This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
I imagine that just about everyone reading this gained their initial musical knowledge mainly from the radio. That is certainly so for me as, when I was growing up, I lived in a small country town 400 kilometres from the big smoke (actually, in those days, it was 250 miles from the big smoke), so it was from the radio that music emerged and found a safe harbor in my ears.
When we came to the big smoke (Melbourne) I found that radio station 3KZ had probably the best DJ in the world - Stan Rofe. Stan always played the authentic versions of songs; he eschewed the bland cover versions that pretty much everyone else played back then. He was also a great champion of Australian music. Thus I learned from the best. Here are songs about the radio.
For those who remember President Ike, which is probably everyone reading this, here is MARK DINNING.
Not just Ike, but all the references mentioned would be enough for those with a certain type of memory to be able to date the song pretty precisely. It’s the way radio was back then, consisting of Top 40, News, Weather and Sport.
WARREN ZEVON gives us a bit darker view of things, but then that’s generally what he did.
I imagine that Warren’s song wouldn’t get any airplay these days on certain stations, particularly those that are associated with Fox, only because of its title. His subversive song is called Mohammed's Radio.
JOHN HARTFORD gets uncharacteristically gospelly with his contribution.
He suggests that you Turn Your Radio On. That’s a good idea if you want to listen to it, although these days it might not be such a good idea. Not like in our day. Oh dear, I’m turning into a grumpy old man.
There’s another way to be turned on as JONI MITCHELL will explain.
I wouldn’t dare suggest that illegal substances were involved in You Turn Me On I'm a Radio. I’ll let you make up your own mind.
Back in 1994 DAVE ALVIN recorded an acoustic album called “King of California”.
This was the first of several albums of his that really demonstrated his songwriting, singing and musical abilities. This one and the several that followed are all worth a listen. Besides, he has one of the finest voices in the alt-country genre.
From the aforementioned album, Dave performs Border Radio.
Getting back to when radio was king we find FREDDY CANNON.
Back then, a lot of the time we listened to the radio on transistor radios. Freddy did the same apparently, or at least his sister did as he will recount on Transistor Sister.
It seems that JOHN DENVER was the same as most of us in one respect.
That is, he knew the songs but many of the words were a mystery to him. I think that this is pretty universal. He tells us all about it in Late Nite Radio.
From the eighties, a decade from which I include very few songs in my columns, we have QUEEN.
They were one of the few bright musical spots from around that time, however, even this song sounds very much of its time – drum machines, synthesizers and so on. I don’t know why they did that as they were all fine musicians. Anyway, this is Radio Ga Ga.
DAVID ALLAN COE really knows how to take revenge on the gal what dun ‘im wrong.
Not just that but he will make some money out of the deal as well. I guess if you’re going to break up with someone, earning a bit of loose scratch from the exercise seems like a good thing. Okay, perhaps not. Anyway, David sings I'm Gonna Hurt Her on the Radio.
Turn up your radio, sings VAN MORRISON. Of course, you should have done that by now.
From his superb album “Moondance”, one of the finest ever recorded, we have Caravan. Nothing else needs to be said.