Radio Radio

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"Radio Radio"
Radio Radio (Elvis Costello and The Attractions single - cover art).jpg
Single by Elvis Costello and The Attractions
from the album This Year's Model (US)
Non-Album Single (UK)
B-side"Tiny Steps"
Released20 October 1978
Format7" Single
GenreNew wave
LabelRadar Records
Songwriter(s)Elvis Costello
Producer(s)Nick Lowe
Elvis Costello and The Attractions singles chronology
"Pump It Up"
"Radio Radio"
"Oliver's Army"
Music video
"Radio Radio” on YouTube

"Radio Radio" (sometimes written "Radio, Radio") is a single by Elvis Costello and The Attractions released in the United Kingdom in October 1978. The song had already appeared on the US version of their second album, This Year's Model, released earlier that year.

1977 Saturday Night Live appearance[edit]

The song made waves in the USA after Costello's appearance on Saturday Night Live. Originally, Sex Pistols had been invited to perform on 17 December 1977 broadcast (hosted by Miskel Spillman, an elderly woman who won SNL's "Anybody Can Host" contest), but problems with Sex Pistols' various criminal records made getting visas in time difficult, and so the invitation was extended to Elvis Costello and the Attractions, who were touring Canada and the US at the time. Costello's album was only available on import (My Aim Is True, released in the UK in July). A reference to Sex Pistols' manager Malcolm McLaren's inability to keep his band's performance schedule was made by drummer Pete Thomas who, during the performance, wore a shirt with the words "Thanks Malc", in reference to McLaren, ironed on.

Costello wanted to play "Radio Radio" on SNL. Columbia Records, however, was interested in having an already-established song performed on SNL, to increase interest in the band before the American release of My Aim Is True and This Year's Model. In the event, Costello began the SNL performance by playing "Less than Zero." However, after a few bars, he turned to the Attractions, waving his hand and yelling "Stop! Stop!," then said to the audience, "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here," possibly referring to the fact "Less than Zero" was written as a reply to British fascist politician Oswald Mosley. However, SNL music director Howard Shore attributes the move to Costello's bucking pressure by his music company to play "Less than Zero" on the show.[1] He then led the band in a performance of "Radio Radio." Costello did not appear on Saturday Night Live again until 1989 (one of only three people to have their ban from SNL lifted). This version of "Radio Radio" (fading into the "false start") can be found (in monaural) on Saturday Night Live: 25 Years of Musical Performances, Vol. 1.

Costello said later that the inspiration for the last-minute song change came from a similar episode years earlier, concerning Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was on the BBC television show hosted by pop-star Lulu, and was supposed to play his hit, "Hey Joe." Hendrix started the song, stopped, said, "We'd like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate a song to the Cream regardless of what kind of group they might be. I'd like to dedicate this to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce." and then launched into a feedback-laden version of "Sunshine of Your Love" by the group Cream, which had just announced its break-up. The song ran far longer and louder than the show's producers intended, Hendrix said after a bit, "We're being pulled off the air", and the broadcast was stopped.

Cover versions and later performances[edit]

On SNL's 25th anniversary show in 1999, Costello burst in on Beastie Boys — 'sabotaging' their performance of "Sabotage" — and they then performed "Radio Radio" together.[2]

Costello's own account of this performance appears in the sleeve notes for the 2002 reissue of This Year's Model.[3]

In reference to this performance, "Weird Al" Yankovic and his band have launched into a cover of "Radio, Radio" when technical difficulties, such as a server crash, forced him to stop a song midway during a live performance.[4]

On 16 January 2012, indie rock musician St. Vincent performed a version of her song "Cheerleader" on Conan, before which she started with a cover of "Radio, Radio" stopping seconds later and stating "I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to play that song."[5]


  1. ^ Saturday Night Live 25 Years of Music Volume I DVD
  2. ^ Margin Walker (2016-09-14), Elvis Costello and the Beastie Boys -Radio,Radio, retrieved 2017-01-27
  3. ^ Costello, Elvis. "Liner Notes: This Year's Model (2002)".
  4. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (9 June 2011). "Serving Pop Stars, but on a Skewer". New York Times.
  5. ^ "Video: St. Vincent performs "Cheerleader" on Conan". Consequence of Sound. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.

External links[edit]