I got a nice note the other day about my new book on radio from David Harris, who is a volunteer presenter at The Flash community radio signal, based in the town of Havant, near Portsmouth on the south coast of England. Harris is reviewing my book for Radio User magazine, a United Kingdom journal. The Flash plays classic rock from 1960 through 1999, plus blues and music by aspiring local bands. The outlet successfully applied for that opportunity for local stations to broadcast via a less expensive version of Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB), and is participating in the “small scale DAB” experiment.
The first chapter of my book is titled “Songs About Radio,” and so Harris sent me his list of favorite radio themed songs. A lot of these tunes never made the songs about radio playlists we posted here some years ago, so I’m glad he contacted us.
Here is David’s list:
1. FM – Steely Dan (4’50”) Track 1
Single released in 1978 and included on various Steely Dan compilation albums. This song was featured on the soundtrack of the long forgotten film, FM. The film is about FM radio in America which in the 1970’s concentrated upon playing tracks from rock albums rather than 3 minute pop singles. What a pity we never had such stations in the UK in those days.
2. London Calling – The Clash (3’20”) Track 1
(1979 single and title track of the album). This song is about a radio announcer setting out an apocalyptic vision of a post nuclear future. I “London Calling” was how the BBC World Service used to announce itself.
3. W.O.L.D – Harry Chapin (5’10”) (Track 3)
A minor hit in 1974. Chapin is not very well known, he died in 1981, but this track is well worth seeking out. It tells the story of a late night radio presenter.
4. All over the World – ELO (4’03”) Track 12
1980 single and on various ELO Greatest hits compilations. I thought this song captured the spirit of radio as it is a medium which is truly heard all over the world.
5. You turn me on I’m a radio – Joni Mitchell (2’40”) Track 9
From the 1972 album For the Roses. I am a big Joni Mitchell fan but would agree that she is an acquired taste. The lyrics are very poetic, copyright laws prevent me printing them here but well worth getting the album. In fact most of her albums from the 1970s are excellent.
6. The Nightfly – Donald Fagen (5’45”) Track 6
Title track from the 1982 album. Fagen was one half of Steely Dan and this is a beautifully crafted song about a night time radio presenter on the fictional jazz station WJAZ.
7. Song on the Radio – Al Stewart (6’16”) Track 9
From the 1978 album Time Passages. Al is another of my favourite artists. All of his albums from the 60’s and 70’s are worth checking out. This track has a great saxophone accompaniment.
8. Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman (5’00”) Track 18
(1976 single and various compilations) A great road record with a wonderful chorus of “Radio On”. Live version from the 1990’s.
9. Tuned into You – Georgie Fame (3’37”) Track 1
From the 2000 album Poet in New York). This is a jazz tinged album featuring Fame on vocals. This song has a great line about being moved by the music played by American Forces Network (AFN)
10. Do you remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio? – The Ramones (3’45”) Track 16
(From the 1980 album End of the Century). The Ramones songs are all rather similar and benefit from being fairly short. This is a stomping anthem with a great beginning featuring a radio dial being tuned through various stations.
11. Radio Free Europe – REM (4’03”) Track 2
Single released in 1981 and it is on the 1983 album Murmur. I chose this as it is the only song I could find which actually namechecks a shortwave radio station. Radio Free Europe used to broadcast to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe on SW but now is on FM in many countries and online.
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