The Plastic Age page
(It’s non returnable, so you’re stuck with it. We’re stuck with JOHN SHEARLAW who wrote it.)
LAST YEAR’S apparently disposable wares inevitably become this year’s most indispensable artefacts.
And like recycled car bodies and the single you were playing when Brenda threw you over for the big bloke with the Cortina, they return to bring new meaning into the most mundane of lives.
Their instant success neatly dissected, they skilfully rode their wave of 15 minutes of fame. Retreated, then bounced back to show it all did mean something after all.
The result was a second hit, an album, efficient management from the Yes manager Brian Lane and —
Buggles, blond Geoff Downes and bespectacled Trevor Horn have gratefully slid away from last year’s hard sell line. We’re new! We’re excitingly different! We’re 100 per cent plastic!
And they’re now keen to deny the previous impression —
“You can be really confident about your own music, especially working the way we work,” says Trevor. “But that doesn’t mean you’re confident that it will be ‘a hit’. As a matter of fact I’m still surprised, not just about the hit, but about the whole process behind it.
“Today is the first day for about a month, for instance, that I’ve been feeling reasonably normal —
“How can you be confident with all that to cope with?”
Likeable, and only mildly malicious as they seem to be, it’s very easy to believe in the oft-duty Buggles. The reluctant pop stars.
“I’d find it very dull to sit down and work out a line to feed to people,” says Geoff. “Something like ‘We’re plastic people! We’re the sound of the eighties!’
“Yet that’s the line we seem to get put on us all the time.
Even the headlines?
Trevor: “You mean: ‘Tell me Beagles, it is Beagles isn’t it, yes I see, is techno-pop really here to stay?’ What can you do? We groan and fall on the floor every time we hear it.
“It seems that I’ve spent three years in abject poverty, and all I wanted to do was make records in my own name. And when it happens you’re too busy in the studio to really know what’s going on.”
If anything Geoff Downes is even more bewildered.
“As a freelance, which I was for years, there wasn’t a single thing about being a number one artist that I thought I didn’t know. Then when it happened I didn’t expect any of it.
“Not TV, not interviews, not (dramatic pause) ‘Top Of The Pops’! No amount of telling can explain what it’s like when it happens to you. It ceases to become a bystander’s experience.”
There’s another pause before Geoff delivers his killer line. Deadpan.
“I didn’t know what it was like to be in a pop group… but I’m learning.”
So the fun really has started in earnest. Buggles are now becoming an established pop group with two hits and what must be taken to be a somewhat excellent, thoughtful debut album.
For a week in January, that album was nearly banned, removed from the shops and otherwise prevented from making an orderly progression up the charts. In what turned out to be the least memorable non-court case of the year “various persons” (and not one Bruce Woolley, who is fully credited on the album) were attempting to sue Buggles, claiming that they’d played on the album and hadn’t been credited.
“The whole situation just seemed to be ridiculous and it didn’t help that we were either in the studio or stuck halfway up some mountain in France taking photographs when it happened.” says Geoff. “It was like a new game —
“And nearly every week there was someone coming out with ridiculous lines like ‘I’m the real sound of Buggles’. We had this great idea for a party, where we were going to invite everyone along and tell them to arrive bearing writs and see lust how many turned up!”
In the end, the principal case —
“We had tunnel vision for six months,” Geoff admits “We couldn’t possibly know what was going to happen until we came out of that.”
“I’ve had the hardest six months’ work in my life.” says Trevor and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next six months are just as hard. It’s been like working through various layers of despair, trying everything, throwing it away and trying it all again.
“We don’t want tags to live up to, but neither do I want to be misunderstood. And it’s happening all the time.”
There seems to be just the smallest element of depression evident in the Buggles’ camp, principally concerning the music scene. Trevor admits that Public Image Limited baffle him, that the sheer volume of singles being released each week is “often a waste of vinyl”, and —
Buggles, naturally enough, can —
“Buggles started out as a reaction against some of the more mindless elements in pop —
“Now we’re battling away in the market place with all of them, and we just have to be good.
“If we were dirty old men in it for the cash we wouldn’t take as much care as we do. Or maybe we’re just learning!”