Deniz Tek moved from Ann Arbor, MI, to Australia and founded Radio Birdman in 1974 with Rob Younger and the rest of The Rats’ rhythm section. By the time Radios Appear was recorded in 1977, the group was already legendary with a cult-like following and an ascetic devotion to the fierce 1960s rock ’n’ roll Tek assimilated as a Michigan resident. Homage to these influences is one aspect of Radios Appear. It boasts a fiery cover of 13th Floor Elevators’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” the lyrics to “Do the Pop” wax nostalgic for The Stooges and MC5, and “Radio Birdman” was, of course, taken from a misheard lyric in The Stooges’ “1970.”
However, Radio Birdman’s maverick performances and songwriting on this debut elevate them far beyond pure pastiche. Opener “What Gives?” kicks the record off at an alarmingly fast pace inspired by punk’s new up-tempo glee, but the trotting bass lines and savage guitar solos that follow reveal a staunch rejection of punk’s then-hip ineptitude. Hyperactive riffs underpin vocalist Younger’s assertive, clear delivery, and Pip Hoyle takes a brilliant keyboard solo. Each instrument is separate in the mix—the production highlights Birdman’s technical proficiency honed for years in Sydney’s few rock clubs with open doors to the uniformed sect of elitist rockers.
Record labels were eager to place Radio Birdman in the new context of late-’70s punk—somewhat inaccurately considering the band’s long hair and technical skill—so WEA picked up Radios Appear for distribution after its initial mail-order release on the Trafalgar imprint. Then, legendary Sire boss Seymour Stein saw Radio Birdman while visiting Australia to sign The Saints, and resolved to rerelease Radios Appear internationally with a different track order and particular overdubs. This version is presented here, as heard by so many late-’70s youth before starting bands of their own and citing Radios Appear as an influence in interviews to come.