggles version seems more appropriate for the subject matter. It feels like it should have a futuristic sound.

The Buggles released it as their debut single on September 7, 1979

On release, the single topped sixteen international music charts, including those in the UK, Australia, and Japan. It also peaked in the top 10 in Canada, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa, but only reached number 40 in the US.

The female singers on the record were Debi Doss and Linda Jardim (later Linda Allan). Doss had toured with The Kinks as a backup singer; Jardim had sung on a single for The Northampton Development Corporation that was released nationally by EMI, entitled “60 Miles by Road or Rail,” in an attempt to generate publicity for the growing town.

3. “Kid Dynamo
This is another one that sticks in your head. They sure know how to write earworms!
This song is about the effects of media on a futuristic kid of the 1980s.

4. “I Love You (Miss Robot)
In a article in Smash Hits magazine,Downes has said it is about “being on the road and making love to someone you don’t really like, while all the time you’re wanting to phone someone who’s a long way off.”

This is a slower paced song, but yet another one that stays with you.

Wow check out these lyrics!

You make love like a metronome
Don’t drive too fast when you take me home
Touch the seam on your silver skin
I feel so hard when you take me in

Woooow!!!!

Now time to cool off and turn the album over to side 2.

Side two

1. “Clean, Clean
This was the 3rd single released from the album. And this is another song that was first covered by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club in 1979. And once again, the bruce Woolley version rocks more.

But, I still love The Buggles version, and the video is pretty cool.

The song charted in the UK (38) and West Germany (60)

Another freaking earworm! This should have been a bigger hit.

2. “Elstree
OK, we’ll just say that every song on here is an earworm!
This song is about a failed actor taking up a more regular position behind the scenes and looking back at his life in regret. It is a tribute to the U.K. film company Elstree Studios.

With this song, you can see how both members joined the band Yes. It’s like a combination of Yes and “Video Killed the Radio Star”.

This song has yet another great music video that was ahead of its time.

It was the fourth and final single released from the album. It’s only significant chart position was landing at #55 on the U.K. Charts.

3. “Astroboy (And the Proles on Parade)
This song sounds like a combination of “Kid Dynamo” and 70s Supertramp.

I had to look up what a Prole was, and it is a member of the working class.

The song has a slow prog-rock feel to it.

4. “Johnny on the Monorail
Picking things back up again. It’s a New Wavy/Prog-Rocky song, and smoothly coasts back into the station to wrap up the album.

Hidden Gem: “Living in the Plastic Age.” I thought it should have been a bigger hit. I also love “Clean, Clean.”

Here is my ratings scale

5 Classic – a must buy
4 Solid album – worth buying
3 Some good or great stuff, but also skippable songs
2 Meh – may have 2 or 3 good songs. Just buy the singles you like, if any
1 Sucks. Time I can’t get back

Just like as I gave The Romantics this, I’ll give The Age of Plastic a solid 4 out of 5. Before this, the only song I had heard of was “Video Killed the Radio Star.” I was pleasantly surprised with how good this album was. With this album, you can feel the transition from the 70s to the 80s begin. This is another album I may need to buy this on vinyl. There was not a bad song on here.

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