The Songs No iPod Should Be Without


As promised, this week’s column features more songs that contain the word “radio” in the title.  Seems pretty self-explanatory, doesn’t it?  I guess it should.  So, without boring you with a long intro, here they are—enjoy!

84. On Your Radio – Joe Jackson

Why?  Well I’m glad you asked.  Because it one of the best [email protected]$$ songs ever written.  For anyone who ever doubted Jackson, he tells them loudly and clearly that they can find him on the radio!


Ex-friends, ex-lovers and enemies

I’ve got your case in front of me today

All sewn up

Ex-bosses you never let me be

I got your names and your numbers filed away

I’ve grown up

See me

Hear me

Don’t you know you can’t get near me

You can only hope to hear me on your radio

On your radio

You’re gonna hear me on your radio.

Ex-teachers still coming through to me

Tough kids don’t stop trying to kick me to the ground

I don’t care

Go on just do what you do to me

You look so sick when you’re pushing me around

You’re nowhere


It’s here because it’s Joe Jackson at his angry young man best…and mostly because it rocks!

Recommended versions can be found on: I’m The Man (A&M, 1979), Live 80/86 (A&M, 1988), Live at Rockplast (Made In Germany Music, 2012) and on numerous  best of collections including: Steppin’ Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson (A&M/Universal Music, 2001) and Gold (Mercury, 2008).

85. The Spirit of Radio – Rush

Because Neil Peart is a rare bird—a drummer who writes superb, amazing, erudite and smart lyrics.  Well you asked…didn’t you.  And here they are:

Begin the day with a friendly voice,

A companion unobtrusive

Plays that song that’s so elusive

And the magic music makes your morning mood.

Off on your way, hit the open road,

There is magic at your fingers

For the Spirit ever lingers,

Undemanding contact in your happy solitude.

Invisible airwaves crackle with life

Bright antenna bristle with the energy

Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength

Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free

All this machinery making modern music

Can still be open-hearted.

Not so coldly charted, it’s really just a question

Of your honesty, yeah, your honesty.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music,

But glittering prizes and endless compromises

Shatter the illusion of integrity.

For the words of the prophets were written on the studio wall,

Concert hall

And echoes with the sounds of salesmen. Of salesmen. Of salesmen.

Because legend has it that the song’s name was inspired by the catchphrase/slogan or tag of a Toronto radio station. And finally because the song alludes to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds Of Silence.”

Recommended versions can be found on: Permanent Waves (Mercury,1980), the live albums Exit Stage Left (Mercury, 1981), Different Stages: Live (Anthem Records, 1998), Rush in Rio (Universal, 2003), R30 (Sanctuary, 2005), Snakes And Arrows Live (Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2005), Time Machine: Live in Cleveland (Anthem Records, 2009) and on the best of collection(s) Chronicles (Mercury, 1990), Retrospective, Vol. 1: 1974-1980 (Mercury, 1997), The Spirit of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974-1987 (Mercury, 2003) and Gold (Mercury, 2006).

86. Radio Gaga – Queen

Because, believe it or not it reached #1 in 19 different countries.  Naturally, in the U.S. it only reached #16 in the Billboard Top 100.  That’s because so many people in the states thought Queen stopped making music with “Another One Bites The Dust.”  Another reason, solely based on my fondness for childish humor, is because it was originally conceived by its composer (Drummer Roger Taylor) as “Radio Ca Ca”– the song is basically an indictment of radio criticizing it for its lack of musical diversity.   It’s also a love letter to radio asking it to come back and return to its glory.

I’d sit alone and watch your light

My only friend through teenage nights

And everything I had to know

I heard it on my radio


You gave them all those old time stars

Through wars of worlds — invaded by Mars

You made ’em laugh — you made ’em cry

You made us feel like we could fly

So don’t become some background noise

A backdrop for the girls and boys

Who just don’t know or just don’t care

And just complain when you’re not there

You had your time, you had the power

You’ve yet to have your finest hour


All we hear is Radio ka ka

Radio goo goo

Radio ga ga

All we hear is Radio ga ga

Radio blah blah

Radio what’s new?

Radio, someone still loves you!

Recommended versions can be found on: The Works (Capitol, 1984), the live releases Live Magic (first U.S. release on Hollywood Records in 1986), Live At Wembley ‘86 (Hollywood Records, 1992) and on the best of collection(s) Greatest Hits II (Parlophone, 1991), Classic Queen (Hollywood Records, 1992) and Stone Cold Classics (Hollywood Records, 2006).

87. Turn Up The Radio – The Rockets

Because it is a great song from Detroit’s great lost bar band.  In another more righteous world, the band would have been big stars and “Turn Up The radio” would have been a huge hit.  Just because it wasn’t a hit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it on your iPod…and the lyrics are cool.

Turn up the radio, I want a quick reaction

Turn up the radio, Baby let the music play

Turn up the radio; I want some satisfaction (guaranteed)

Turn up the radio, Baby let the music play

Turn up the radio, Baby let the music play

Turn up the radio, Baby let, Baby let, Baby let it play

Recommended versions can be found on: The Rockets (RSO, 1979) available on iTunes and vinyl, The Rockets/No Ballads (Renaissance, 2009) which combined the band’s second and third albums onto one CD and on Live Rockets (Capitol, 1983).  You can also find this great song on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7LWVwqufjI.

