"Some of my friends sit around every evening and they worry about the times ahead/But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference and the promise of an early bed/You either shut up or get cut out; 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
JOY DIVISION - "Transmission" (1979) - It is a bit of a stretch to use the word "hopeful" when describing a Joy Division song, but in this case Ian Curtis seems to find redemption through the blissful airwaves. Despite the "blind destruction" and isolation of the night there is also beauty in joyful and rapturous sound ; "No language, just sound, that's all we need know/ to synchronise love to the beat of the show/And we could dance.... to the radio". One of my all time favourite songs, forever etched into my subconscious. (Here's the video courtesy YouTube)
JURASSIC 5 - "Radio" (2007) - an old skool inspired love fest - J5 give props to all the Hip Hop pioneers they listened to on the radio growing up, and they make their own connection to the present, noting that "J5 is rockin' on the radio". This is pure nostalgia.
THE RAMONES - "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio" (1980). This Phil Spector produced track is a true classic where the Ramones pay homage to the 50's era radio songs they grew up with; "Do you remember lying in bed/With the covers pulled over your head?/Radio playin's so no one can see". The Ramones knew their musical roots, and despite their punk rock stylings they were essentially just a great rock band that took their music back to the simple essential elements. Great fun! (Here's the video courtesy of YouTube)
R.E.M. - "Radio Song" (1991) - This opening track for the Out Of Time album is one of my favourite R.E.M. tracks. It builds up gradually from Michael Stipe's opening line - "the world is collapsing around our ears", to the closing rap/rant by KRS-1; "DJs communicate to the masses/Sex and violent classes/Now our children grow up prisoners/All their lives radio listeners". Some fairly direct commentary from a band otherwise known for fairly cryptic lyrics.RUSH - "The Spirit of Radio" (1980) - This Canuck rock anthem was inspired by legendary Toronto radio station CFNY, 102.1 FM, which at that point in history was a cutting edge indie station that was playing a lot of the music you weren't hearing elsewhere on the dial. The song espouses the joy when the DJ " plays the song that's so elusive". Obviously written
before the digital era, where there aren't many songs that are so elusive anymore, often a mere download away.
PUBLIC ENEMY - "How To Kill A Radio Consultant" (1991). An all out assault on the complacent airwaves. Chuck D is pissed off at stations in black urban markets that don't reflect the reality of street life; "Only black radio station in the city/Programmed by a sucker in a suit/Slick back hair he don't even live here". Nobody sticks it to the man quite like Chuck D. Public Enemy are always a cathartic listen.
REGINA SPEKTOR - "On The Radio" (2006) - Regina Spektor is a wonderfully eccentric artist and reminds me of less intense Tori Amos. This chorus of this piano based song expresses the simple pleasure of hearing a beloved song on the radio; " On the radio we heard November Rain/ That Solo's really long, but it's a pretty song/ We listened to it twice 'cause the DJ was asleep". This song captures those rare moments that take us outside of ourselves, often inextricably linked to a song that will always hold a strong and deeply personalized association.
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS - "You Can't Say Crap On The Radio" (1980) - Some classic punk rock thrown in for good measure. Clearly some poor DJ was frazzled by the band's use of expletives, and the band notes the irony of not being able to "say crap" on the radio, though the DJ gets to "play shite all day" The classic disconnect indeed!
TOM ROBINSON - "Atmosperics: Listen To The Radio" (1982) - This track that Robinson co-wrote with Peter Gabriel is a classic. This song evokes images of a displaced foreign national, working alone in a foreign land. There is comfort found in the little rituals of life; buttered toast, coffee, "smoke another cigarette, and listen to the radio" . Connections to others are made through the airwaves, however distant the transmission may be. (Click to listen to this song via Robinson's site).
(Kudos to Robinson for providing free downloads on his site - a justified reaction to the fact that the record company gets 5x the amount per Itunes download than he does)