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.