88. Radio Free Europe – R.E.M.

Because it is as enigmatic s the band that sang it.  If R.E.M. had chosen to distort and speed up the guitars instead of recording them in a more poppy and smooth manner, the song would have been a punk anthem.  The original version (a single) was released in 1981 on Hib Tone Records with a much more punky feel.  Two years later it was released on the band’s first full length album, Murmur.  Because as with any R.E.M. song worth its salt, the lyrics are almost impossible to discern.  For the record, I’m almost positive the lyrics are:

Decide yourself if radio’s gonna stay

Reason: it could polish up the gray

Put that, put that, put that up your wall

That this isn’t Country at all

Radio station: decide yourself

Keep me out of Country and the word

Wheel of fortune’s leading us: absurd

Push that, push that, push that to the floor

That this isn’t nothing at all

Straight off the boat, where to go

Calling out in transit

Calling out in transit

Radio Free Europe (radio)

Decide: defy the media too fast

Instead of pushing palaces to fall

Put that, put that, put that up your wall

That this isn’t fortunate at all

Radio station: decide yourself

We’re calling out in transit

Calling out in transit

Radio Free Europe (radio)

Decide yourself: come in on a boat

Media’s too fast

Keep me out of Country and the word

Disappointment into us: absurd

Straight off the boat, where to go?

Calling out in transit

Calling out in transit

Radio Free Europe

Radio Free Europe

Calling out in transit

Calling out in transit

Radio Free Europe

Radio Free Europe

Recommended versions can be found on: Murmur (IRS, 1983) and on the best of collections Eponymous (IRS, 1988), The Best of R.E.M. (EMI, 1998), the rare and official promo album 20 Years of R.E.M. (Warner Brothers, 2001) and …And I Feel Fine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987 (Capitol/IRS, 2006).

90. Border Radio – The Blasters

Because it’s a homage to “Border Blaster” radio stations.  These AM radio stations were located in various Mexican cities near the U.S./Mexico border.  Because they weren’t governed by the FCC (a United States entity) there were no wattage restrictions.  They could blast their single across the U.S.  They played what they wanted and it usually was better than the bland AM radio that was prevalent in the states.  And more specifically because it rocks! Or rather, because it is [email protected]$$ rockabilly!

One more midnight, her man’s still gone

The night moves too slow

She tries to remember the heat of his touch

While listening to the border radio

She calls toll free and requests a song

Some they used to know

She prays to herself that wherever he is

He’s listening to the border radio

This song comes from 1962

Dedicated to a man who’s gone

50.000 watts out of Mexico

This is the border radio

This is the border radio

Recommended versions can be found on: The Blasters (Slash, 1981) which has recently be re-issued on CD By Wounded Bird Records, Live; Going Home (Evangeline, 2004) and on the best of collection(s) The Blasters Collection (Warner Brothers, 1991), Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings: 1981-1985  (Rhino, 2002).
As a bonus, I’ve included two songs that though they don’t feature the word “radio” in the title, they are about the wonder of radio and how music heard on the radio can change one’s life.  The last two songs of this column are:

90.  Heard It On The X – ZZ Top

Ah, Mexico (again)…because the song is a tribute to Wolfman Jack.  More specifically it’s a tribute to the two “Border Blaster” radio stations in Mexico, that were run by the DJ (XERF and XERB).  In the early ‘70s, before FM radio really took off, these “Border Blaster” stations were rumored to play a lot of ZZ Top music.

C’mon, the lyrics say it all:

Do you remember

Back in nineteen sixty-six?

Country Jesus, hillbilly blues,

That’s where I learned my licks.

Oh, from coast to coast and line to line

In every county there,

I’m talkin’ ’bout that outlaw X

That was cuttin’ through the air.

Anywhere, y’all,

Everywhere, y’all,

I heard it, I heard it,

I heard it on the X.

We can all thank Doctor B

Who stepped across the line.

With lots of watts he took control,

The first one of its kind.

So listen to your radio

Most each and every night

’cause if you don’t I’m sure you won’t

Get to feeling right.

Anywhere, y’all,

Everywhere, y’all,

I heard it, I heard it,

I heard it on the X.

Recommended versions can be found on: Fandango (London, 1975), Live IN Germany (Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2011) and on the best of collection(s) The Best of ZZ Top (Warner Brothers, 1977), Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top (Warner Brothers/Rhino, 2004) and Chrome, Smoke & BBQ: The ZZ Top Box (Warner Brothers, Rhino, 2003).

91.  Left Of the Dial – The Replacements

Because it is actually a love song to both college radio and Let’s Active guitarist Angie Carlson.  Paul Westerberg met Carlson (who later married Let’s Active’s Mitch Easter) on tour and was smitten but due to touring and scheduling commitments could never see her.  His lyrics say it all:

And if I don’t see ya, in a long, long while

I’ll try to find you

Left of the dial

With regard to college radio, well, the stations are usually found on the left of the dial on the lower bands.  College radio is the real last bastion of what radio should be—the place where new music is broken; a place where all musical forms of expression can be found.

Recommended versions can be found on: Tim (Sire, 1985) and on the best of collections All for Nothing/Nothing for All (Reprise/Sire, 1997) and Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was?: The Best of the Replacements (Rhino/Reprise/Sire, 2006).

I know you must really be getting tired of this, but I do want to hear from you.  What songs would you take to a desert island?  What are your must-have songs?  What are the songs can’t imagine your iPod not having loaded on it.   Send me an e-mail telling me what music you like and why.  I’ll feature your song selection in a future column.  If you have an idea for an entire column based on a theme, send your ideas along.  I want to hear your thoughts.  E-mail me at: [email protected]. Type Can’t Live Without in the Topic. Til Next time!

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