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"Living in the Plastic Age" (on some releases simply listed as "The Plastic Age") is a synthpop song by The Buggles recorded in 1979 and released as the second single from their debut album The Age of Plastic on 14 January 1980.


Background and composition[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The lyrics of "The Plastic Age" comment on the coldness of the culture of plastic technology in the 1980s.[1] The song is 5 minutes and 10 seconds long, and is played at a tempo of 140 beats per minute.[2] The song begins with sounds of telephones ringing, and brief, garbled yells, before a pianosynthpop bass and drumbeat start the song. There are also vocals that build up each chorus of the song.[3]

Trevor Horn remembers about the song:

"Listening back to the piano, bass and drums tracks was extraordinary. Paul Robinson played the drums on 'Video Killed The Radio Star' and Richard Burgess played the drums on 'Living In The Plastic Age', and I do remember that by the time we'd finished playing 'Living In The Plastic Age' Richard Burgess was pale! He was so worn out because we insisted that it sound perfect and that he played it perfectly. And the funny thing is that when you listen to it, it sounds like a drum machine. Both tracks sound like drum machines because at the time we were so manic about them having that spot-on perfect techno feel, not some sort of bullshit Elton John groovy album feel."[4]

The 7" vinyl UK and Spanish version of the single included both the album version of the song on its A-side and the song "Island" on its B-side.[5][6] In Spain, the song was released as "La Edad Del Plastico".[6] The single's French and Netherlands 7" vinyl release included a edit version of the song on their A-side, but the song "Island" was still on the B-side of both those releases.[7][8] The Canadian release of the 7" vinyl included the edit of the song on the A-side, but, instead of "Island", the song "Johnny on the Monorail" was included on the B-side.[9]

Commercial performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Living in the Plastic Age" received chart performance on the UK Singles Chart, German Media Control Charts, the Dutch Top 100 and Top 40, in Wallonia and in France. The song was the forty-fifth best-selling song of 1980 in France, with sales of under 350,000 units.[10]

Critical reception[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Critical reactions to the songs have been positive. Don Ignacio, in a review of The Age of Plastic, gave the song an A+, and considered the song to be a highlight of the album.[3] Smash Hits listed the song in a review of The Age of Plastic as one of the best tracks of the album, along with "Video Killed the Radio Star".[11] Krinein Magazine wrote that songs from the album, "The Plastic Age", "Kid Dynamo", "Elstree", and "Johnny On The Monorail", were "equally effective in their melodies, rhythms and harmonies."[12] Napster's Nicholas Baker said of "The Plastic Age" as one of the songs from the album that Trevor Horn's "considerable songwriting prowess" was evident in.[13] In a Allmusic review of the album, the song was rated an AMG pick track.[14]

Music video[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The Buggles also created an unusual, futuristic and illusion-like music video for the song. The video, directed by Russell Mulcahy, was only rarely shown on music channels but VH1 Classic occasionally airs the video. The music video for "Living in the Plastic Age" employed bright colours, harsh source lighting, lots of color keying, and provocative motiffs (women in body paint portraying inanimate objects). Fine Print Magazine found the video to be unmemorable.[15]

Legacy[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Will Harris of PopMatters said, in a 2003 review of Supertramp's album Breakfast in America, that the song "Fool's Overture" might've had a keyboard bit cribbed from “Living in the Plastic Age”.[16]

In 2004, The Buggles reunited (including Debi Doss, Linda Allen and Bruce Wooley) at Wembley Arena to perform "Video Killed the Radio Star" and "The Plastic Age" in front of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales as part of a Prince's Trust charity concert celebrating Horn's career as a producer.[17]

French Extreme Metal band Carnival in Coal covered this song for their 2005 album Collection Prestige.[18]

The song was performed at a September 2010 Buggles reunion performance, billed as "The Lost Gig", that took place at "Ladbroke Grove's Supperclub", Notting Hill, London. It was a fund raiser with all earnings going to the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability. "The Lost Gig" saw the first live performances of all songs from The Age of Plastic, with the exception of "The Plastic Age" and "Video Killed the Radio Star".[19][20]

Chart positions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1980) Peak

position

UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[21] 16
Germany (Media Control AG)[22] 29
France (SNEP)[23] 3
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[24] 29
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[25] 2
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[26] 17
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