Originally released in November of 1979 under the title English Garden in the UK. For the North American release, CBS/Columbia Records (the album was released by Epic elsewhere) stripped away the title and transformed Bruce Woolley from an erstwhile Elvis Costello/Elton John hybrid into a proto-Chris Isaak. Note the UK cover below:
The cover grabbed me. There’s something about the promise of a 1940’s crooner transplanted into the 1980’s (in this instance 1979) that piques my curiosity. When I’m crate diving and blindly choosing which unknown records to sample, I rarely seek Internet consultation. At worst I’m out $3. At best I’ve uncovered a slumbering and forgotten gem.
I love the anticipation of placing the needle on the turntable and not knowing anything about what’s going to come spewing forth from my speakers. That moment of gestation, signaled by the static and the 30Hz hum of the needle sliding across the vinyl. I’m guaranteed to hear something brand new to me.
So you’ll understand my shock when I sat down to give Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club a first listen and heard — side one, track two — “Video Killed the Radio Star” emitting from my speakers. It sounded more like The Cars by way of Brian Eno doing “Video Killed the Radio Star,” but nevertheless, there was no mistaking that hook.
What ho?! A cover? But the sleeve dates the release as 1979 and I knew, without any doubt, that The Buggles released The Age of Plastic, featuring “Video Killed the Radio Star” in 1980. So not a cover?
More investigation was required. To the Interwebs I flew.
A successful singer-songwriter for a decade before recording with his band The Camera Club, Bruce Woolley had penned songs for The Studs and Dusty Springfield before becoming frustrated with the opportunities afforded to his work. In 1977, Woolley began tinkering with Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes on a project called, that’s right, The Buggles. Shortly before The Buggles (Horn and Downes) signed to Island Records, Woolley departed to form The Camera Club with Matthew Seligman (future bassist in The Soft Boys), Rod Johnson, Dave Birch and a young Thomas Dolby.
Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club
For The Camera Club’s debut LP, Woolley recorded both “Video Killed the Radio Star” and “Clean / Clean,” songs originally co-written with Horn and Downes for The Buggles. Here’s the interesting twist of fate. The Buggles’ The Age of Plastic dropped in January of 1980 (two months after the UK release of Woolley’s English Garden), and North American ears wouldn’t hear The Camera Club until November of the same year. Both records were recorded in 1979 and crossed the Atlantic like ships in the night.
Critics describe The Age of Plastic as a landmark 1980’s Technopop album. Artists such as Daft Punk and Phoenix have cited the record as a major influence. Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club couldn’t even coerce CBS into releasing their second album.
Many critics (mostly old stodgy ones) lauded Bruce Woolley’s version of “Video Killed the Radio Star,” calling The Buggles’ version novelty kitsch. The Buggles made the music of the future and certain folksy critics didn’t exactly know what to make of it. It’s psychedelic science fiction, fearful of the mass media culture just over the horizon, made with pre-dated techniques of electronic production. Progress causes growing pains.
While I’d love to laud The Camera Club as the real “Video Killed the Radio Star” artist, I can’t hop up on that soapbox. They’re yin and hang, complementary flipsides of a 7″ single, and I’m grateful to have finally turned the record over. One is iconic, the other an eager sidekick.
The Camera Club’s new wave sound echoes comfortable trends during the transition into the 80’s. It’s impossible to listen to songs such as “English Garden” and not hear Brian Eno’s 1977 classic Before And After Science. The album relies on Bruce Woolley’s songwriting. As an artist, Woolley embraced a brand of optimism and earnestness that had faded among commercial artists.
After The Camera Club disbanded in 1982, Woolley returned to his bread and butter. He penned “Slave to the Rhythm” for Grace Jones (a song originally intended for Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and even wrote the seminal ambient electronic track “A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Center of the Ultraworld” for The Orb’s debut 1989 album. He returned to stage performance with The Radio Science Orchestra, a theremin-led ensemble and worked on the score to Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge!
Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club’s one and only record might be a footnote in the careers of The Buggles and Thomas Dolby, but it’s a highly listenable curiosity. The record provides a little extra context for the first wave of artists inspired by the sounds of the coming artificial age. Not only was Bruce Woolley one of the first casualties, but he also became an innovator.
And if you want to dig a little deeper into “Video Killed the Radio Star” lore, here’s Geoff Downes talking about the history of the song.
Originally released in May 1985 in Australia under the title Shine, this self-titled debut for the Melbourne band Kids in the Kitchen hit the International market a year later with a different cover and sans the Shine title.
