Hans Zimmer's Video Killed The Radio Star cameo created MTV history

Kim Schewitz January 9, 2023
Hans Zimmer's Video Killed The Radio Star cameo created MTV history
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hans Zimmer’s feature on CBS’s 60 Minutes yesterday (January 8, 2023) reminded audiences of the composer’s appearance in Video Killed The Radio Star, a music video that made MTV history.

The man responsible for musical scores The Lion King and The Dark Knight trilogy among so many others spoke to CBS’s Lesley Stahl about scoring movies, his career, and early life as he was forced to play second fiddle to an interview with Prince Harry.

Zimmer is a household name with two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, but he had to start his career somewhere.

We take a look at how Hans Zimmer ended up in The Buggles’ era-defining Video Killed The Radio Star music video.

Photo by Frank Hoensch/Getty Images

Video Killed The Radio Star was first video to air on MTV 

On October 20, 1979 The Buggles’ debut single moved to the top of the UK charts. Video Killed The Radio Star was one of the biggest hits of 1979.

The hit song’s video was the first ever to be aired on MTV in 1981, CBS reports. The video, which today has 49 million views on YouTube, was shot in south London in just one day.

Video Killed The Radio Star reflects the New Wave/synth-pop group’s late Seventies aesthetic with retro radios becoming blocky television screens to represent society’s transition to digital life.

According to SongFacts: “The girl who plays the Stargirl-like character was a friend of director Russell Mulcahy.” The website states the scene where Stargirl is lowered into the test tube took about 30 takes but the wrong take was used in the final cut. If you look closely you can see the tube falling over, which wasn’t supposed to happen.

Hans Zimmer worked with The Buggles in his early days 

As a teenager, German-born Hans Zimmer moved to London and, at the beginning of his career, worked with newly formed band The Buggles.

Zimmer played the synthesizer on the band’s first album The Age Of Plastic. He appears in the last 30 seconds of the video dressed in black. Watch his cameo below at 2 minutes 50 seconds:

After working with The Buggles, Zimmer joined Italian group Krisma, a new wave band formed in 1976 by Maurizio Arcieri and Christina Moser. 

From there he went on to write advertising jingles for Air Edel Associates before partnering with prolific film composer Stanley Myers in the Eighties to found London-based Lillie Yard recording studio.

It was then he started to score soundtracks for low-budget films such as Moonlighting (1982), Success Is The Best Revenge (1984), Insignificance (1985), and My Beautiful Laundrette (1985).

Who were The Buggles? 

In 1977, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes formed electro-pop duo The Buggles in London. The group is best-known for Video Killed The Radio Star, which hit number one in 16 countries.

As per Spotify, soon after the album’s release Horn and Downes joined prog rock band Yes, with whom they recorded and released the album Drama. Following a tour to promote the album, Yes disbanded in 1981.

The following year, The Buggles released a second album, Adventures In Modern Recording. However, its lack of commercial success led to the group splitting up.

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Kim Schewitz is a London-based staff writer at The Focus and HITC. She is a gold-standard NCTJ-qualified journalist with a passion for pop culture, politics, feminism, and trends. She has previously written for publications including The i paper and Glamour UK and previously worked in local news. Kim graduated from the University of Bristol in 2020 with a first-class degree in French and Spanish. She is passionate about modern languages and has spent time living in Paris and Barcelona.