It did not make many headlines when Wall of Voodoo co-founder, songwriter and guitarist Marc Moreland died of liver failure at the age of 44 on March 13, 2002.
But Moreland and vocalist Stan Ridgway are secure in ’80s history, as their song “Mexican Radio” remains one of the songs people reference when they try to define the ’80s sound.
The song did not come close to the top 40, yet it is available on almost two dozen ’80s compilation discs. It is quirky, synth-driven, and fun in a way that’s unimaginable in today’s hipper-than-thou pop culture.
Kicking off with a burst of programmed drums, static and Mexican chatter, the loping, surging guitars and skeletal beat frame Ridgway’s oddball vocal.
The song is famous for its post-bridge refrain, “I wish I was in Tiujana/Eating barbecued iguana,” but its smartest lyric is “I hear the rhythms of the music/I buy the product but never use it,” the slyest take on commercialism since the Stones sniffed at the man with the clean, white shirts but the wrong cigarettes in “Satisfaction.”
The record ends with the L.A.-based band chanting, “What does he say?” as Ridgway all but yodels, “ray-dee-oh,” “ray-dee-oh,” with one “Oleo” thrown in to see if you are paying attention.
Like most tangy barbecue, it’s a welcome treat, if not something you’d want to make a steady diet of.