On ‘Radio’

I walked into the studio at 7:00 pm with two six packs, two Quizno subs (the Official Sanwhich Maker of Benjamin Wagner’s ‘Almost Home’ LP), a DV camera, and Jonathan Goldner, cameraman extraordinaire. Kevin was almost done mixing ‘Radio.’ With a few of my edits, it was a wrap.

I wrote ‘Radio’ shortly after September 11th. I was listening to a lot of Ryan Adams, Wilco, Van Morrison and the likes, and wanted to write a song about, well, a favorite song. I wanted to write a song about loving a song. About the escape, the comfort, the salve, that one song can provide.

I got my first radio from my grandparents when I was about 8-years-old. It was an orange Radio Shack transistor. I listened to Chicago’s WLS-AM whenever I could, rockin’ out to Juice Newton (“Queen of Hearts”), Eddie Rabbit (“I Love A Rainy Night”), Supertramp (“The Logical Song”), Styx (“Paradise Theater”), and — most influentially — Hall & Oates (“Kiss On Your List”). In fact, I listened to the radio so often, and so loudly, that my father broke it over his knee.

I fell right into a morning/afternoon/evening device (for each of the three verses). And I wanted to write a song that people could sing along with, so I ripped off Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” (always my most well-received live cover), and made it my own with a “sha la la” chorus. (Bono says “Every poet is a thief,” so I feel ok about it.) It all came together quite easily. But it’s the bridge (what Paul McCartney calls the “middle eight”) that I’m really proud of.

Once in a lifetime
Once and your dead
You ever get it half right
Then it slips away

Everything slips away on this record. Everything slips away in real life. At least in my real life. But the cool thing about the bridge is that, at the end, I give it my best “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeeeaaah!” Then Jason Gallagher comes in with a terrifc alt.country guitar solo. Not some wanker noodling, just a tasty, seering solo. It’s what he does in Leroy Justice every day. And it fits perfectly.

So, as Kevin got moving on “I’ll be Waiting” (which I’ll write about after I sleep some), Jonathan and I got to work on the interview. See, we’re going to put together a 2-3 minute “making of” video for ya’ll who are playing along at home. We shot some b-roll last week, and performed interviews tonight with me, Kevin, and Jeremy (who works down the hall and has heard the entire record evolve in 10 second clips). Should be fairly entertaining. And maybe even remotely informational.

Meanwhile, though, I’m toast. The day started with a phone call from a co-worker who was in the ER with his fiance at 5:21, hit its stride when another co-worker had to bolt to deal with a major family emergency, and ended, well… it ends right here. So, sleep tight. Dream good dreams. And be a good you. The best you that you can be. And remember the time when a good song was the best friend of all.

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