Sunday, 24 April 2011

The top 40 greatest rock and roll songs about radio

1. Mexican Radio ~ Wall of Voodoo

Who else could be number one really? An instantly memorable song, even if they never did anything else, and as far as most people are concerned they didn't, this would still earn them kudos. Also a great video BTW, clearly the reason videos were invented in the first place. To bad the only copy I could find is a second generation copy. Fucking copyright Nazis.

2. Border Radio ~ The Blasters

One of the all time great opening riffs courtesy of brother Dave Alvin, one of the great all time vocals courtesy of brother Phil. Great piano too. No real video though.

3. Transmission ~ Joy Division

Only Joy Division could make a depressing song about the radio, but nobody ever made depression sound so inviting either. Bernard Albrecht is a sadly underrated guitarist, especially by Bernard Albrecht. And Stephen Morris is a drum pounding bastard.

4. Do you remember rock and roll radio ~ The Ramones

They may have led the leather jacketed punk hordes but hey were old romantics at heart. That Phil Spector collaboration wasn't all that crazy after all, although he clearly was. Later covered by Kiss. But they suck.

5. This is Radio Clash ~ The Clash

The exact moment when they left three chord bashing punk behind. But not too far behind.

6. Top Twenty ~ The Undertones

Granted the relationship between this song and radio is actually pretty slight, title notwithstanding, but what the Hell.

7. Radio Free Europe ~ REM

The master of mumblings finest moment. No I don't know what he's on about any more than you do, but there's a good chance he doesn't either.

8. Rock and Roll ~ The Velvet Underground

Turns out that Lou Reed was another old softy after all. Who knew? Actually after Sunday Morning that should have been pretty obvious.

9. Road Runner ~ The Modern Lovers

Also an even greater driving song, for those who like to multitask.

10. The Spirit of Radio ~ Rush

I don't even like Rush, actually I actively dislike them, but you have to give credit where it's due. Their tribute to the old CFNY is refreshingly unpretentious and has their best guitar riff by far.

11. Moondog ~ The Treniers

Originally done as a tribute/suck up to legendary DJ Alan Freed done circa 1956 by the R&B Doo Wop twins. But he didn't care for the song so it got forgotten. So no video.

12. The Radio Boogie ~ L.C. Smith & His Southern Playboys

Another early track; this time a hillbilly boogie number from 1954 from this otherwise obscure guy. It's since been covered by various bluegrass and rockabilly bands giving it a second life.

13. Do you remember Rock and Roll Radio ~ The Ramones

The Boys take another shot at breaking onto the airwaves with a radio anthem. Cleaner production this time. Radio ignores them again. Hey they even made a video, what more did you people want?

14. Radio Radio ~ Elvis Costello

The Ramones might not have been able to bludgeon their way onto the air but Elvis somehow managed it.

15. The left of the dial ~ The Replacements

However the Replacements couldn't buy a hit and had to rely on campus/community radio stations in Canada and the USA which are normally found on the left hand side of the FM dial. This was their tribute.

16. Listen to the radio ~ Tom Robinson Band

Normally known for his radical gay anthem (which pretty much doomed him in America of course) but this is yet another romantic ballad to the radio. Later resulted in a hit cover version in Canada by The Pukka Orchestra.

17. The 59 Sound ~ The Gaslight Anthem

The New Jersey Boys do their tribute to radio and Springsteen.

18. Sound System ~ Operation Ivy

The California boys do their tribute to radio and ska/punk.

19. Capital Radio One ~ The Clash

"You know what guys? We'll never get on the radio like this". Not in America anyway.

20. Blacks/Radio ~ The Psychedelic Furs

Only on the original UK version of the first album as some twits at the record company thought that Americans would find it offensive. Which is a little odd since nobody can make out most of the lyrics anyway.

21. On my radio ~ The Selector

One of the most beloved and versatile and also the most unstable of the 1980's Ska bands. Taken from their one and only album. They later reformed and covered their own song for this video.

