"Mexican Radio" is a song written and performed by the band Wall of Voodoo, and produced by Richard Mazda. The track was initially made commercially available on their 1982 album Call of the West, and was released as a single in early 1983. In their native US, the song was a modest hit, peaking at no. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was a bigger hit in other parts of the world, peaking at no. 18 in Canada, no. 21 in New Zealand and no. 33 in Australia. It also reached no. 64 in the UK.
Wall of Voodoo lead singer and player of organ, synthesizer and harmonica, Stan Ridgway and guitarist Marc Moreland traced the inspiration for the song to listening to high-wattage unregulated AM Mexican radio stations (among them XERF, XEG, and XERB).
Marc Moreland was the first to begin writing the song, which in a recorded interview in the '90s he stated, "It was basically just me singing 'I'm on a Mexican radio' over and over again". Moreland stated when he played it for his mother she hated it because of his repetitious lyrics. Stan Ridgway co-wrote with Moreland to finish the song, and added all the verse's lyrics to Moreland's chorus and guitar lick as well as the "mariachi" harmonica melody in the song's middle breakdown. When performing live with Wall Of Voodoo, Stan usually played the mariachi melody via an organ/synthesizer and Bill Noland used a synthesizer to play the melody when performing with Wall Of Voodoo in the 1982–1983 years.
The 7" single mix differs in a few areas from the album cut:
- Ridgway's vocals are mixed differently, with a more pronounced echo effect on certain lines.
- A loud Spanish-speaking DJ voice is present on both versions, but each version's voice is different and is saying different words.
- A significantly louder snare drum part is noticeable in the song's chorus.
- Ridgway chants "radio, radio, oleo, radio" at the song's end, rather than "radio, radio, radio, radio" as he does on the album version. Because of this, the single mix is sometimes called the "oleo" mix.
- A pulsing, mangled synth noise is heard at the end of the song on the album version, but not in the 7" mix. Instead, this sound is heard at the beginning of the track, as well as during the song's instrumental break.
Popular References: -On Seinfeld, season 9 episode 12 "the reverse peephole", Kramer can be heard singing it when the super of the building arrives as he's reversing his peephole.
It was rumored that Wall Of Voodoo drummer Joe Nanini was very difficult to work with at times in the studio when the group were recording their 1982 LP, Call Of The West, on which "Mexican Radio" appeared. On "Mexican Radio" in particular, it has been said that Joe was a little upset when Richard Mazda suggested a snare drum hit on the chorus of the song. Joe ultimately refused to cooperate, leading Mazda to recording the snare part himself, and with the band's acceptance the snare appeared in the final mix of the song.
Arizona-based punk rock band Authority Zero featured a cover version on their 2004 album Andiamo with slightly modified lyrics; for instance, "They talk about the U.S. inflation" was replaced with "They talk about the Iraq invasion".
Kinky, a Mexican electronic/rock band from Monterrey Mexico has covered this song as well. They kept the upbeat rhythm of the song with their own electronic twist and added some lyrics in Spanish. This version is in their album Reina De Lujo, and their Sassy EP, and also is featured in Need for Speed Undercover.
Bruce Lash gave the song the bossa nova treatment on his 2004 album, "Prozak for Lovers II" which also includes easy-listening versions of Nirvana's "Lithium" and Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" among others.
The intro synthesizer was sampled by the hip-hop group Cannibal Ox in the song "Iron Galaxy".
South Park Mexican has a somewhat different version of the song, keeping the chorus more or less intact, but writing a completely new set of verses.
A first-person rendition ("I'm a Mexican / On the radio") appears on the album Graciasland by El Vez, the "Mexican Elvis".
The music video for the song consist of the band performing in a studio decorated like the album cover. Interspersed are images of typical Mexican life and, near the end, the band are shown operating their own radio station (a reference to the lyric, "I'd take requests on the telephone").