10 songs about real-life DJs and radio stations

[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

The roots of today’s modern radio broadcasting can be traced to the spring of 1920 (I detail some the history of Canada’s crucial role here). Since then, hundreds if not thousands of songs have been written about radio, listening to the radio, music on the radio, and the people on the radio. Here are 10 songs written about real-life stations, DJs, and personalities.

1. Rush, The Spirit of Radio

In January 1980, I brought my friends over to listen to Permanent Waves, the new album from Rush. As it played, I read through the liner notes of the song that appeared on side one, track one. At the bottom was a note: inspired by The Spirit of Radio in Toronto, alive and well (so far). “My favourite band wrote a song about a radio station?” I thought. “Cool!” At that point in my high school years, I’d already been thinking about radio as a career. Never did I imagine that I’d end up working at that same station: CFNY-FM, now 102.1 the Edge.

At the time, CFNY was running out of a little yellow house in Brampton, using a woefully underpowered transmitter. Yet the station had achieved a cult following because of its eclectic playlist and its slogan, “The Spirit of Radio.” Rush took note, asked permission to use that slogan as a song title, and the rest is history. The full story will be told later this month in the new box set reissue of Permanent Waves.

My other nine picks (plus some bonus tracks) can be found here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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