Article about Radio Radio
Smash Hits, 1978-12-01


Biting the hand and biting back!

SINCE IT'S absolutely vital for a single to get played on the radio if it stands any chance of being a hit, it takes a lot of nerve to release a record which describes disc jockeys and radio bosses as "fools".

It sounds like commercial suicide, but that's precisely what EIvis Costello has done on his single "Radio Radio". Whichever way you look at it, it's a petty scathing attack on the people who control what you hear on your radio.

There aren't many people we can think of aside of Costello who would try it on in such a blatant fashion —and still expect to get radio plays. It's called "biting the hand that feeds you", as Costello himself says in the Iyric.

So what happened when "Radio Radio" fell into the hands of the people it was calling fools. We don't know what went on in the corridors of radio power, but when Tony Blackburn (who you might image Costello regarding as Fool No. 1) first played the single on Radio 1 he felt compelled to comment on the Iyrics.

He called Costello "a silly little man" and commented, "I wonder what radio would be like in the hands of people like Elvis Costello."

In fairness to Blackburn, however, he did go on to say that, despite the words, he liked Costello's single and thought it was his best so far. And in fairness to Radio 1, at least one of their DJs—Paul Gambaccini—named it his Record Of The Week. Tony Blackburn, nevertheless, kept returning to his attack on Costello as a "silly little man" on other occasions when he played "Radio Radio".

It was a lovely irony then when chance paired Elvis Costello as performer and Tony Blackburn as compere on an edition of Top Of The Pops. We would loved to have heard what they said to each other behind the scenes.

What we did see on the screen was amusing enough. Observant viewers might have noticed that when Elvis came to the line about "such a lot of fools etc" he changed it so that he sang, "The radio is in the hands of silly little men trying to anaesthetise the way that you feel". As he did so, he waved an accusing arm towards Blackburn off-screen.

Tony looked a shade put out when he came to introduce the next act. "Oh well, we mustn't take these things personally," he joked weakly.