Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published October 19th 2021
Keeping radio alive through music
I have started appearing on local public radio reading some of my short stories for a local (and Internet) audience; because I know one of the announcers, I managed to get a monthly spot. It's fun, and I've received some positive feedback, plus it gives me something of a name in my local area to help me sell my books.
However, as was pointed out to me by my son, radio is a dying format. Podcasts, Spotify and other assorted online formats have taken over from the live radio broadcast. And that is something of a shame when it comes to the local areas, where radio is often what the people – particularly older people – prefer to listen to.
During my most recent foray onto the airwaves, the announcer played songs that actually matched the themes of some of my stories. As these things are wont to do, that got me thinking and, well, here I am, writing about songs about the radio.
Now, most of these are going to be older because, as my son already pointed out, radio just doesn't have the sort of reach it once did. Okay, unfair. I do know a lot of people who still listen to the radio, especially the modern music stations and talk-back. Still, I think the glory days are well and truly in the past. So, one song per artist, I need to like the song, out of my own music collection, usual rules.
Songs about the radio!
'Turn Up Your Radio' by Masters Apprentices (1970)
Adelaide's own Masters produced what is one of the classic songs of Australian rock, and one of the very best songs about the radio. Just great, with some wonderful guitar work, this is a glorious track. Their 1988 remake is also really good, and the 1995 version with The Hoodoo Gurus is also great. One of the best songs.
'Who Listens To The Radio?' by The Sports (1978)
An Australian band that people seem to have forgotten, and who released so many great songs and albums. This track is one of their better known, and is a great sing along song. Really good piece of rock.
'Portable Radio' by Hall And Oates (1979)
The first Hall And Oates song I ever heard, and a far rockier track than what I would come to associate with them later on, this is such a wonderful song. And that bass line! Wow! That one should have been in my bass guitar column.
'On Your Radio' by Joe Jackson (1979)
From early on in Jackson's career, this was when he was still playing straight ahead rock, and this track, about a girl hearing him on her radio, is a highlight of his second album. For what it's worth, his whole career is great, and he should be better appreciated.
'Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio' by The Ramones (1980)
A wistful look back at the radio of their youth by the band. Sorry, did I say wistful? An energetic, high-impact, Ramones look back at the radio. Borrowing elements from their 'R.A.M.O.N.E.S.' hit, it is just a great – and yet oft over-looked – Ramones track.
'On My Radio' by The Selecter (1980)
While I have said I am not a fan of reggae, I really enjoy ska music. And this song from one of the early female-led ska groups about hearing her man on the radio is just a great, boppy song. Ska is under-rated.
'The Spirit Of Radio' by Rush (1980)
This is my favourite song on this list, and I will stand by that. Rush were one of Canada's best musical exports, and this song from the frankly magnificent Permanent Waves album is an all-time classic.
'Video Killed The Radio Star' by The Buggles (1980)
The song that was the first ever video played on MTV (back when MTV actually played music) was rather prescient for the 1980s – many acts did not survive because they were not TV-friendly. And some acts did better than they should have because they looked good. But, despite that, the song itself is still so very good.
'Radio' by The Members (1982)
The radio is better than the stereo! That's what this song tries to convince you of. It's a fun song and I remember it from seeing the music video at the time it was released. The shout-along chorus also helped with people my age at the time (pre-teen) really getting into it.
'Mexican Radio' by Wall Of Voodoo (1982)
About travelling and finding a strange Mexican radio station and hearing his song on it. In the USA, this is considered Wall Of Voodoo's one hit, but in Australia they had two more, and it started here with such a great song.
'Radio Ga-Ga' by Queen (1984)
Oh, come on! Like this track was not going to be here! Queen are one of the best bands ever and this is from one my favourite albums of theirs. Reminiscing about listening to the radio as young people, it is so very good.
'Raised On Radio' by Journey (1986)
The title track from their 1986 album was a great rocker, and Steve Perry's voice just dominates it. This is one of those many tracks by popular bands that no-one remembers, which is a shame. It's great.
'Blame It On The Radio' by John Parr (1986)
He has seen a girl, doesn't know her name, wrote her number on his hand, but why does he like her so much? Is it the fault of the radio? Would kids today understand any of those references? A decent bit of 1980s pop-rock from an underrated singer.
'Radio Waves' by Roger Waters (1987)
This song and the album it comes from (Radio K.A.O.S.) are not looked back on fondly, especially with the value of hindsight, as a disabled kid hears radio waves in his head. That's what this song is about. I like it, but apparently I'm in the minority.
'Radio Wall of Sound' by Slade (1991)
One of Slade's last singles, this is a great song about, well, the sound coming out of the radio. While the glam rock stylings might have faded over time, the rock stylings were still there and this song is one of my favourites by the band.
'Heartbreak Radio' by Roy Orbison (1992)
From Orbison's post-humous album, this up-tempo track is actually depressingly about his woman having left him. It is a really good track as well; the man delivered for so many years.
'Ghost Radio' by the Brian Setzer Orchestra (1996)
Brian Setzer is one of my favourite artists. From The Stray Cats to his orchestra to his solo and duet work, he just seems to be having fun no matter what he's doing. And this track about picking up a weird radio station while travelling cross-country is just great.
'Car Radio' by Rebecca's Empire (1997) Between writing and posting, the video seems to have disappeared. Sorry.
A strange song with a really cool effects-laden guitar solo, this song about the titular car radio is a great piece of post-grunge pop-rock from Australia. It should have done better than it did at the time.
'Radio Nowhere' by Bruce Springsteen (2007)
Trying to find a radio station, to hear some music, this great latter-day track by Springsteen was one of the highlights of the Magic album, with intelligent lyrics and rocking instrumentation. I really enjoy this one.
'Revolution Radio' by Green Day (2016)
A welcome return to form, the album this was the title track of returned to some enjoyable rock from Green Day, and this is certainly one of my favourite tracks from that CD. A call to arms against the ills of the world, this is a powerful track.
Wow. 1980 was big for radio songs, huh? Then again, as the music video slowly rose to prominence, maybe it was the artists trying to keep radio relevant. Well, video hasn't killed radio, but streaming is giving it a go.
That's a shame because radio is not too bad. And I hope it lasts for a while so I can keep on appearing and talking about writing.
So, turn on your radio. Enjoy the sounds coming from the speakers. Don't let video or Spotify kill the radio stars…