Friday, July 04, 2008

Video Killed the Radio Star / Radio Ga Ga

The song Video Killed the Radio Star from the band Buggles, recorded in 1979, was both nostalgic and prophetic at the same time. The video for the song was the first video ever shown on MTV when the station launched on August 1, 1981.

The song was nostalgic in the sense that it looked back upon the days when radio ruled the world, with its soap operas, game shows, dramas and comedy shows... but then TV came on the scene, and video "killed" many of those who had become stars through radio.

And yet the song was prophetic in the sense that the video music era that would be ushered in by MTV (Music Television - back when the cable TV station actually played videos round the clock) changed the whole landscape of popular music. The music "radio stars" of the 60's and 70's who had become popular through radio airplay would soon be replaced by those who had the best visual effects in their music videos.

The song Radio Ga Ga by Queen had a somewhat similar nostalgic aspect to it, looking back on the good ol' days of radio. The theme of the song was not necessarily as prophetic as Video Killed the Radio Star, but rather hopeful in saying that radio was yet to have "its finest hour."

I think my favorite part of the song is this:

Let's hope you never leave old friend
Like all good things on you we depend
So stick around cos we might miss you
When we grow tired of all this visual
You had your time, you had the power
You've yet to have your finest hour

If you know me by now, you know I'm not bringing all of this up simply to make a case about radio vs. video. :) I do enjoy these songs exactly as they are - after all, I grew up with them and I simply dig the music (and videos)! - and yet I also see some metaphors and symbolism that can be applied to the difference between the church as we know it today (that I think has gone off course), and how it's perhaps meant to be.

In simple terms, as I listen to these songs and follow along with the symbolism, I see "radio" as the way church (life in Christ) was meant to be and "video" as the way church has lost its original intent and meaning. Church as it was meant to be - again, in simplistic terms - was people knowing Jesus and being known by Him, and helping one another to grow close to Him and helping one another with the various needs of life. But what it has become is principles, programs, buildings, projects, sermons, morality lessons, attractions, visuals, social clubs, political bases... and so on and so on... you get the point.

I report, you decide. Maybe you have a different take. If nothing else, enjoy the videos!

Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star

Queen - Radio Ga Ga


  1. Joel--

    I think your analogy works well.

    Several years ago, after we had left a legalistic church, we found a wonderful little church that was everything we longed for: people who openly loved God, loved us, and who were willing to be vulnerable. Simple sharing and caring, encouraging one another in the grace of God in Christ.

    Humanly speaking, that little church had nothing: no big attendance, a tiny run-down building, and a shoe-string budget.

    Over time, attendance grew, giving increased, and a new facility built. Nothing wrong with any of that. But almost immediately, upon entering that new building, things changed. The new atmosphere 'required' a more 'polished' image in every area. Suits and ties replaced polo shirts and khakis. More structure, less 'folksy' participation from the people, and more control from the leadership. Lots of focus on 'outreach' and a general frowning on the 'airing of dirty laundry' by hurting members. There were budgets, programs and ministires to keep up. The 'church' was no longer there to meet the needs of the people, but the people were there to meet the neds of the 'church'.

    We have since left that church, but remain close friends with a few people who were there from the beginning. Without exception, all of us miss the 'old days'. Any of us would trade the new 'video' age for good old 'radio'.

    My teenage son, a musician, calls American Idol, "the beauty pageant". While those contestants obviously have talent, my son is astute enough to know that without a certain look, it doesn't matter how talented they are. I fear that our churches have become their own little beauty pageants, and in the process, have also become our own American Idols.

    Kathy J

  2. Kathy,

    Your experience in the church that started out simple, and then "grew" in several ways (and as you say, nothing wrong with that), but became more focused on having a polished image and all that other stuff, is a great example of what I'm getting at here. Not that I rejoice in finding great examples of bad things, of course. :) I just think that the whole 'polished' experience in churches today has caused people to lose focus on what it's really about.

    I think your son is right on about American Idol. It's true of the whole music industry, even the Christian music industry... and as you say, it's what's become of many, many churches. It's become a beauty pageant, focused so much on the outward appearance but with very little substance on the inside.