Turn It On Again: Spending A While On The Dial

Active on the airwaves.

Active on the airwaves.

By now, you’re probably familiar with the Las Vegas band Imagine Dragons. Their first single, “It’s Time”, was a decent-sized hit nationally, and now they’ll at least be a two-hit wonder with their latest release, “Radioactive”. It’s already gone to #1 on the Alternative survey and to #7 on the Hot 100, making it the tenth such title to make the Hot 100’s top 40 portion with the word “radio” in it. Whether it’s on AM, FM, or satellite, millions of us turn to the radio every day for music, news, sports and more. Let’s see what songs freshened up the frequencies from the 1970’s up until now.

1973
Joni Mitchell, “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio” (#25)
She’s probably best known for originating the song “Big Yellow Taxi” back in 1970, but it was “Turn” that was Mitchell’s first of three top 40 hits in the U.S., peaking at #25 for two weeks in early 1973. Parent album For The Roses went to #11, and she would do even better with her next release, the #2 Court And Spark, featuring top ten single “Help Me”. She last recorded original material in 2007.

1974
Reunion, “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)” (#8)
One of the big one-hit wonders from the 70’s, the band consisted of studio musicians and led by vocalist Joey Levine, who previously sang with groups like The Ohio Express. The unusual song was essentially rap-sung, with Levine name-dropping over 100 references in music history from the 50’s to the 70’s, including disc jockeys, singers, songs and musical instruments. It was the only song to chart for the group.

1979
Al Stewart, “Song On The Radio” (#29)
Scotsman Stewart was already known for the top ten hits “Year Of The Cat” (1977) and “Time Passages” (1978) at this point in his career, but the followup single to “Passages” wouldn’t do so well, just making the top 30 at #29. It was written by Stewart and produced by Alan Parsons. Though he continued to record well into the 2000’s on different labels, his charting days were over on the Hot 100 by the end of 1980.

The Buggles, “Video Killed The Radio Star” (#40)
Ah, yes, the first video ever to be played on MTV. That was in August 1981. “Video” actually charted at the end of 1979, peaking at #40 for one week in December. Though several minor followup singles charted in European territories, nothing ever matched the success of their most well-known single release. It was also sampled in the 2010 hit by will.i.am and Nicki Minaj, “Check It Out”, peaking at #24.

1980
Donna Summer, “On The Radio” (#5)
This is the biggest song with the word “radio” in it to make the Hot 100 so far in its nearly 55-year history. Even as disco experienced a backlash by the fall of 1979, the late Summer was able to hit the charts with a string of thumping dance numbers, including this one, co-written by her and longtime collaborator Giorgio Moroder. A greatest hits album named after the song went to #1 in January 1980.

1984
Queen, “Radio Ga Ga” (#16)
From their album The Works, this is one of the group’s most remembered hits, even influencing Lady Gaga‘s stage name. “Ga Ga” was ultimately the last top 40 single for the band while lead singer Freddy Mercury was alive, though a handful of other songs made the Hot 100 before he died in 1991. Following his passing, a 1992 rerelease of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which appeared in Wayne’s World, went to #2.

1985
The Firm, “Radioactive” (#28)
This British supergroup combined the rockin’ powers of Paul Rodgers (Bad Company/Free), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Chris Slade (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band/Urian Heep) and Tony Franklin. Their self-titled 1985 album hit the top 20, and this song became their only top 40 hit on the Hot 100, peaking at #28. They charted three songs in total. They group split up the next year.

Autograph, “Turn Up The Radio” (#29)
Out of Pasadena, CA, this quintet released this single as the first from their Gold-certified debut album, Sign In Please. The album peaked at #29 and single peaked at the same spot on the Hot 100. The band was dropped from RCA Records after three albums and broke up in 1989, but they recorded a few records together independently with different lineups years later. They last played together in 2003.

1989
Tiffany, “Radio Romance” (#35)
After taking ballad “All This Time” to #6 earlier that year, Tiffany decided to dance it up with her fifth and final top 40 hit. It leapt into the top 40 at the #35 spot during the first week of April and then crashed immediately afterward, spending one forgettable week in the top 40. Luckily, radio is still love with her #1 hits like “I Think We’re Alone Now”, which still get some play on 80’s mix shows now and again.

Some other “radio” ready titles I like:
“Who Listens To The Radio?”, The Sports (#45, 1978)
“Mexican Radio”, Wall Of Voodoo (#58, 1983)
“AM Radio”, Everclear (#101, 2000)
“…On The Radio (Remember The Days)”, Nelly Furtado (DNC, 2002)
“Radio Nowhere”, Bruce Springsteen (#102, 2007)

What’s your favorite tune that I highlighted in this salute to the stations? Any other “radio” song that I forgot to rank among the rest? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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