FMF Episode #57 – Radio

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DJ: Don’t touch that dial! We’re about to get real wavy in here! Hello everyone and welcome to another round of Feel Me Flow. Today we’re digging into the medium that broadcasts our favorite sounds – radio. Radio technology has been around since the 19th century and to this day is still used in it’s most basic form – broadcasting radio waves via transmitters to receivers all across the globe. Although, these days we have this thing called the internet which basically does away with the old AM/FM signals and streams via the online connection.

As I’m sure you’re about to call in and tell us, there are a bazillion radio songs, most of which we didn’t put on this list. We wanted to dig a little deeper and try to showcase some “radio” songs you might not have heard yet. Sure, you’ll hear a few staples, but let’s get it going and see what we hear!

First up is a tribute to the song that kicked off MTV. The Buggles, which we’ll hear a little later. Joyce Manor’s 2012 LP Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired borrows elements from the legendary Germs’ blue circle logo and font. The music itself also borrows from Germs elements, though more in the vein of new age punk rock then the early 80s sloppy punk that was The Germs. We lost Germs bassist Lorna Doom in 2019 to cancer, and the infamous Darby Crash took his own life in 1980. As for Joyce Manor, their 2018 release Million Dollars To Kill Me was named after Travis Barker’s memoir Can I Say in which Travis recounts offering a friend a million bucks to end his suffering after his horrific 2008 plane crash that injured him and DJAM as well as killing the rest of the entourage on board. DJAM died from an overdose the following year. Are you bummed out yet about the deaths of these radio stars? You should be, cuz it’s sad as hell. Anyway, here is Joyce Manor doing “Video Killed The Radio Star” do lift us up a bit and start off our Radio episode!

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DJ: Austin, Texas’ Spoon have been locked in indie rock legacy ever since the turn of the century, but it was probably thanks to some mid-to-late-90s solid releases that helped them climb there. The band’s sophomore effort A Series Of Sneaks was at the time met with flat acceptance, but since has grown into a cult classic of an album. Just goes to show you how some bands are ahead of their time and in the words of Marty McFly, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet…but your kids are gonna love it.

Washington D.C. native Mary Timony released her third solo LP Ex Hex way back in 2005 on the legendary Lookout! Records, but would take the album title and form a band under the moniker almost ten years later. Rather than the dark sounds of her solo work, the new Ex Hex channels the Pacific Northwest punk rock sounds of Sleater-Kinney, which makes sense. Mary was apart of the Carrie Brownstein/Janet Weiss side project Wild Flag. Ex Hex has a new LP coming out on March 22, 2019, so keep an eye out for that. We played a cut from the Ex Hex 2014 debut, though, with “Radio On”.

Speaking of the PNW, the reunion of Bikini Kill has people all riled up – whether it be positively or negatively. Of course, you’ve got your shit talkers like Courtney Love who has been feuding with the band since the mid-90s, but most people are ecstatic to have a chance at seeing the band again. Though their Hollywood Palladium shows sold out in minutes and resale prices were up immediately at staggeringly high ($300+) ticket prices. From 1993’s New Radio single, we played the title track, a lyrical force of sexuality and rebellion.

And one of the more famous acts of rebellion in live music may have been when Elvis Costello stopped his band 10 seconds into “Less Than Zero” to change tunes and sing the anti-corporate radio anthem “Radio, Radio”. Lorne Michaels was not amused and banned Elvis from Saturday Night Live. K, Lorne. 

Coming up in our next set we have The Shazam. Little Steven’s Underground Garage named this song their “Coolest Song Of The Week” back in 2006, though the song was actually released in 2000.  Little Steven called it the “coolest fucking thing (he’s) heard in 20 years”. The song is super legit, but to say that about the decades 1980-2000 seems a bit…irresponsible? Nevertheless, let’s get to it. Taken from The Shazam’s 2000 EP Rev9, named after the Beatles’ “Revolution 9” which the band covered on that EP, here’s “On The Airwaves”.

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DJ: Jonny Greenwood’s playing behind us right now, member of Radiohead and soundtrack extraordinaire. Radiohead, of course, took their name from the Talking Heads song we just heard, which itself is featured on a soundtrack…sort of. David Byrne directed and starred in the feature film True Stories, along with John Goodman and Swoosie Kurtz.  Talking Heads re-recorded studio versions of the songs they played in the film and released the album True Stories to coincide with the movie. There was also a different soundtrack album released with various artists like Terry Allen & The Panhandler Mystery Band and Steve Jordan on it. Steve played the accordion on “Radio Head”.

The Ramones questioned our memories of the days of old when rock and roll ruled the radio. The imagery of ” lying in bed with your covers pulled up over your head, radio playin’ so no one can see.” is just so perfect for the age of great radio.  How appropriate a song, too, being that the 1979 LP End Of The Century was produced by Phil Spector. Hear that Wall of Sound?

Osaka, Japan’s Shonen Knife formed roughly 6 months after the release of The Ramones’ following LP1981’s Pleasant Dreams. Shonen Knife’s debut release is an ultimate holy grail rare cassette-only album. Minna Tanoshiku was put out by the band in 1982 with some tape cases having the ban’ds lip prints on them, and only 50 made. They did a Ramones tribute album, Osaka Ramones to celebrate the band’s 30-year tenure which was released almost exactly 30 years after Pleasant Dreams.

