Nov 202012

As much as I LOVE Elvis Costello & the Attractions‘ “Radio Radio,” I’ve always been bugged by that odd sound that comes in during the choruses — during “cleaning up the nation,” etc. It’s always sounded like a turkey baster or something. What the hell is that? And are there any other songs out there that make you scratch your head at the out-of-left-field sound that comes in. I’m not talking Pere Ubu, where odd sounds were de rigueur.


  18 Responses to “Strange Sounds”

  1. I think the noise you refer to, machinery, is an overdubbed hi-ht, no?

    I know what you mean about these mystery sounds. I heard such a sound in a “regular” song last week that I mentally filed away for a possible future discussion point. Now I can’t remember what song I heard! I’ll scroll through my iPod today and see if that doesn’t help me remember.

  2. ladymisskirroyale

    Calling Einsterzende Neubauten, anyone?

    For me, the question continues to be: “What is that subterranean crashing bowling ball sound in of REM’s “We Walk”?”

  3. misterioso

    I don’t think that’s a high hat.

  4. trigmogigmo

    This used to baffle me, but I believe I figured it out. It is the word “listen” being whispered, with too much sibilance (high frequency “ess” hissing sound). If you “listen” closely you can make out the whispered word.

    Radio is cleaning up the nation
    (listen, listen, listen, listen, …)
    They say you better listen to the voice of reason
    (listen, listen, listen, listen, …)

  5. Very cool! Now this begs the question: Is it Doug Yule who’s doing the whispering?

  6. trigmo’s identified whispering may have reminded me of one of the strange sounds I found myself pondering last week: Whatever’s being mumbled in the background of one of the rapid-fire “I can dig it” parts in “Grazing in the Grass.” I can’t remember if I figured it out, but this is definitely a sound I was stuck on last week.

  7. I doesn’t sound like a high hat to me either. It’s too wheezy sounding.

  8. BigSteve

    I’m pretty sure it’s a heavily processed hi-hat. Right before the mystery sound comes in in the left channel, you can hear Pete Thomas’ hi-hat doing the same thing less obtrusively in the right channel. I believe they just isolated that sound and compressed and gated it. Maybe hvb can weigh in on my theory.

  9. cliff sovinsanity

    NO dummies, Trig is right. It’s Bruce Thomas leaning into the mic saying “listen, listen,listen”. I’ve seen lots of live performances of this song.

  10. That’s what I thought it was, BigSteve. Maybe I’ll have to reach out to Friend of the Hall Roger Bechirian to see if he can set us straight.

  11. Oh, I know this one: it’s a game of pool on a miked table, slowed down and otherwise futzed with. There was a pool table in the studio lounge and they decided to incorporate it into the mix of that song.

    If I recall correctly, the players were Bill Berry and Mitch Easter.

  12. He even does this in the video for the song.

  13. ladymisskirroyale

    Thanks! I had wondered whether the sounds were of pool table origin so it’s nice to hear my suspicions corroborated.

  14. BigSteve

    I don’t see him doing it in the clip posted above. And the fact that he did it in live performances doesn’t mean that’s the sound on the record.

  15. cliff sovinsanity

    The argument ends here…

  16. machinery

    Sterling Morrison!

  17. BigSteve

    Ok they’re clearly saying “listen” in this clip, but you can hear that it’s a word. On the original track, there’s nothing but the hissing sound. Sorry, but I’m not buying it.

  18. On Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”, someone is playing a piece of paper. On each of those guitar riffs before it goes into the trippy sweet emotion choruses, there’s a very amplified sound of a piece of paper being torn in half.

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