(This post has been updated here.)
There’s lots of songs about radio. There’s a smaller number about DJs: “W.O.L.D” by Harry Chapin, “The Last DJ” by Tom Petty, Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly” (“I’m Lester the Nightfly/Hello Baton Rouge/Won’t you turn your radio down/Respect the seven-second delay we use”), “Clap for the Wolfman” by the Guess Who, and “Pilot of the Airwaves” by Charlie Dore.
Dore had been an actor in her native UK, but in the late 70s she formed a band called Prairie Oyster (which is apparently not the same Prairie Oyster that charted a string of monster country hits in Canada during the 90s) and later scored her own record deal. Even though she signed with Island and was British, her first album was recorded partly in Nashville. The lead single of that album, “Pilot of the Airwaves,” is not remotely country-sounding, but it’s got that easy-rockin’ feel that was a radio staple in the late 70s, mostly because such records would bridge the gaps between the disco thumpers, rock tunes, and country crossovers that populated the Top 40 without sounding odd. You could even call it Mellow Gold, if Charlie were as diffident in dealing with the opposite sex as she is with the DJ she’s calling for a request (“You don’t have to play it but I hope you’ll do your best”). The best thing about it, though, is its massive hook—it starts with the refrain, done a cappella in gorgeous harmony. The 45 version ended the same way, although the version posted below is from the album and contains a guitar solo that was missing from the 45, and a plain old fadeout.
Tomorrow, I’ll take you inside the cockpit with the pilot himself. Stay tuned.
(Island 49166, chart peak: #13, May 3, 1980)