The Vines timed their American debut juuuust right with the release of their 2001 debut LP Highly Evolved. Riding the garage rock wave created by The Strokes and The White Stripes and The Hives and The “The” bands alike, The Vines would hit it big with “Get Free”, a tune they completely demolished on the Late Show With David Letterman. When Craig Nicholls did a somersault after the first verse he knocked the guitar out of tune and oh boy did things fall apart after that! Awesome performance though. We played the first single off of their third album Vision Valley, “Don’t Listen To The Radio”.

Up next we have Brooklyn, New York band Nude Beach with the album opener off of their 2012 sophomore LP II. As the song is about to explain, sometimes there’s just not much worse than a radio playing a song you just don’t wanna hear. This was especially true in the days before the internet when you lived out in the sticks and could only get a few stations which were probably country or gospel, or the standard classic rock. Anyway, here’s one of Brooklyn’s best garage bands Nude Beach with “Radio”.

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DJ: Boulder, Colorado’s Zephyr launched the career Tommy Bolin, an guitar virtuoso who would go on to joined the James Gang and Deep Purple. Zephyr also featured the Givenses, David and Candy.  Tommy died early, at 25, in 1976 after a drug overdose. Sadly, Candy would also succumb to an O.D. in a jacuzzi in 1984. I used to work with someone who was apart of local Boulder scene in the 70s, and the rumor then was that since Candy was dead for so long in the hot bubbling water of the jacuzzi, the local paramedics had to remove her body in “clumps”. Yikes. His description was, “have you ever poached a chicken for too long?”.  How horrifically tragic. We heard both Tommy and Candy showcasing their abilities on “The Radio Song” from Zephyr’s sophomore LP, 1972’s Going Back To Colorado.

Bobby Bloom was another poor soul to meet an early, untimely death. At just age 28, Bobby was apparently cleaning his gun when it went off and shot him in the face, killing him instantly. The family didn’t believe it was a suicide and the case was closed. Bobby was famous for his own hit “Montego Bay”, along with co-writing many Kama Sutra releases such as “Mony Mony”. Early in his career though, he recorded under the moniker Bobby Man, and put out a single titled “Make The Radio A Little Louder”.

If you’re a bit older, you might remember Raphael Saadiq from his days with Tony! Toni! Toné!, more specifically him singing lead vocal on their smash hit “Feels Good”. Saadiq released two solo albums before changing his sound a bit and moving toward a more neo-retro-soul sound with The Way I See It. His fourth LP, Stone Rollin’ would continue this vibe, which gave us the twisty track “Radio”

Were you taken aback a bit hearing Smash Mouth on the show? I bet you didn’t know that’s who was playing when you heard it follow up that Nude Beach track. That’s because, as we’ve said before, Astro Lounge is a fantastic garage pop throwback album, albeit a bit overproduced and polished. If that LP had a bit more dust on its tape (and maybe remove “All Star”), I’m telling you, garage heads would’ve loved it! We played the deep cut “Radio” from that album.

We’ve got a super special Set 4 Score this week! Instead of showcasing newer great artists, we did some digging for a few old school punk rock tracks that you might not have heard before. Starting the set off is REM doing “Radio Free Europe” from 1983’s Murmur which is a lead-in to the four European punk rock bands that follow. We’ll talk a bit about them after the set, but for now let’s crank up the debut single from Athens, Georgia’s REM.  They played their debut on Letterman too, about 20 years prior to The Vines’ massacre of the set.

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DJ: The Cortinas were the Bristol, UK group that paired up nicely with The Clash in 1977, but were nowhere near as successful as them. Coincidentally, though, Cortinas guitarist Nick Sheppard would go on to play on The Clash’s Cut The Crap album after Mick Jones and Topper Headon were fired form the band. The Cortinas debut album signaled the end of them, however, with the band breaking up after its release. From that 1978 album True Romances, we played “Radio Rape”, a song about making love to the radio, but the band would mostly be known for their debut single “Fascist Dictator”.

The Kids, from Belgium, were another early punk rock band that are known for their anti-fascism anthem “Fascist Cops”. They released their debut self-titled album in 1978 on Dutch company Philips Records. Yes, that same Philips that made radios that you may well have played, or perhaps you’ve used their light bulbs? They’re sophomore release was also put out in 1978, from which we played “Radio Radio”.

Ivy Green were actually from the Netherlands where Philips Records was founded. They were one of the few Dutch punk bands to land a major record deal and released their self-titled debut on Pogo Records in 1978. The cut “Sex On The Radio”, another weird ode to aural love, is almost a note-for-note mimic of Black Flag’s “Black Coffee“, but that track didn’t come out for another 6 years. Coincidence or ripoff? You decide! Ivy Green was the name of Hellen Keller’s childhood home in Alabama.

