Thursday, 5 April 2018

Radio Songs #33: My Top Ten Radio Dial Songs

It could be argued that the opening of Rush's Spirit Of Radio features a guitar that sounds like a radio being retuned... but I'm saving that Canadian classic for a future edition of Radio Songs. In the meantime, here are ten songs that actually begin with the sound of a radio dial being retuned. Some have featured here before, but not for that reason.

With the advent of digital radio, tuning round the dial is becoming a thing of the past in the same way that tuning in your TV channels has. Kids these days don't know what they're missing...

10. ELO - Mr. Blue Sky

Still one of the greatest pop songs ever recorded (I know I say that a lot - but there are lots of them): I'm only putting it at #10 because it's featured here many times before.

Mr. Blue Sky has something of an identity crisis though. It begins with a radio dial tuning into a weather forecast... but ends with a request to "please turn me over", which suggests it knew it was just a record all along.

See also Mr. Radio.

9. Falco - Vienna Calling

Because he wasn't just about rocking Amadeus.

8. Skee-Lo - I Wish

If you're tuning in your ghetto blaster, here's the prefect tune.

7. Fastball - The Way

Slacker anthem - for the days when even retuning the radio is an effort!

6. Gruff Rhys - Shark Ridden Waters 

Hotwiring your car on the beach causes the radio to retune, apparently.

5. Flaming Lips - Turn It On

If you ever get bored in the launderette, try retuning your radio.

4. Eels - Mr. E's Beautiful Blues

If you're looking for an Eels song on the radio, you couldn't do better than this sunshiny pop gem.

Goddamn right, it's a beautiful day!

3. The Carpenters - Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

Space aliens, it seems, tune around the dial until they can find a request show...

2. The Ramones - Rock & Roll Radio

Whereas Joey and the gang tune around the dial until they find a radio station that plays it like they used to...

This is rock 'n' roll radio - come on, let's rock 'n' roll with the Ramones!

1. Dexys Midnight Runners - Burn It Down

Originally released under the title Dance Stance, this was Dexys' first 7" single. It was re-recorded and rechristened Burn It Down as the opening track to their 1980 debut album Searching For The Young Soul Rebels.

The record begins with 50 seconds of the band tuning around the radio dial, hearing snippets of Deep Purple, the Sex Pistols and the Specials amid the shipping forecasts and brass bands, before Rowland turns off the radio and shouts to Big Jim Paterson, "For god's sake, burn it down!"

The rest is history...

Any great retuning tunes in your collection?


  1. Featuring radio dial contributions from John Peel, Tony Hancock, Sid James plus a couple of snippets from their own back catalogue, don't forget this classic from the mighty Be Bop Deluxe.

  2. I bloody love that Skee-Lo tune, probably because I wish I was a little bit taller.

  3. With you all the way in the choice for Number One. One of the finest 45 single intros.

    I'd like to put in a shout for Zappa's "I'm The Slime" (even though it's about TV and not radio)...

    "That's right, folks . . .
    Don't touch that dial"

    And although it says "wireless knobs" and not dial, I think Van Morrison's "In the days before rock 'n' roll" deserves a mention.

  4. Haven't thought of this song in years, but Getting Closer by Wings popped into my head just now. Certainly couldn't touch Dexys or Ramones though.

  5. How about the end of 'FM' by the Slits from their Peel session...


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