Friday on My Mind: Radio!

pulling tunes / photo by Christopher Nelson

It’s time again for Friday on My Mind the weekly collaborative effort between KEXP and King 5 news where we take a look at videos centered around one common theme. Our Fall Donor Drive gets going today so we’re looking at songs about radio.

Radio, the glorious old fashioned way to get information from one place to another. While advances in technology allow for many ways to broadcast, radio is still the most popular medium for local communities to get music and information… unless your dial has been totally bought up by giant corporations that suck the life and soul out of our little boxes and destroy any hope of there being any freedom of expression on the air. Yeah, radio! Luckily KEXP and many other great non-profits are in Seattle and thrive due to the love and support of our members. We salute you, little spirit box that brings us songs – you’re the best.

Today during Shake the Shack, KEXP will be kicking off our Fall 2012 Donor Drive at 6pm and it will run until next week at 6pm as we count down the best albums in our 40 year history!

Elvis Costello – Radio Radio

Off of the 1978 album This Year’s Model, which was the second full length release from Elvis Costello. The album was originally recorded in November 1977 and produced by Nick Lowe, but the song “Radio Radio” was initially meant to be released as a stand-alone single. “Radio Radio” is a directly stated protest song from Costello about the commercialization of radio… and remember this was in 1977 – it’s only gotten worse since then. Check the lyrics:

You either shut up or get cut up, they don’t wanna hear about it
It’s only inches on the reel-to-reel
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
Tryin’ to anaesthetise the way that you feel

The song was also immortalized during a Saturday Night Live performance by Elvis and the Attractions in December of 1977. The band had been asked to play the song Less Than Zero, which was already an established single in the States. They band went into Less than zero but was then abruptly stopped by Costello who then led them to perform Radio, Radio. The last minute switch up led to Costello being banned from performing on Saturday Night Live. The ban was eventually lifted and he was allowed to perform again 12 years later. Way to go, SNL. Really forward thinking of you. Did you not remember the Doors getting banned by Sullivan and how lame that made him look?

Joy Division – Transmission

Factory Records released the song Transmission originally as a 7” and then a year later as a 12” single.Joy Division is one of the most influential bands to arise out of the post-punk era. They were inspired by the Sex Pistols, but went on to become legends in their own right. Bassist Peter Hook will be releasing a book on October 1st called Unknown Pleasures which talks about his years in Joy Division. Hook will be touring and playing Joy Division material with his new band, The Light. The chorus “dance dance dance to the radio” still sends shivers down my spine.

Queen – Radio Ga Ga

Radio Ga Ga comes off of Queen’s 1984 record, The Works. The statement behind this song regards the overtaking of radio by television. The song references the Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of War of the Worlds and recalls the days of radio drama programming. The music video created for the song is also the best bad video ever.

Honorable Mentions:

The Clash – This Is Radio Clash

This 1980 single from The Clash was heavily influenced by the New York hip hop scene and artists such as Grandmaster Flash and the Sugarhill Gang. This is Radio Clash mixes elements of rap, reggae, and punk. Joe Strummer spits about the Clash spreading their word to the masses like that of a pirate radio station.

R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe

Taken from R.E.M.’s 1983 debut album, Murmur.

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