THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Radio, Radio”

THIS IS OUR MUSIC: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Radio, Radio”.

“I wanna bite the hand that feeds me/I wanna bite that hand so badly,” Elvis Costello sneered with a rage the bordered on Biblical wrath on “Radio Radio,” though a large part of the point of the song was that the hand in question wasn’t feeding him.

Seeing himself (and most of his peers) being shut out by conservative state-controlled radio programming in England and even more conservative corporate FM play list factories (and payola-controlled program directors) in America, Costello was becoming a major artist in spite of radio, not because of it, and he called up his righteous wrath against those who were keeping interesting rock & roll off the airwaves. 

“Radio Radio” wasn’t one of Costello’s more subtle (or well-crafted) songs, but it was certainly among his most anthemic, and if he wanted to be known as a troublemaker, he could hardly have done better than to take on his own best hope at reaching the mass audience.

The song gained greater infamy in 1977 prior to its American release, when Costello performed it on Saturday Night Live — but without clearing it with the staff first, spontaneously leaping into the song after halting his scheduled performance of “Less Than Zero” after only a few seconds. (Costello parodied the event 22 years later, when on an SNL anniversary special, he interrupted the Beastie Boys in the midst of playing “Sabotage” to lead them in a cover of “Radio Radio”).




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