Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy National Radio Day, Here's A Mix!

Poles who speak English have an oddly charming way of turning phrases. I think it's the combination of the nation's famed "poetic soul" and the almost-familiarity of a second tongue. One of the things I enjoyed most when I lived in Poland was people's habit of describing things as "something terrible, but also something wonderful".

I couldn't think of a better description of radio than "something terrible, but also something wonderful" for music. The radio has exposed millions to mind-altering music and turned many a group of hopeful teens into prophets with an audience of millions. At the same time, radio has also always been a great homogenizer, sanitizer and censor of music, a trend that grows ever worse with Clear Channel playlists increasingly dominating the commercial dial.

August 20th is National Radio Day and, despite whatever problems radio might have, I feel lucky to live in Chicago where we have solid independent and even commercial radio choices, not to mention perhaps the most prolific public radio station in the country. So to celebrate the holiday, On Warmer Music is hitting you with some of the best songs (and there are many) about that iconic musical institution, radio.

On Warmer Music's Radio Mix
Download The Mix As A .Zip (or grab 'em individually below)

1. The Spirit of Radio - Rush  Buy it.
An epic that only these Canadian rockers could pull off. "Spirit of Radio" celebrates radio's joy and warns against it's darker, more commercial side.

2. Capital Radio Two - The Clash  Buy it.
An extended version of "Capital Radio", this adds a flamenco intro and highlights the Clash's hatred of staid BBC programming that lead to a flourishing of offshore pirate radio stations in Britain.

3. Turn Off The Radio - Dead Prez  Buy it.
Hip-hop may "the CNN of the ghetto" but Dead Prez notes that radio hits which focus on empty materialism do the poor no favors. "Radio programming ain't a figure of speech." Word.

4. Radio, Radio - Elvis Costello  Buy it.
Your Narrator has to admit that he once ran a college radio show called "Sound Salvation" based of this Costello classic. "You'd better listen to the radio."

5. Radio Free Europe - R.E.M.  Buy it.
For most kids behind the Iron Curtain, freedom was most illustrated not in constitutions but in songs blasted from the west. I can't tell you how many people I met who remember hearing the Beatles or the Pixies and dreaming of freedom.

6. Radio King - Golden Smog  Buy it.
Wilco has a classic anti-radio song to its credit but Jeff Tweedy's still got a soft spot for the old squak box as seen in this heartbreaking classic from his side project, Golden Smog.

7. You Turn Me On I'm A Radio - Joni Mitchell  Buy it.
Radio can be so powerfully loved that Joni Mitchell uses it as a metaphor for her love, beaming across the country to her man.

8. Roadrunner - The Modern Lovers  Buy it.
Patrick Stickles would announce Titus Andronicus' cover of this as "the greatest American rock n' roll song of all time." 'Nuff said.

9. How To Kill A Radio Consultant - Public Enemy Buy it.
"You can't program the streets." Public Enemy is another great act too controversial and powerful for commercial radio, which Chuck D and Flava Flav can admit to, but not without a fight.

10. You Can't Say Crap On The Radio - Stiff Little Fingers  Buy it.
How many times have you been dissapointed to find out you accidently bought a toothless "Radio Edit" on a song that's been bleeped? As Jake Burns points out "you can make shite all day but you can't say crap on the radio." Hey, is that a Clash reference?

11. On The Radio - Regina Spektor  Buy it.
A soft, soothing ode to familiar songs coming from the radio, I can just imagine a DJ at my old college radio station falling asleep and leaving a song on repeat. I can't imagine it being "November Rain".

12. Left Of The Dial - The Replacements  Buy it.
The ultimate tribute to those low-wattage college stations that helped make "alternative rock" a thing. The song itself is about a crush Paul Westerberg had on a musician and only being able to find her on the sinister side of his dashboard.

13. Having A Party - Sam Cooke  Buy it.
It's hard to believe that people used to rely on radio DJs rather than iPods to pick their party music. Then again, if Sam Cooke was being played, who could complain?

14. Video Killed The Radio Star - The Buggles  Buy it.
It's nice to see that good music outlasted the music videos that the Buggles decried. Any medium that would shun Buddy Holly is no friend of mine, or Paul Westerberg's.

15. Rock and Roll - The Velvet Underground  Buy it.
Lou Reed claims his life was saved by rock n' roll and it's nice to think that my Dad grew up listening to those same New York stations as Lou. The transitive property means that those DJs have probably saved more souls than penicillin.

16. Radio Ga Ga [Queen] - Ted Leo  Support WFMU.
WFMU is one of the nation's great independent record stations and Ted Leo is among the many luminaries who perform annually on its pledge drive. In 2007 he stripped Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" of its excesses and revealed it for the heartfelt pledge to the medium that it is. You can even hear the pledge phones ringing in the background.

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