Tag Archives: The Pretenders

Lost in Music of the 80’s: The Buggles, Madness, and Mood

I have a certain affinity for the music of the early 80’s and the dawn of the music video era. The new wave era on balance will not be remembered for the virtuosity of the musicians nor the sophistication of the music, though it’s noteworthy to mention that The Police, Elvis Costello, Blondie, The Pretenders, and The Tubes were born of that time. Yet there was an energy and excitement that captivated the music world back then.

The disco age was dead. Punk rock had shaken the music world out of its doldrums, but had faded as brilliantly as it had emerged. More importantly, music has the ability to connect us to other times in our lives.

I’ve also had the privilege of speaking to music therapists regarding the connection between music and mood. In the simplest sense, even a non-trained musical ear knows that certain (major) chords or sounds seem “happy,” while others (minor chords) evoke sadness or are more appropriate for horror movies. Of course, their science goes well beyond those basic theories, allowing breakthroughs with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, Down Syndrome, and Autism.

That brings me to yesterday.

I was having a bad day – No particular tragedies, just a series of life’s little aggravations. Then, while strolling through the grocery store, a tune played from the speakers above. The recognizable intro to “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. It was the 1st video ever played on MTV back in the day, and the video production levels were so primitive that there was an innocence that permeated the music videos of that era. The song “Our House” by Madness followed. From what moment forward, my day and my attitude changed for the better.

What music changes your mood?

Video Concert Hall, MTV, and the Early Days of Music Video

I came across this website recently that is a tribute to an old television show from the late 1970’s and early 80’s that aired on USA Network called Video Concert Hall:
Video Concert Hall tribute website

VCH is credited with being the first nationwide music video programming on cable television, and a precursor to the wildly popular station MTV. The website has links to a number of music videos that aired during that time.

I don’t know that I have as great an affinity for any of those particular songs. It’s more of an affinity for the period in music in general and the playful ingenuity and raw production of those early music videos. It was an exciting time in music – the disco period was ending, punk rock had shaken things up, and a new explosion of bands with unique sounds was emerging. Groups like The Ramones, The Police, The Pretenders, Squeeze, The Tubes, and a host of other bands integrated styles and an edge that were influenced by punk rock with pop sensitivities and production.

And music video, before overblown budgets and over-production became the norm, was an exciting new medium to gain exposure. What I love most is the absolute simplicity of these early music videos. In terms of setting, it’s clear that these bands just reached out to a friend with a 1-bedroom efficiency apartment, a band member whose parents had a business with a warehouse that they could use after hours, a local production company with a small community theater and a room full of props and costumes, or they just cleared out the musical equipment from the garage where they practiced.

There’s a music video of the song by The Beastie Boys called “You’ve Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party” that really captures the spirit of the early music video era. It’s just the guys in the band and a few friends in an efficiency apartment, and the video ends with a bunch of pies thrown in faces.

Comedic acting (and the joy of music) at its finest.