Saturday, October 20, 2018

Songs of '78: "Radio Radio"

"Radio Radio" is one of those songs about our material and aural history--specifically, a song about the songs we listened to, and how we listened to them, and when we listened to them, and how they made us felt. I'm not sure any other technology ever has been so thoroughly entwined with one of its primary products--specifically, in this case, the pop songs that the radio brought into our lives. I'm thinking about Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" here, Rush's "Spirit of the Radio," and many more. But, in my opinion, "Radio Radio" beats them all. It's angry, excited, defiant, confused, and just overflowing with excitement over THE NEW SONG THAT JUST CAME ON!! It's my favorite track off This Years Model, which a lot of serious Elvis Costello fans will tell you is his very best album, and I'm not one to disagree (though my favorite is the experimental The Juliet Letters, for whatever it's worth).

Costello is a brilliant songwriter and an often-brilliant musician, and this song showcases both. It was just his second album, and he was really beginning to his stride with his backing band The Attractions. The song made it to America with This Years Model, but it wasn't released as a single until it came out separate from the UK version of the album on this day, 40 years ago. The video is classic early Costello: jerky, in-your-face, kind of weird, and ostentatiously playing with the images and references from the whole history of rock and roll.

And the song itself...well, let's just say it's history in America has been...interesting. This performance got him banned from Saturday Night Live.

But of course, wait long enough, and everything will come around again.

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