music: Trevor Horn and the Buggles in 1979

I revere producers as much as musicians and songwriters. I was dimly aware of producers, starting with the mysterious “produced by Bones Howe” in big letters on the back of some record… I thought it was the Carpenters but now I can’t find it. What really piqued my interest was Chic’s in-your-face credit on most of their early albums:

Composed, produced, arranged, conducted, and performed by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards for the CHIC Organization, Ltd.

and then following all the records Chic and Nile and ‘Nard produced. It’s a joy to revisit a classic song, check the credits, and realize “Wait, that’s yet another great song produced by…” such as unheralded Alan Tarney (who liked his own song “Once in a While” so much he produced it on two different records) or the almighty Arif Mardin. Then you can lose yourself in Wikipedia and Discogs finding all their production credits.

And so to Trevor Horn, the bass player, singer, video (killed the radio) star, and maximalist producer. As a producer he’s probably most famous for his work with Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984 strikes again!), and my favorite, his spectacular production for ABC’s The Lexicon of Love (when producer full of ideas meets hungry band really going for it, and the magic happens). The guitars on the latter sound 10 feet tall on a great stereo.

But there’s a lot of prehistory to Trevor Horn. Listening to the deluxe reissue of the legendary Dusty in Memphis by the great British pop-soul singer Dusty Springfield reminded me of her unexpectedly solid dance single that I bought on vinyl years ago… turns out it was written by Trevor Horn, his partner in Buggles Geoff Downes, and Bruce Woolley.

1979 was certainly Buggles’ annus mirabilis. They also made the “Caribbean Air Control” single as Big A, made the impressively weird space disco-pop “Star to Star” album as Chrome, then released “Video Killed the Radio Star” first by Bruce Wooley & the Camera Club and then it broke big as Buggles. Then only 10 days into 1980 Buggles released “The Age of Plastic” album. That’s quite something, it’s about as productive as Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards of Chic were at the same time.

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