Essentially a playlist : Radio? Radio!

It must be September again. The echoes of U1 tour guides saying “That’s the radio station” are receding and the most common questions of people walking into UMFM are “Where’s the used book store?” and “Are these CD’s for sale?”

Broadcasting at 1200 watts and located at 101.5 on the FM dial, UMFM — where I work — is the University of Manitoba’s campus and community radio station. Students just like you host talk shows discussing a multiplicity of issues and music programs featuring a variety of genres and sounds. While this playlist isn’t ripped from our airwaves, it does feature some songs that pay tribute (or at least lip-service) to the medium.

The Buggles — “Video Killed the Radio Star” [from The Age Of Plastic]

Back in the ’80s, when this song was first released, MTV and videos represented a threat to artists who weren’t telegenic, but weren’t considered a threat to radio itself. The rise of podcasting, torrent sites and iPods now pose an actual threat to radio — a modern Buggles tune would likely take the dire title “Internet killed the radio station.” UMFM’s a glass-half-full station and we see the internet as a way to extend our broadcasting range: follow us on and join our page!

Kathleen Edwards — “One More Song the Radio Won’t Like [from Failer]

I really like what Ottawa native Edwards did with this song on her 2003 debut record. The song title is like a double-dare for radio not to play it, and everyone knows when you’re double-dared you’ve got to do it. The song received a fair bit of airplay and proved to be a song that radio did in fact like. Kathleen Edwards; reverse psychologist.

The Tragically Hip — “Radio Show” [Unreleased]

“Radio Show” is one of a number of great Hip songs which have never made it to an album. While it’s hard to track down a recording of it, it merited inclusion in the playlist for what it has to say about talk radio. Downie — in that poetic way that only he can — captures the weird dissociative nature of election coverage, reports on accidents and phoning in to the radio show.

Sarah Jones w/ DJ Vadim — “Your Revolution” [from USSR: Life From The Other Side]

This song isn’t about the radio, but in 1999 it caused a giant controversy because it was played on the radio. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) censored Sarah Jones for indecency, banning her re-interpretation of Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and fining KBOO in Portland, Ore. for playing the song. Most discouraging of all was that the lyrics were a feminist retort to all the misogynistic hip-hop lyrics getting incredible amounts of airplay at the time (and since). Bewilderingly, the FCC thought nothing of allowing songs that denigrated women and called them “bitches” and “hos” while banning a woman who bluntly says “your revolution will not happen between these things.”

The Ramones — “Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” [from End Of The Century]

There may come a day when my child asks me this very question.

Joni Mitchell — “You Turn Me on I’m A Radio” [from For The Roses]

Oh Joni, I do love the way you write. When you sing “call me at the station/the lines are open” or “and I’m sending you out/this signal here/I hope you can pick it up/loud and clear” we both know you’re not a radio but you’re using the imagery to get your point across. My only question is “what’s the opposite of anthropomorphize?”

54-40 — “Radio Luv Song” [from Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret]

While this 1994 album also featured the (then) radio staples “Ocean Pearl” and “Once A Killer,” Vancouver band 54-40 wrote this peculiar, off-hand tribute to radio where the protagonist “wants a girl on the radio” and credits a DJ with having balls. I think that was meant as a compliment, though it could be a dig at the reputation radio has for being a boys club. History lesson for this playlist: the band got its name from U.S. president James K. Polk’s 1844 campaign slogan, “54 40 or Fight.” I leave it to you to discover the meaning.

Simon & Garfunkel — “Seven O’Clock News/Silent Night” [from The Definitive Simon & Garfunkel]

I’ve always loved the juxtaposition of Simon & Garfunkel singing “Silent Night” atop a reading of the news. The night described on the radio is anything but silent and all is not calm.

Elvis Costello — “Radio, Radio” [from This Year’s Model]

I think a lot of people believe this is Costello’s paean to radio, but if you read the lyrics closely he’s criticizing it as the voice of the state, and part of a program to clean up the nation. “You’d better do as you are told/you better listen to the radio” he exclaims.

FYI: To get involved with UMFM, it’s as easy as dropping by room 308 University Centre (right next door to Degrees restaurant) or emailing me at