Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Self Reflection: You Turn Me On I'm a Radio

Please don’t tune me out! It’s a common feeling that many musicians have. As I pondered music with “self-reflection,” I quickly decided to put on an old well-played LP by Joni Mitchell called “For the Roses” that dates back to 1972. While her first few albums in the 1968-71 timeframe had rather expressive folkie singer/songwriter material, I always enjoyed hearing Joni’s stylistic forays into the jazz and pop genres. “For the Roses” documented one of those transitional periods and is a great album from one of the 20th century’s most significant female recording artists. Always straightforward, lyrical and reflective, Joni’s music is close-up and personal.  

Joni had been asked by her record label to write a radio-friendly hit to include on her fifth album, “For the Roses.” So she came up with “You Turn Me On I’m a Radio.” She had hoped that such a witty song with multiple references to radio might actually get DJs to sit up, take notice of it and convince stations to play it. Sure enough, the approach worked, and “You Turn Me On I’m a Radio” became her first Top 40 hit. It also didn’t hurt that the song was also about love, had flavors of country and pop, and it was well arranged with nice backing vocals and a harmonica solo played by Graham Nash. Joni Mitchell made her song’s purpose quite clear: “And I'm sending you out, This signal here, I hope you can pick it up, Loud and clear.”     

As a musician myself, I always laugh at Joni’s astute advice and wisdom when she immediately launches the song with “If you're driving into town, With a dark cloud above you, Dial in the number, Who's bound to love you.” Hey, in the music world (and radio business specifically), why not practice a little reciprocity of love? Support those who support you. A little neighborly exchange and working for each other’s mutual benefit goes a long way to establishing relationships, finding affection, getting music on the airwaves, building fans and tuning the static from your reception (puns intended).     

As far as Joni’s “self-reflection” in the song, this verse says it all and is downright genius: “Oh honey you turn me on, I'm a radio, I'm a country station, I'm a little bit corny, I'm a wildwood flower, Waving for you, Broadcasting tower, Waving for you.

And if you want your hit song to get airplay, close with “Call me at the station, The lines are open.” LOL, what a great way to get people calling in to request it!

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