And last but surely not least we have the British punk band The Carpettes. Their 1977 debut self-titled EP featured the track “Radio Wunderbar” and some issues of it list that as being the title of the EP. The Carpettes lasted all but four years before breaking up in 1981. They briefly reunited in 1996 and then again after the turn of the millennium eventually touring the USA in 2011. Nothing touches the greatness of that debut EP, though!

Alright, after a nice lofi punk set let’s hear a bit of polished alternative rock, or “false metal” maybe? Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the punx in a bit. Weezer did something a bit neat with the release of their odds and ends album Death To False Metal. Most of the album compiled some, well, odds and ends from their career, but the lead track “Turning Up The Radio” was actually composed by a plethora of contributing artists via back-and-forth collaboration on the YouTube. The song has 17 songwriter credits due to this. Fun! Here’s that Weezer tune before we jump back into the late ’70s England. I mean we can’t just mention the Clash and not play them…

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DJ: Ok, not gonna lie, that Euro punk set was just too much of a tease and we wanted a bit more. Ireland’s Stiff Little Finger nearly broke into the mainstream with their 1980 single “Straw Dogs” narrowly missing the Top of the Pops charts which is fairly ironic considering the b-side to “Straw Dogs” was the anti-mainstream radio anthem “You Can’t Say Crap On The Radio”, which borrowed the main riff from The Clash’s “Capital Radio” as a bit of an outro.

German psychobilly band Mad Sin contributed their version of Rancid’s legendary punk anthem “Radio” to the Hellcat Records, Tim Timebomb-sequenced Hooligans United: A Tribute To Rancid compilation, as well as our show.  That comp features some great takes on Rancid tunes, with some bands staying true to the songs and some taking them in an entirely new direction or language.  Psychobilly “Radio” works well, though!

Of course, we had to squish some Rancid in between a cover of them and their heroes – The Clash. When Rancid recorded their 2000 self-titled fifth album, they did it one full take. Well, two full times run-through, with the second take being used. I love that! It brought such a personal feel to the record, and when Tim sings the final lines of the album you can hear him “signing off” and thanking everyone for listening. “Radio Havana” was the longest song on the LP clocking in at 3:42.

The Clash’s debut EP was a jab at the radio industry released with an interview comprising most of the EP and the one song finishing it off. The only way to get this EP was to mail in a coupon printed in NME, plus the red sticker found on the band’s debut studio album The Clash which had been released just that week. After hearing that the EP was being sold for unbelievably high prices, they re-recorded the song and released “Capital Radio Two” on their 2nd EP The Cost Of LivingWe played the second version, as that’s the version that was added to their later compilations.

Speaking of early demos and rare recordings, have you ever listened to The Flaming Lips and thought, “Wow, what a great punk band!”? Chances are, no. After the ’90s were kind to their alternative rock style, the Lips turned full psychedelia and would become international superstars with their Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Punk Robots albums. With the release of Scratching the Door: The First Recordings of the Flaming Lips, we finally got an official output of their first cassette demo. The only original song on the demo was “Killer On The Radio”, followed by a cover of the “Batman Theme”, The Who’s “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”, and Richie Havens’ “Handsome Johnny”. Here’s that original, “Killer On The Radio”.

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DJ: “You are the radio star”!  The Buggles’ self-fulfilling prophetic music video anti-anthem started the 80s phenomenon that was MTV with irony.  The song was originally recorded by Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club and featured Thomas Dolby on keyboards. It wasn’t until Bruce and fellow “Video” writers Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes formed The Buggles that he song would find it’s role. Check out the original sometime. If you’re into New Wave you’d probably prefer that version, which we kinda do.

The Replacements played us a shoutout to indie radio or college radio as it was known in the 80s. The term “left of the dial” comes from those stations being so low on the transmitter dials, usually with frequencies like 88.1 and 90.7. The band’s 1985 LP Tim would land them a slot on Saturday Night Live and just like Elvis Costello – they’d get banned.  Let’s be honest, they had no place being on that stage anyway!

The Ergs! dropped in with an ode to The Replacements’ hometown college radio station Radio K. The University of Minnesota’s station KUOM was formed in 1993 and has been solidly playing the best up and coming tunes ever since. The Ergs! must have enjoyed it enough to write about it. The tune comes from their 2007 EP Jersey’s Best Dancers.

Just a short half hour drive south of Radio K’s headquarters would get you to Cannon Falls, MN’s Pachyderm Studio where Nirvana recorded their third and final studio album In Utero. “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” was originally titled “Nine Month Media Blackout” and was a collage of poetry thrown back at the success of Nirvana in ’91. Kurt is known to have hated the success, but others contest that view. In February of 1993, the band headed to the small Minnesota town and were “locked in” by the snow to get their work done and get out of there. Steve Albini brought the powerful sound and the studio’s notoriously amazing drum sounds were also captured. The result was a masterpiece in grunge and the band would dissipate only a year later following Kurt’s suicide. 

We began and ended with “Video Killed The Radio Star” along with a few stories of rock stars who died young. Coincidentally, Pat Smear was in both the Germs and Nirvana, surviving many a rock star acquaintance. Go, go, golden boy… Until next time, friends, we hope you enjoyed this Radio episode of Feel Me Flow!

Check out ourList for all of the releases featured!


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