I came across this nugget in a Half Price Books — the one with all the vinyl. If you’re a HPB shopper, you know there’s one in your area that gets all the interesting records. If you’re jonesing for some more Barbara Streisand or Kenny Loggins (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) feel free to visit any of the others.
While my musical tastes skew in all directions, when I visit this particular shop there’s only one thing on my mind. Odd or interesting 1980’s selections. All I need to do is unearth a few before the kids lose their minds. I generally have 12 minutes. On this day, I had 9 before meltdown. Commence extreme crate diving.
Normally by the time I hit the “K” section I’ve got a handful of prospects tucked under my arm and my daughters (ages 8 and 5) are moaning about being bored or asking me how far I think the 45s will fly. That means the fingers start flying faster and I might miss a gem or two. That Kids in the Kitchen cover, however, would not be overlooked. Bright yellow polo shirts? Red scarves? Smug new waveness or post-punk record label conformity? Are those a dozen eggs? Nakatomi Plaza? All bathed in the sickly neon streaming in through the “Kids in the Kitchen” monicker atop the sleeve.
It screams “the record label said we’d make bank if we sell ‘edgy’ but I’m really just thinking about that half-finished bag of Doritos at home in the pantry.” Also, “Cravats are itchy.”
The band definitely falls under the auspices of the angsty, synthesized shadow cast by new wave / new romantic bands such as Ultravox or Visage, but Kids in the Kitchen never met a Duran Duran groove they didn’t like. So while, lead singer Scott Carne likes to elongate his vowels to profess his depth and inner turmoil, there’s a poppier, commercial softness here rather than cold artificiality.
This is probably best represented by the band’s most successful track, “Current Stand,” which serves up a radio-friendly and potently hooky chorus, simple melodies and 1980’s sexy sax. Pure palatability.
The album’s first two singles “Change in Mood” and “Bitter Tears” promise more, perhaps, and would have rightfully qualified them as a band to watch — if they’d hung around long enough to evolve into something more interesting. Solid pop vocals and a pleasant blend of electronics and instrumentation only goes so far.
It’s not too surprising that the band got lost in the new wave shuffle despite registering Australian Platinum. They’re ear-friendly but overly familiar, especially considering this record didn’t reach U.S. or U.K. ears until the middle of 1986 — a time when this new wave had long since reached its peak.
The band splintered shortly after the release of this debut. The guitarist and keyboardist quit, and Kids in the Kitchen only released one more record, 1987’s Terrain before calling it quits in 1988.
The Kids stay in the Kitchen. As a relative oddity due to the fact that it never saw a CD release outside Australia, vinyl’s the only way to smell what the kids are (still) cooking. It’s not going to be a rotation staple, but I could see some “Change the Mood” cravings coming back around in time for a midnight snack.
Time for my obligatory Record Store Day 2015 post. I’ll even phone it in.
I’m not wild about Record Store Day this year. I’m not plotting and planning and scheming how to get those elusive gems that I’m sure will walk out the door after the first few customers. At this point, I participate in Record Store Day for tradition and to support local vinyl shops. There’s no one disc that’ll get me out of bed before the sun comes up to get in line and wait for the 8am open. It’s the activity. It’s a morning that belongs to me. No familial obligations, no place else I need to be… I’ll talk records, buy records and then go home and play records. I’ll tell the 5yo about my morning and she’ll question me with the full powers of her 5yo logic.
Participating record shops open at 8am. Gone are the midnight opens. The RSD organization really needs to lift the ban on the midnight opens. They really put the kibosh on a great experience for forcing participating stores to open in the morning. The queue’s more congenial and the wait less tiresome. There’s far better conversation at 1am, more reason to stand around and chat. At 8am everyone’s a bit crabby because they’ve been standing in line since 4am or something stupid like that.
Part of the thrill is having no clue what your store is going to have available. And no matter how much you study the list in preparation for that dash through the stacks, nothing ever goes to plan. You’ll find some stuff you never knew you needed, guaranteed. But since I like to have scuttled plans, here’s my wishlist for RSD15.
30Hz Record Store Day 2015 Wishlist
Sun Records Sampler Volume 2:
Picked up Volume 1 last year. Great selection of tunes and the Sun Records catalog runs deep. And since I’m a completist, I’ll just keep picking up every damn release they come up with.
Thai Pop Spectacular: 1960-1980
One of the great joys of RSD is picking up oddities like this. These two ladies will slot in nicely next to my Nippon Girls records of Japanese pop hits.
Willie Nelson – Teatro
This is essential Willie. I don’t have this on vinyl. A clean copy would be a lovely thing. This might be my most wanted item for RSD15.
