On My Radio

Album: Single release only (1979)
Charted: 8
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Songfacts®:

  • Ska revivalists The Selecter were formed in Coventry in 1979 by guitarist Neol Davies with drummer John Bradbury. Their debut single, also called "The Selecter," was the flip side of the Special AKA's hit single "Gangsters." By the time they'd released it, Bradbury had left The Selecter to join The Specials and he actually plays on both songs.

    Following the success of The Selecter's eponymous song, Davies recruited further band members, including vocalist Pauline Black. They released "On My Radio" as their debut single as a seven-piece.
  • The song is a none-too-sly joke at radio's expense. Pauline Black bemoans that her beau prefers the beats to her.

    I bought my baby a red radio
    He played it all day a-go-go a-go-go
    He liked to dance to it down in the streets


    Then comes the payoff:

    It's just the same old show on my radio!
  • Despite the song's criticism of the woefully limited state of Britain's airwaves, the DJs still played it. "On My Radio" became The Selecter's biggest hit, peaking at #8, staying on the UK chart for nine weeks.
  • Davies originally wrote the song as a member of another Coventry band, The Transposed Men. It had never been performed by the time they'd split up, so when The Selecter was formed he passed it onto them.
  • The song is in a unusual 7/4 time - most hits are 4/4.
  • Pauline Black had never been in a studio before when she recorded her skipping Jamaican singing, but she got it right on the first take. The producer Roger Lomas recalled to The Guardian that he asked her to repeat her vocal. After she sang it identically he "used one vocal in the right channel and the other in the left, which gave it a really unusual sound."
  • The song featured in an advert for Virgin Money.
  • The Selecter had three more charting singles before they split in 1981. Pauline Black went on to act and presented the children's television show Hold Tight before reforming the band in 1991.
  • Neol Davies told Uncut magazine he first recognized the song's potential when he started playing the two-chord verse part at home. "A friend of ours was in the flat, deep in conversation with my wife, and I noticed both of them tapping their feet," he recalled. "I thought 'OK, well, that obviously works!'
    I built the verse and lyrics on those two chords and found it flowed into another idea that I'd been playing with, then the chorus line came out. The whole thing was really catchy. It's represented a step forward in my songwriting."

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