Our friend Amy Braun, from the blog ailovemusic, has provided the prompt for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, hosted by Jim Adams, and it’s a good one. She has asked us to find a song with nonsense lyrics. I was stumped at first and then I got to thinking about it and remembered one of my favorite songs, Radio Ga Ga by Queen. To me it never seemed like nonsense lyrics. I mean, really, whoever cared about the lyrics to rock songs? it was all about the music and who doesn’t remember the great Freddie Mercury’s performance at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium?
Queen drummer Roger Taylor wrote this song. When it charted, all four members of the group had written at least one Top 10 hit either in the US or UK.
Roger Taylor wrote this as a critique of radio stations, which were becoming commercialized and playing the same songs over and over (and this was before radio was deregulated, allowing companies to own multiple stations in a market, resulting in more corporate ownership, less competition and generally bad radio).
Taylor claimed that he was inspired to write this after watching MTV. He noticed that lots of kids were watching the channel instead of listening to the radio.
The video is based on the 1926 movie Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang. Queen had to pay the German government to use clips of it in the video.
Originally, this was “Radio Ca-Ca,” which was something Roger Taylor’s part-French son Felix exclaimed one day in trying to say the radio was bad (“radio, CACA!). The phrase stuck with Taylor and inspired the anti-commercial radio themes in the lyrics.
Taylor liked the title, but the rest of the group objected and asked for a re-write. As a result, it went from a song condemning radio (“Ca-Ca”) to praising it (“Ga Ga”). Interestingly however, even in the final recorded version, the phrase “Ca-Ca” is present – maybe as a compromise for Taylor?
Queen stole the show at Live-Aid when Freddie Mercury, battling laryngitis, got everybody in Wembley Stadium singing the chorus of this song.
The extras in the video got the clapping sequence right on the first try, but it took practice for the members of Queen to get it down. Director David Mallet was surprised the extras picked up the routine so easily, considering they’d never heard the song, which hadn’t yet been released.
The rock band Electric Six recorded this on their 2005 album Señor Smoke. In the video, their lead singer Dick Valentine is shown as the ghost of Freddie Mercury appearing in front of his grave, which caused controversy amongst Queen fans. Valentine was quick to stress that it was meant in tribute, not to denigrate the group – the band were massive Queen fans.
Lady Gaga took her name from this song. Born Stefani Germanotta, she started using the moniker when she needed a stage name. Who came up with the name is a matter of dispute, as her former producer Rob Fusari claims that he originated it, while the singer says it was given to her by her co-workers in her burlesque days.
When director David Mallet was coming up with the concept for the music video, he wanted to stray from the usual performance pieces full of guitar solos and drum fills. “And even [guitarist] Brian May agreed to that,” Mallet told the documentary series Video Killed the Radio Star. Freddie Mercury suggested the Metropolis concept, but Mallet wanted to make sure the band still played a key role in the clip. “So we built that funny car and them flying through the air, and used the wide shots from Metropolis … All I was trying to do is find some way of fitting Metropolis into a different setting, and I thought, what if we make the whole video a period – wartime, for instance, or semi-wartime, and it would tie it all together. And it did.”
Some critics feel the choreography in the hand-clapping scene is a reference to Nazis, an idea that Mallet dismisses: “It didn’t really have any bearing on Nazi rallies at all.” Roger Taylor added: “That section was meant to sort of portray the mind control of the workers in the movie Metropolis.”
An extended version was released as a 12″ single at the same time.
- Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar, went to boarding school in India, and came to England with his parents in 1964. His birth name is Farrokh Bulsara, but due to racial abuse he suffered in his early teens, he legally changed his name in 1972.
- Mercury died of AIDS the day after announcing he had the disease. He died the morning of November 24, 1991 at age 45.
- May is an accomplished scholar. He studied astronomy and physics at Imperial College in London.
- All four members wrote at least one of their hits. Since they all wrote, it gave them a very diverse sound.
- Before forming Queen, May and Taylor were in a psychedelic band called Smile.
- Brian May’s guitar is called the Red Special, and was made with the help of his father, who was an engineer, while Brian was still in high school. The body was made from an old mantelpiece that a family friend had discarded while renovating his house and the whammy bar was made from parts of an old bicycle kick stand. It is the interesting mix of materials that make May’s guitar tone impossible to duplicate and why he sounds so original. It has a unique tone, which has become his signature, and it allowed him to create various sound effects found on many of Queen’s songs, such as “Get Down, Make Love.”
- They first toured the US as the opening band for Mott The Hoople in 1974.
- In 1981, they did the soundtrack for the movie Flash Gordon, which was a huge flop.
- All of the members are very intelligent. In addition to May’s degree in astronomy, they have degrees in biology (Taylor), illustration (Mercury), and electronics (Deacon).
- They proudly declared that no synthesizers were used in their music until 1980. Roger Taylor was the first member of Queen to get a synth. Taylor recalled to Mojo: “Freddie was all over it – ‘Ooh what does this do?’ It changed the way we did things.”
- When Mercury moved to England in 1959, he lived less than a football field distance from May, but the two never met until 1970.
- Mercury’s stamp collection was purchased by the British Postal Service for almost $5,000. It is currently on display at the National Postage Museum.
I'd sit alone and watch your light My only friend through teenage nights And everything I had to know I heard it on my radio You gave them all those old time stars Through wars of worlds invaded by Mars You made 'em laugh, you made 'em cry You made us feel like we could fly So don't become some background noise A backdrop for the girls and boys Who just don't know or just don't care And just complain when you're not there You had your time, you had the power You've yet to have your finest hour Radio, everybody! All we hear is radio ga ga Radio goo goo Radio ga ga All we hear is radio ga ga Radio blah blah Radio, what's new? Radio, someone still loves you We watch the shows, we watch the stars On videos for hours and hours We hardly need to use our ears How music changes through the years Let's hope you never leave, old friend Like all good things, on you we depend So stick around 'cause we might miss you When we grow tired of all this visual Had your time, you had the power You've yet to have your finest hour Radio All we hear is radio ga ga Radio goo goo Radio ga ga All we hear is radio ga ga Radio goo goo Radio ga ga All we hear is radio ga ga Radio blah blah Radio, what's new? Radio, someone still loves you Loves You Writer/s: Roger Taylor Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
Courtesy of Songfacts