“In My Mind and In My Car”

“And now we meet in an abandoned studio

We hear the playback and it seems so long ago

And you remember the jingles used to go…”

The above quote is from a song by a group from the UK called “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.  This particular line is from about the 1:04 second mark in the 3:20 minute song.  Maybe some of you are familiar with it.  Somehow, I doubt it.  It was a hit in the UK in 1979, but got very little airplay in the US until 1981 when it was the first video on MTV.  Some of you may recall that, I’d still be a bit surprised.  

I was in my freshman year of college.  Most of this audience was into their adult lives by then.  There is not much of a need to look backward into what the kids are doing.  I know I don’t do it now.  

This song wasn’t the sort of a tune that am 18 year old guy would claim, but it was catchy.  You couldn’t help but memorize at least part of the lyrics.  You were bound to hear it often.  “In my mind and in my car.”  It was one of those songs that was going to be played often. 

For those kids who “read too much into things”, it had some curious lyrics.  It sparked the imagination, though there was no easy way to discover just what an artist meant by his curious titles or literary allusions.  English majors thought about things like those.  “In my mind and in my car.”  Whatever that is, it certainly had something to do with individuality, perhaps even isolation.  

As it turns out, the song was written about an opera singer, “the radio star”.  

“I heard you on the wireless back in ‘52

Lying awake intently tuning in on you

If I was young it didn’t stop you coming through…”

The lead singer sings in a voice, and with a style that mimics radio broadcasts from the 1930s.  It has a unique sound, if not a bit campy.  It has a silliness about it, and the video is like a time capsule from the early 1980s, with all of its shiny, plastic-y, assertive newness.  The image, though, belies an intriguing story and message.  The message is about technology, change, obsolescence, and alienation.  

“They took the credit for your second symphony

Rewritten by machine on new technology

And now I understand the problems you could see…”

Change.  It’s big.  The change I am referring to here is the concept of change, and the effect.  We surround it and we are surrounded by it.  Depending on one’s placement, change is either favorable, unfavorable, or barely noticed.  Like it or not, we do eventually all have to deal with it.  

One of the cool things about change, as I see it, is how things like art, music and literature can affect you in different ways with time as a factor.  In scientific terms it is referred to as the delta.  Maybe that is more mathematical than scientific…perhaps both, but you get my drift.  The experience on day 1 versus the experience on day 14,965, can reveal things not seen at the beginning.  This does involve some thinking, and I know some are opposed to that, but it reveals something about that too.  Who doesn’t want change?

“Video killed the radio star

Video killed the radio star

Pictures came and broke your heart…”

As I mentioned earlier, this was the first video played on MTV.  I suppose they felt it was appropriate as an introduction of a new medium in the music business.  MTV’s use of the lyrics, along with the timing of the new kid on the pop music block change a way to look at a song that was originally about the change from radio to television, and an opera singer.  The interpretation of art made a new thing.  It is the change in experience and context, the delta, that made that possible…and thinking, of course.  

“And now we meet in an abandoned studio

We hear the playback and it seems so long ago

And you remember the jingles used to go

You were the first one

You were the last one…”

And while I listened to this song years ago, over and over, “in my mind and in my car…”, this portion was uniquely interesting.  “You were the first one.  You were the last one.”  Does that mean anything to anyone?  I know the song is about an opera singer, and technology, and change, and alienation, but there have been more than one opera singer.  1979 was not the beginning and the end of opera singers.  The alpha and the omega.  That’s easily a Jesus reference, even if just for fun.  (You know, if you find thinking fun). 

So, who is meeting in an abandoned studio?  Did the song writer meet an opera singer in an abandoned studio?  Perhaps.  My imagination says this is Pontius Pilate talking to Jesus about who he is.  This, according to my professors, is supposed to be the quintessential existential moment in history.  “Video killed the radio star”, hmmm.  “Pictures came and broke your heart…”, hmmm.  

We all know how that trial went for Jesus.  Pilate asked him if he was God.  Jesus said, “I am who you say I am…”, whatever that meant.  It could mean many things.  I suspect it meant one thing to Pilate, and another thing to Jesus.  I also think Jesus was well aware of what it meant to Pilate.  That is what made it dangerous for Jesus.  Pilate famously “washed his hands” of it. “Put the blame on VCR”. He declared that Jesus had chosen his own fate.  That is what I find valuable about Jesus’s choice.  He stood on principle at the cost of his life.  

That meeting in the “abandoned studio” between Pilate and Jesus was part of that clash of the past with the present/future.  It involved the alienation from the group, and the struggle with individuality.  And perhaps most importantly, it involved what the power in Pilate perceived as a threat from power, and power concedes nothing.  Jesus hewed to the principles of justice and authenticity.  He essentially said, I am the person you seek.  Define me as you wish.  

I don’t have much time for the hocus pocus in the story of Jesus.  Many, perhaps most consider what I refer to as the hocus pocus as the most important part.  They would be the religious.  In so doing, I think they miss the real heroic aspect of Jesus in the way he stood for truth, and then died a real death for it.  The value of that act is in knowing that death is permanent.  That is my view.  

“In my mind and in my car

We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far

Pictures came and broke your heart

Put the blame on VCR…”

It is a bit of a silly song when you hear it.

But, it can be fascinating…if you think about it.