Top Ten Songs About Radio

So here we are in the middle of the summer radio dulldrums. All the bands are full of the usual summertime hiss, pops, and static crashes that push us out of the radio room and into this strange dimension some refer to as “real life”. To ease this transition, and to help limit your radio withrdawl, I’ve compiled a list of 10 radio songs to listen to while the latest batch of thunderstorms roll through. With a little luck, you’ll be able to reconnect those antennas in no time.

Honorable mentios: On the Radio, Donna Summer. Ah, disco. I remember you well. Not fondly mind you, but I will admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Donna Summer. her amazing voice brings a level of heart-felt sincerity to the story of a lost love found, thanks to the radio. Rest in peace, Ms. Summer. You are missed.

Radio Free Europe, REM. Back when I was a teenager, I couldn’t understand a word that Michael Stipe was singing, but I was POSITIVE it was nothing short of brilliant. Now, thanks to the internet, I can read the lyrics to this song and know that I have no idea what in the world he is trying to say. This song could reallty be about pure bred show cats for all I can tell, but it doesn’t matter. I still love this song.

10. This Is Radio Clash, The Clash. It may not be my favorite Clash song, but it’s certainly worthy of inclusion on this list. In a way, its opening lines are the blueprint for the modern day pirate radio movement:

This is radio clash from pirate satellite    Orbiting your living room, cashing in the bill of rights

Interrupting all programmes indeed!

9. Turn Your Radio On, Rose Maddox. When you think about it, this song really expresses just what a revolution radio broadcasting must have been in the early part of the last century. This song, which is almost as old as radio itself, shows the power of mass media for a world that had never experienced anything like this before.

8. Pirate Radio, John Hiatt. After years of writing brilliant songs for others but never receiving the acclaim he deserves, I suppose John Hiatt has a right to be disillusioned with mainstream radio. If you’ve ever heard a pirate play your favorite song, you can certainly identify with this one.

7. Radio Waves, Roger Waters. Ok, so the premise of a quadraplegic who hears radio waves in his head and starts World War III is a little out there. So what? Even with its somewhat dated sounding production, it’s stil la great song. Besides, it’s Roger Waters. He can do whatever he wants.

6. Radio GaGa, Queen. A great, nostalgic look back at how influential radio could be on us when we were young, and a foretelling of the corporate mergers that would rob the broadcast bands of individuality. Let’s hope they’re right when they say we’ve have yet to see radio’s finest hour.

5. The Spirit of Radio, Rush. Disillusionment with commercial radio seems to be a recurring theme in this list, and Rush’s Spirit of Radio is no exception. While rush never struck me as a band that ever sold out to commercial whims, the pressure to do so from labels and others had to be immense. Thanks for sticking to your guns, guys, and for bringing us a gem like this.

4. Transmission, Joy Division. Leave it to joy Division to find the dark side of things. While other songs in this list show how radio can make our lives better, Joy Division shows how it can leave us alone and alienated. Maybe this real life thing isn’t so overrated after all?

3. Radio, Radio. Elvis Costello. Elvis Costello’s indictment of state controlled radio in Britain may seem rather tame by today’s standards, but it was blisteringly scathing when it came out in 77. It might have had a shot at placing higher than this, but he destroys a perfectly good radio in the video. Points deducted!

2. Left of the Dial, The Replacements. Ah, my mis-spent youth. I grew up on the very outer edge of the local college radio station’s coverage area, and spent many evenings as a teenager straining to hear their low powered transmitter play music that I couldn’t hear anywhere else. No other song captures the spirit of the college radio heyday like the Replacements and Left of the Dial.

1. Rock n Roll, the Velvet Underground. Just a brilliantly simple story here really. Janie meets radio, discovers rock n roll, and has her life changed forever. You could insert just about anyone’s name into this song, mine included, and it would still apply.

Despite all the computations, you know you could just dance to the rock n roll station, and it was all right.

No Lou, it was more than all right, it was perfect.

Sarah Jane and the Hallicrafters


While the summertime weather heats up, the band conditions are definitely cooling down. Aside from a few notable exceptions listed in our summertime listening guide, not much is happening on the HF bands. Solar activity has left 15, 12, and 10 quiet, while 17 and 20 sound like they’re broken. Meanwhile whatever is broadcasting on the tropical bands is buried under a layer of hiss and static crashes.

Here at HF Radio Review though, we have a plan to help heat up the ionosphere with vintage tube gear and the lovely Miss Sarah Jane. I don’t think it will help propagation any, but it should help take your mind off of things.


First Impressions: Pixel Pro-1B Magnetic Loop Antenna

rotate-loopIt’s been a pretty busy week or two at the QTH. Between the big photo shoot (more pics to come, I promise!), post-production work, a class reunion, and Stanley Cup hockey, I haven’t had nearly as much time in front of the radios as I would have liked. That changed a little yesterday though when the FedEx man dropped off my new antenna: a Pro-1B magnetic loop antenna from Pixel Technologies.

If you’re unfamiliar with magnetic loops and how they work, check out this video from Pixel technologies on how they work, and why you might want one if you live in a noisy urban environment. I am fortunate though in that I live in a small town, and don’t have a lot of noise sources to contend with. For me, the big attraction is directionality. With a cheap TV antenna rotor, I have a rotatable, bi-directional antenna that requires very little in the way of a footprint or or support. In my case, this antenna is basically mounted to the corner of a chain link fence about 10 feet off of the ground. No guy wires needed, just some pipe clamps and a few cable ties.

I’ve only had a chance to play with this antenna for a couple of hours, but so far I am very impressed, and somewhat surprised by the results. I was not expecting the signals to be as strong as they are using this loop. in fact, the signal level is almost identical when compared to my long wire. I was also somewhat concerned by the antenna’s proximity to the chain link fence, and whether or not it would adversely affect the directional performance of the loop. I’m happy to report that is not the case at all. While I suppose performance could be even better if it was in a more isolated location, this antenna is capable of reducing the signal of WHO, my local 50 KW flame thrower,  by about 30 dB. Other experiments, which I tried to commit to video, show how this antenna can be used to null out a local ‘graveyard’ station KASI on 1430, reduce the signal of Radio Nacional da Amazonia on 11780, or separate Cuba from Radio Australia on 6150.

All in all, I’d say this antenna has made a heck of a first impression. It not only holds its own on signal strength with my long wire, it gives me an element of directionality I didn’t have before. All in all, I’m looking forward to having this antenna in my DXing arsenal.



Radio Pinup Shoot

It’s tough work, but someone’s gotta do it.

A few weeks ago, I got a message from a young woman on ModelMayhem wanting to work with me on some photos. Well, being a red blooded American male photographer of sound mind and body, I quickly agreed, and suggested we do a shoot around, what else, old radios. She liked the idea, so we met up earlier this week and took a lot of pics. I am not done with the whole post-processing routine just yet, but here’s a taste of what’s to come.

Sarah Jane and a hallicrafters SX-62a

Stay tuned for more.