LATE NIGHT RADIO

When I was in high school, I had a friend who’s mom had a Ford mustang convertible that she could take out late at night and drive with the top down. It was aqua-green with white leather seats, and a CD player in the dash (back when that was a premium feature). She’d pick up our friends with one hand on the wheel and a Marlboro Light in between her fingers, and would drive the lot of us around town.  We’d cruise out around the airport and back again as we all did our best to soak up what would be left of the summer. It was a scene not-quite out of Thunder Road, but one that plays that way in my imagination.

A few years later I had started my first band, and we had spent two weeks in a local studio cutting our first record. It wasn’t fancy, nor would it win any Grammys, or sell any copies, but there weren’t a lot of folks in my town who had actually wrote and recorded their own CD. Original music was key here – we always focused on playing our own music even though central NY audiences went for the cover bands. Original music here is a tough row to hoe. We’d work our tails off performing our own blend of folk & rock, but this town only paid for cover tunes. 

At that time I had a 1978 midnight blue Ford Mustang. It was freedom on wheels, even if I could only drive it in the summer. It was a 4-speed stick shift, with no power steering, seatbelts that barely functioned, no heat, rear wheel drive, got about 8 miles to the gallon, and when you went down hill you had to push in the clutch and rev the engine to avoid stalling out. But damn if it wasn’t a good looking car.

Around this time, our local rock station 96.9 WOUR had a weekly show late nights on Saturdays called ‘Local Licks’ and like any good local band, we sent our record in hoping for some airtime. And I still remember driving in that ’78 mustang when I heard our song come through the single working speaker on that car radio. It was exhilarating. We’d made it…as far as I was concerned. Even if it was at 11pm on a Saturday night, I got to hear one of my songs come out of that radio dial.

November 2015 – Concepts/First Drafts

“Late Night Radio” was one of those songs that was written (almost) all in one shot, in the course of a couple of hours at home. It’s really a song about putting art into the universe, but all the audience wants to hear is a cover tune. It’s about the power and nostalgia of radio and sending your voice through the ether in the hopes that it finds a kind ear.

Here’s the conceptual demo with mumbling vocals (which is how most of my songs take shape) recorded to iPhone Voice Memos, and a Video of the first instrumental demo recording in the home studio, November 2015.

1st Concept - recorded as Voice Memo to iPhone
1st Demo (instrumental)
2019 - Late Night Radio
Lyrics

One more night of singing to an empty room
This town only pays for cover tunes
And I wish, the barfly and the platinum blonde,
Just would get a room…

And I ain’t heard no applause or tip jars ringing
Maybe all this writing songs and singing
Don’t come with time and fame and wine and women
No no no….

Honey we can drive all night, don’t worry bout the gas light
Just light another cigarette, this might be as good as summer gets
Baby just you wait and see, I’m dialing in the frequency
Tonight you’re gonna hear the song I wrote for you
On late night radio…

And it don’t pay to write in verses anymore
One more Dylan tune and I’ll be out the door
Everyone’s a DJ and they want to be adored
Watching all the barflies drift, out into these sinking ships
I’ll come by and pick you up, help you clean those midnight coffee cups
Baby just you wait and see, I’m dialing in the frequency
Tonight you’re gonna hear the song I wrote for you
On late night radio…

And I won’t go down without a fight
I’ll run, through this old town’s only traffic light
Let’s drive, all the way to California
Oh let’s go…
Honey we can paint the town, driving with the top down
Just light another cigarette, this might be as good as summer gets
Baby just you wait and see, I’m dialing in the frequency
Tonight you’re gonna hear the song I wrote for you
On late night radio.

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Personnel:
Ben Salzman | Drums
Dr. Heather Malyuk | Violin
Ryan Miller | Vox, Guitars, Upright Bass, Piano
Matt Wagner | Engineering/Mixing/Mastering

Late Night Radio

Late Night Radio (reprise)