Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo

Song#:  1379
Date:  03/19/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  58
Weeks:  9
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  Stan Ridgeway and Marc Moreland began to develop a band while Ridgeway was still running his film music company Acme Soundtracks. By 1977, the pair had a lineup and began performing as Wall of Voodoo. The signed with IRS Records and a self-titled EP in 1980 got them a bit of attention thanks to an odd cover of  Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." A full LP called "Dark Continent" came out the next year. It didn't get a lot of notice, but the album charted (#177) and it allowed them to record a second full-length album. "Call of the West" got issued in 1982. It's first single, "On Interstate 15," was pretty much ignored, but this second single jump started the album. Thanks to a quirky video that played on MTV, the song gained an audience and peaked a bit short of the pop Top 50 (#41 Mainstream Rock). It would end up being their only pop chart entry. Ridgeway would leave the group soon after while Moreland continued on with the other members. They would release three more LPs to little notice in the US. However, they had a successful following in Australia thanks to a couple of singles that hit the chart there.

ReduxReview:  There were many songs throughout the 80s that became popular thanks to MTV. Chances are, without that exposure some of these songs may have never found an audience. I would venture to guess that this would have been one of them. It's just a bit too odd for a pop audience. Even rock radio wasn't sure what to do with it. But they gained fans thanks to the equally odd video for the song. I didn't really like either at the time. What I remembered most was the face coming out of the pot of beans. The song seems less odd now than it did back then and I kind of dig it. Beans and all.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The band's unusual name came from a friend of Ridgeway's who was listening to some of their recordings in the studio. Ridgeway apparently joked that all the overdubs made the music sound similar to Phil Spector's famous "wall of sound." His friend said it was more like a "wall of voodoo."  2) This song's roots comes from actual Mexican radio. There were several unregulated Mexican AM stations near the US border that had very strong signals and their broadcasts would push quite far into the US. The stations were called "border blasters" and they would often interfere with US radio stations. Ridgeway apparently would try to hone in on these stations while the band was traveling around and when he would happen on one, he would say "I'm on one! I'm on Mexican radio!" The broadcast voices you hear in the song are taped from actual border blasters.



  1. While I often comment when I do not agree with you. I definitely agree with you on this one. The song was good, but no one would have ever heard it, if it wasn't for MfTV. I haven't seen the video in decades, but I remember it (and of course, the pot of beans shot) like it was yesterday. MTV was truly cutting edge when it came to exposing the public to songs they otherwise would never have heard. Granted, repeated play on MTV didn't always translate into hitting the Hot 100. Three songs that I absolutely loved on MTV fit that category: We Ride Tonight by The Sherbs (a very weird/scary video), Jukebox (Don't Put Another Dime) by The Flirts, and I Wanna Be A Lifeguard by Blotto. I never heard any of these songs on the radio, but if I watched the videos right now, I would know every word. I'm sure it's hard for anyone under the age of 30 to even imagine that MTV ever had that much clout when it came to exposing people to new music.

    1. It's true. MTV really drove music for quite a long time and many artists/labels used it to their advantage. I miss those days. There was one show I really liked from the 80s that came on late at night, was an hour, and featured new artists or indie artists. I discovered a lot of good music via that show. The Sherbs and The Flirts! Awesome. Not familiar with Blotto - will check it out.

  2. One of those songs that seemed more popular than the charts indicate, thanks to MTV.

    1. Indeed. I miss those days of MTV. Our small town stations didn't play much outside of the big hits, so MTV was how I discovered a lot of new music.