Music to Drink Beer To (compiled by Dogfish Head)
I drink a lot of Dogfish Head and eat at their brew pub in Delaware each year. I don’t see why having music to drink Dogfish Head by could be a bad thing. The track list boasts Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, A Tribe Called Quest, Muddy Waters, Iggy and the Stooges, Uncle Tupelo… etc.
Frank Sinatra – Songs for Young Lovers
One of Sinatra’s greatest records. I’ve got a lot of Sinatra on vinyl… but not this one.
Jurassic Five – Quality Control (The Wood Box)
It’s Jurassic Five! In a wood box! I love Jurassic Five and the wood box means classy.
Bernard Herrman – Psycho
BHerm on vinyl is always essential. Some of his trademark work right here. Scare the neighbor kids off your lawn.
Side by Side – “Walk On By”
Each year the RSD brains come up with a series of Side-By-Side releases, 7″ singles with two artists who covered the same song. To me, this is the most interesting of the 2015 releases. Dionne Warwick and The Stranglers doing “Walk On By.”
Country Joe & the Fish – Together
Coincidentally I just got into listening to Country Joe after picking up the Zachariah soundtrack. It’s seems little bit like fate that they’ve got a RSD15 release then. Don’t mess with fate, boys and girls.
Simple Minds – Celebrate, Live from the SSE Hydro Glasgow
As a Simple Minds junkie, I can’t pass up a 2 x colored, clear vinyl live album. I can’t. I might try, but if it’s in the store, it’ll be in my grasp. Come over. I’ll play it for you. We’ll have a Simple Minds jam session with everything they’ve ever recorded. On vinyl. We’ll have gin rickeys. I dunno. What do you drink while listening to Simple Minds? Maybe Dogfish Head has some suggestions.
Record Store Day always offers a wide breadth of unique and rare selections for vinyl connoisseurs and music fanatics. While at first glance, 2014 didn’t seem to offer any of the must-have big ticket items of years past, the more I studied the list, the more excited I got. See you crazy folks in line on Friday night.
Ray Parker, Jr. – Ghostbusters 10″
I’ve well documented my affection for Ghostbusters, the Ghostbusters soundtrack and colored vinyl. Holy shit, this release is the perfect storm of 30Hz must have. IT GLOWS IN THE DARK, PEOPLE.
The Cure / Dinosaur, Jr. – Just Like Heaven 7″
One of the greatest running gigs that Record Store Day has going are these Side by Side releases where a band covers a song on Side A (in this case Dinosaur, Jr.) and the original song (The Cure) appears on the B-side. Some of the covers are rather uninspired, but this cover (originally released in 2005) delivers the J. Mascis and Robert Smith in equal measure.
Here’s a live performance of Dinosaur, Jr’s “Just Like Heaven” from KEXP.
Alexander Robotnick – Vintage Robotnicks
Robotnick is a minor legend of the Italo-Disco music scene of the 1980’s. And while we tend have cold sweats when we think of disco… bellbottoms and sequins and John Travolta… this is straight-up synth-heavy electronic. Think a less German Giorgio Moroder. Though much of this compilation was released in the US on a 2003 CD release called Rare Robotnick, I can think of no better place to spin this record than my turntable.
Here’s a sampler of the record:
Electroconvulsive Therapy Vol. 2
Just in case you didn’t get your Italo-Disco fix (not I) with Alexander Robotnick, here’s a collection of very rare tracks from the same era. This stuff is infectious, off-beat and I’ve been spinning stuff from this era pretty heavy of late. It just so happens, #RSD14 noticed my obsession. This record is pressed in “Italian-Flag stripe” colored vinyl.
Nino Rota – Amarcord OST
Apparently 2014 became the unofficial year of the Italians. Nino Rota was an composer, pianist and intellectual most known for his scores for Fellini and Vischonti films. He also won an Oscar for his score for the Godfather Part II. His resume contains more than 150 film scores during his 46-year career. It just so happens that I’m a Fellini junkie and performed a 100% legit double-take when I saw this 180g transparent blue vinyl reissue on the list of RSD releases.
Django Django – The Porpoise Song 7″
First of all, that’s a beautiful 7″. Second, this is Django Django covering a Monkees song. I could seek out the track to sample it but why spoil the moment of initial reveal on my own record player. Third, the B-side of this beaut contains “Flat Of Angles Part 4” a spoken word piece by Benedict Cumberbatch. Spoken word. Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch. Benedict. Sorry. Once I start with that name I get stuck in some sort of mental loop.
Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full 7″
This is a re-issue of the UK 7″ single for “Paid in Full.” The Coldcut Remix on this record reached #15 on the UK charts but was never officially released stateside.
Saturday Looks Good To Me – Love Will Find You, S/T
I’m not sure if Saturday Looks Good To Me was the first modern indie band that brought “Detroit Soul” back into the conversation, but I can’t think of anyone else… so let’s go with that. This is lo-fi garage rock, the kind of music meant to live on vinyl. If I’m not mistaken neither of these albums have ever appeared on vinyl.
Here’s a sample of one of my favorite tracks from Love Will Find You.
Life Without Buildings – Any Other City
This is the first and *only* record ever released by Life Without Buildings. I came to know them through a live record released well after their demise. During their brief tenure as unknown indie-rawk demi-gods, they became known for their furious live sets.
Sample the track “The Leanover” below:
Sun Record Company Vol. 1 (Curated by Record Store Day)
Sun Record Company was an independent record label started in Memphis in 1952. Sun first recorded Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. This collection of tracks from Sun Records was handpicked by participating Record Store Day vinyl shops. I took a peek at the track list. This one won’t disappoint.
Haim – Forever
So, sure, I’m obsessed with Haim. And I have “Forever” in multiple formats/releases. There’s nothing new about “Forever.” But. BUT. This release contains the Giorgio Moroder “Forever” remix. Chew on that.
Devo – Live at Max’s Kansas City
This is one of three different RSD14 Devo releases. Two full LPs and one 7″. I picked this one to highlight. Consider it highlighted. Buy Devo.
I mean, if you’ve been following me at all on Twitter, you’ll know this is a given.
(I first met Jenn on the now defunct tables at turntable.com. I can absolutely vouch for her impeccable taste when it comes to the sweet sounds of the 19-Alt-80’s and beyond.)
David Bowie – 1984 picture disc
Bowie is a bucket list kind of performer for me. Maybe one day I’ll get to see him in concert, if he ever deigns to return to the stage. I like the look of the disc, maybe it’ll tide me over until I can see the Thin White Duke live.
Chvrches – Recover EP
I’m a huge Sundays fan, so the lead singer of this band reminds me a lot of Harriet Wheeler. They have a very retro modern sound, and opened on a few dates for Depeche Mode on their last tour.
Nirvana – Pennyroyal Tea
I’m just a Nirvana fan, regardless of what anyone thinks of them. It’s been 20 years since Kurt’s gone, and I can only imagine what would have come next. I would love to find this on RSD for sentimental reasons.
Joy Division – An Ideal For Living
Super excited about this one. I’ve been an enormous Joy Division fan for as long as I can remember. This is the vinyl release of their debut EP.
(In my mind DJ is the antidisestablishmentarian of musical appreciation. I have no idea how that applies to music but it just sound right. His picks are typically off most radars, but they should be on yours.)
Gonga – Black Sabbeth
I first heard of Gonga from an Aquarius Records description, where they were compared to the Melvins. I get more of a Kyuss vibe from them, which is never a bad thing. Anyway, Gonga covers Black Sabbath’s titular song with Beth Gibbons from Portishead on vocals, hence the misspelling of the name. There’s not much more to say. The Cardigans have covered Sabbath and I liked it. I’ve got high hopes for this one.
Cave In – Jupiter
My list includes a lot of stuff that I already own, mostly on other formats. I already have a copy of this on vinyl and cd, but one of the issues with the album has always been the mix – the bass is buried. The good news is that it’s been remixed by James Plotkin of Phantomsmasher, Khanate, and OLD fame. The story of this albums is essentially “a teenaged metal band from Boston matured a bit and released some Floyd homage”, I still like this thing a lot.
Sacrifice Poles – s/t
The brother from another mother, essentially outtake jams from the Jupiter recording sessions, Sacrifice Poles is Cave In sans vocals. I remember listening to this album a lot as a freshman in college in the darkroom. As with Jupiter, this guy will also be getting remastered by Plotkin. It’s also the first time that it will be available on vinyl. Of the records I’m looking for, this is the one I’ll probably have to end up finding online.
Pantera/Poison Idea – The Badge
Pantera covered this Poison Idea song for the Crow Soundtrack. They did a great job with an already great song. It can’t hurt to own both versions on one record, right?
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Hey Joe
I like Charlotte Gainsbourg, I like Beck, I like the song Hey Joe, and I like Sebastien. Hard to go wrong with this, except that it’s $13 for a 7” – which is just dumb.