22. Radio waves ~ Orchestral Maneuvers in the dark

Taken from their experimental Dazzle Ships album, before they got really lush and poppy.

23. Blasting Radio ~ The Desperate Bicycles

Another hopelessly obscure track; this time from one of the early UK post punk bands who put out one album and disappeared without a trace. No video of course.

24. R.A.D.I.O. ~ The Candidates

A now defunct band from Kitchener Ontario with a rousing radio anthem. That was of course completely ignored, so no video.

25. Rue Morgue Radio ~ Creepshow

It's the most blatant example of product placement/sucking up since...umm...The Treniers (see number 11) but that doesn't mean it's not a catchy song.

26. Gasoline Radio ~ Real Gone

Another defunct independent band from Toronto with a radio anthem you will never hear.

27. Radio ~ ~ System of a down

It's really stoopid but it's catchy.

28. Who listens to the radio ~ The Sports

A post punk band from down under who showed up in 1978 sounding like Thin Lizzy or The Boomtown Rats, had a couple of near hits and then vanished, at least in this hemisphere.

29. Clap for The Wolfman ~ The Guess Who

Yet another tribute to radio's past, although when this was done in the 1970's it was still possible to not sound bitter about it (see below). Later redone by Winnipeg rockabillies The Rowdymen.

30. The Last DJ ~ Tom Petty

This time it's not a wistful tribute to radio like those of Lou Reed, Tom Robinson or the Blasters, but a bitter rant about a lost age innocence. Which frankly has been gone for a long time.

31. Love her by radio ~ Billy Jones

Dating back to 1927 for this first radio ballad, at least the first one anyone can remember. Jones was also a member of a radio vaudeville troupe called the Happiness Boys who had a bunch of hits at the time. No video though. Too bad.

32. Turn the radio on ~ Lulu Belle and Scotty

From the 1930's, an old time country duo who also did the original version of "I told lately that I love you". No video again.

33. Cool disk jockey ~ Boyd Bennett

A 1950's rockabilly best known for his hit "My boy flattop" does his radio tribute/ suck up. (See numbers 11, 12 and 33) With similar results. Did this sort of thing ever work? No video of course.

34. Don Williams ~ Listen to the radio

A gentle ballad to the radio by the laid back country crooner

35. Rockabilly on the radio ~ Jack Smith

Latter day tribute to a radio that no longer exists.

36. The Radio Stars ~ Radio Stars
A Britsh post punk group on Stiff Records sing a song about themselves. It doesn't become a hit. Too small of a target audience?

37. Radios in motion ~ XTC

One of the first and best loved of the British post punk bands follows up the roll they were on with their "This is pop" single.

38. Black stations white stations ~ Martha and the Muffins

In which the very white Canadians Martha and the Muffins get all funky and make a point about about segregation on radio at a time when MTV played almost no black music at all. Great video as well, wonder why MTV didn't like it.

39. Radio Ga Ga ~ Queen

The very idea of Queen mocking radio for being trivial is, well, trivial. But it it's at least not bombastic (by Queen standards) and even catchy. Bonus points for the video swiped from Fritz Lang.

40. Turn up the radio ~ Autograph

A radio anthem from a 1980's hair metal band? What could possibly go wrong. Actually it's better than it really needed to be.

Honorable mention;

The radio still sucks ~ The Ataris

Yes I know it's only 30 seconds long. I didn't even bother to look for video for this one.

Honorable mentions (instrumentals);
1. Radio 4 ~ Public Image Ltd.
2. Whatever happened to radio valve road ~ Martha and the Muffins
3. Time Zones ~ Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark

Dishonorable mentions;
1. We built this city ~ Starship

Widely considered to be one of the worst songs EVER. And one of the worst videos as well so kudos Starship; you have clearly earned your mark in Rock and Roll history.

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