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Living in the Plastic Age

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

"Living in the Plastic Age"
Single by The Buggles
from the album The Age of Plastic
Released14 January 1980
GenreNew wave, synthpop
Songwriter(s)Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes
Producer(s)The Buggles
The Buggles singles chronology
"Video Killed the Radio Star"
"Living in the Plastic Age"
"Clean Clean"
The Age of Plastic track listing
  1. "Living in the Plastic Age"
  2. "Video Killed the Radio Star"
  3. "Kid Dynamo"
  4. "I Love You (Miss Robot)"
  5. "Clean, Clean"
  6. "Elstree"
  7. "Astroboy (And the Proles on Parade)"
  8. "Johnny on the Monorail"
Audio sample

The B-side of the single, "Island" was written as a 'Thank You' to their record company, Island Records.

Background and compositionEdit

The lyrics of "The Plastic Age" comment on the coldness of the culture of plastic technology in the 1970s.[1] The song is 5 minutes and 8 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 piano, synthpop 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 an 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]

A 2011 Japanese re-issue of The Age of Plastic album features the longer version as on the original vinyl album and also includes the shorter "single version" as a bonus track.[10]

Commercial performanceEdit

"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.[11]

Critical receptionEdit

Critical reactions to the songs have been positive.


In its 1980 review, Smash Hits listed the song as one of the best tracks on parent album "The Age of Plastic", alongside "Video Killed the Radio Star".[12]


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] 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."[13] 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.[14] In an Allmusic review of the album, the song was rated an AMG pick track.[15]

Music videoEdit

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 motifs (women in body paint portraying inanimate objects). Fine Print Magazine found the video to be unmemorable.[16]

The band also recorded a mimed performance of the song for Top of the Pops, originally broadcast on 24 January 1980.[17]


Will Harris of PopMatters said, in a 2003 review of Supertramp's album Breakfast in America, that the song "Living in the Plastic Age” might've had a keyboard bit cribbed from "Fool's Overture".[18]

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.[19]

French Extreme Metal band Carnival in Coal covered this song for their 2005 album Collection Prestige.[20]

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. With the exception of "The Plastic Age" and "Video Killed the Radio Star", "The Lost Gig" saw the first live performances of all songs from The Age of Plastic.[21][22]

Chart positionsEdit

Chart (1980) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[23] 17
France (SNEP)[24] 3
Germany (Official German Charts)[25] 29
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[26] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[27] 29
Spain (AFYVE)[28] 18
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[29] 16


  1. ^ The Buggles - The Age of Plastic. Accessed from May 12, 2013.
  2. ^ Buggles, The - The Age Of Plastic. Accessed from 10 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b "The Buggles - Don Ignacio's Music Reviews". Retrieved 2013-05-10.
  4. ^ Peel, Ian (March 2005).Trevor Horn. Sound on Sound. Accessed from 22 May 2013.
  5. ^ Buggles, The – The Plastic Age (7" Vinyl). Accessed from 25 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b Buggles, The – The Plastic Age "La Edad Del Plastico". Accessed from 25 May 2013.
  7. ^ Buggles - The Plastic Age (7" vinyl). Accessed from 25 May 2013.
  8. ^ Buggles, The - The Plastic Age (7" vinyl). Accessed from 25 May 2013.
  9. ^ Buggles, The - Living in the Plastic Age. Accessed from 25 May 2013.
  10. ^ Buggles - The Age of Plastic, Japan 2011. Accessed 9 Feb 2015.
  11. ^ Annuel Top 1980. Accessed on 11 August 2013.
  12. ^ Smash Hits. Volume 31. February 7, 1980. p. 31.
  13. ^ Vincent L. (December 7, 2003). Buggles - The Age of Plastic (In French). Krinein Magazine. Accessed from 20 April 2013.
  14. ^ Baker, Nicholas. The Age of Plastic: The Buggles Archived 2014-02-24 at the Wayback Machine. Napster. Accessed from 28 April 2013.
  15. ^ Montesano, Jeri. The Age of Plastic - Buggles. Allmusic. Accessed from May 16, 2013.
  16. ^ Freitag, Paul (April 8, 2012). The Buggles – Living in the Plastic Age. Fine Print Magazine. Accessed from May 18, 2013.
  17. ^ BBC Top of the Pops official website
  18. ^ Harris, Will (10 February 2003). Supertramp: Crime of the Century / Crisis? What Crisis? / Even in the Quietest Moments / Breakfast. PopMatters. Accessed from 23 May 2013.
  19. ^ A concert for The Prince’s Trust Archived 2010-04-21 at the Wayback Machine. 16 July 2004. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
  20. ^ Carnival In Coal - Living In The Plastic Age (Buggles Cover) on YouTube
  21. ^ "Buggles All Around". Mojo (205): 15. December 2010.
  22. ^ Petridis, Alexis (29 September 2010). "Buggles: The Lost Gig". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  23. ^ " – The Buggles – The Plastic Age" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
  24. ^ Infobox : Tout les Titre par Artiste (B) Archived 2013-09-20 at the Wayback Machine. In the box under Ou Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste & Appuyez sur OK : select BUGGLES. Then click OK. Accessed on 22 July 2013.
  25. ^ " – The Buggles Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  26. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Buggles" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  27. ^ " – The Buggles – The Plastic Age" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  28. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  29. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 10 May 2013.

External linksEdit