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|Single by Wall of Voodoo|
|from the album Call of the West|
|B-side||"Call of the West"|
|Genre||New wave, dark wave, post-punk, alternative rock|
4:08 (album version)3:56 (radio and music video version)
|Songwriter(s)||Wall of Voodoo|
"Wall Of Voodoo - Mexican Radio"
"Mexican Radio" is a song written and performed by the band Wall of Voodoo, and produced by Richard Mazda. The track was initially made commercially available on their 1982 album Call of the West, and was released as a single in early 1983. In their native United States, the song wasn't much of a success, peaking at no. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It did better in other parts of the world, peaking at no. 18 in Canada, no. 21 in New Zealand and no. 33 in Australia. It also reached no. 64 in the UK.
Wall of Voodoo lead singer and player of organ, synthesizer and harmonica, Stan Ridgway and guitarist Marc Moreland traced the inspiration for the song to listening to high-wattage unregulated AM Mexican radio stations (among them XERF, XEG, and XERB).
Moreland was the first to begin writing the song, which in a recorded interview in the 1990s he stated, "It was basically just me singing 'I'm on a Mexican radio' over and over again". Moreland stated when he played it for his mother she hated it because of his repetitious lyrics. Ridgway co-wrote with Moreland to finish the song, and added all the verse's lyrics to Moreland's chorus and guitar lick as well as the "mariachi" harmonica melody in the song's middle breakdown. When performing live with Wall of Voodoo, Ridgway usually played the mariachi melody via an organ/synthesizer and Bill Noland used a synthesizer to play the melody when performing with Wall of Voodoo in the 1982–1983 years.
The 7" single mix differs in a few areas from the album cut:
- Ridgway's vocals are mixed differently, with a more pronounced echo effect on certain lines.
- The first few bars of the LP version has no overtalk while the single version does.
- A loud Spanish-speaking DJ voice is present on both versions, but each version's voice is different and is saying different words.
- A significantly louder snare drum part is noticeable in the song's chorus.
- Ridgway chants "radio, radio, oleo, radio" at the song's end, rather than "radio, radio, radio, radio" as he does on the album version. Because of this, the single mix is sometimes called the "oleo" mix.
- A pulsing, mangled synth noise is heard at the end of the song on the album version, but not in the 7" mix. Instead, this sound is heard at the beginning of the track, as well as during the song's instrumental break.
It was rumored that Wall of Voodoo drummer Joe Nanini was very difficult to work with at times in the studio when the band were recording their 1982 album, Call of the West, on which "Mexican Radio" appeared. On "Mexican Radio" in particular, it has been said that Nanini was a little upset when Richard Mazda suggested a snare drum hit on the chorus of the song. Nanini ultimately refused to cooperate, leaving Mazda to record the snare part himself, and with the band's acceptance the snare appeared in the final mix of the song.
- "Mexican Radio" - 3:55
- "Call of the West" - 6:00
- In the USA, 2 different catalog numbers were shown on the 7" single. The first, SP-70963 on IRS label was for promotional use only. and issued without a picture sleeve. The second, IR-9912 on IRS label released for both promotional and commercial use with a picture sleeve .
Two Songs by Wall of Voodoo 12" single
- "Mexican Radio" - 3:55
- "There's Nothing on This Side" - 10:08
- Side B is actually two separate tracks. The first is an instrumental piece, which leads directly into a "dub mix" of "Mexican Radio."
1989 mini CD reissue
- "Mexican Radio" - 3:55
- "Tomorrow" - 2:43
- "Call of the West" - 5:35
- Tracks 2 and 3 recorded live at Barstow Auditorium, Barstow, CA on August 18, 1982.
The music video for the song was produced and directed by Francis Delia at his studio on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, CA as well as on location in Tijuana, Mexico. Wall of Voodoo rehearsed down the hall from Delia's commercial photography studio and named him to direct the video. The video's fast cutting, impressionistic dark images and faux documentary style in Mexico made it one of the most popular clips in MTV history to that point in time. Iconic images include a morbidly obese woman (Ann Marie Bates), uncovering a large bowl of baked beans—cooked by Bob Casale of the band DEVO —from which the face of Stan Ridgway emerges. The Los Angeles studio photography which was done in one nearly 24 hour span left the production bereft of extras forcing the director to cameo as an anonymous Mexican turning an iguana on a spit over a campfire. The music video was in heavy rotation on MTV throughout 1983.
Arizona-based punk rock band Authority Zero featured a cover version on their 2004 album Andiamo with slightly modified lyrics; for instance, "They talk about the U.S. inflation" was replaced with "They talk about the Iraq invasion".
Kinky, a Mexican electronic/rock band from Monterrey Mexico has covered this song as well. They kept the upbeat rhythm of the song with their own electronic twist and added some lyrics in Spanish. This version is in their album Reina De Lujo, and their Sassy EP, and also is featured in Need for Speed Undercover.
Bruce Lash gave the song the bossa nova treatment on his 2004 album, "Prozak for Lovers II" which also includes easy-listening versions of Nirvana's "Lithium" and Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" among others.
The intro synthesizer was sampled by the hip-hop group Cannibal Ox in the song "Iron Galaxy".
Swiss metal band Celtic Frost have also covered the song. They put it as the first song on their third album Into the Pandemonium. Frontman Tom G. Warrior got the idea for the cover of the song when he wanted to write a song about a mexican radio but one day saw the music video for the song on MTV whilst looking to see if there were any music videos on the channel featuring naked ladies. Upon finding out that a song about a mexican radio already existed he decided to cover it instead of writing his own in order to save time.
South Park Mexican has a somewhat different version of the song, keeping the chorus more or less intact, but writing a completely new set of verses.
A first-person rendition ("I'm a Mexican / On the radio") appears on the album Graciasland by El Vez, known as the "Mexican Elvis" or the "Thin Brown Duke".
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications)
- Steffen Hung. "New Zealand charts portal". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 2014-03-08.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 590. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "SP-70963 Promo Only". 45cat.com. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- "IR-9912". 45cat.com. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- Delia, Francis; Patrick Goldstein (September 2, 1983). "DELIA FILMS DREAMS, NIGHTMARES". Los Angeles Times. RAD PICS. pp. two (2).