My club-friendly tendencies are clearly lost on the majority of Popdoseâ€™s AOR-loving rock hounds, so letâ€™s shake things up this week by putting Jimmy Page under the remix knife.
Truth be told, the album version of â€œRadioactiveâ€ is a pretty sorry excuse for a song. At the time, though, I loved it, primarily because of the combination of Pageâ€™s guitar scratch on the third line in the verse, followed by Paul Rodgersâ€™ reverbed vocal. Other than that, what else is there to sink your teeth into? Chris Sladeâ€™s drumming is competent but unremarkable, and Tony Franklinâ€™s spectacular hair overshadowed his skill on the fretless bass. Perhaps that’s why the song is so short; even the band knew they were pushing their luck by leaning on scratcha-scratcha-scratcha-scratch, â€œâ€™cause Imma radioactive!â€ for their hook. Hell, not even Pageâ€™s solo is a highlight, as it is smothered by a second solo slapped on top of it. Bryan Ferry did this a couple of years later on his song â€œLimbo,â€ and Duran Duran did it a few years after that on â€œRead My Lips.â€ They all sound terrible.
So if the original is pushing its luck without even cracking the three-minute mark, what on earth is a six-minute version of the song going to be like? Surprisingly awesome, in a very mid-â€˜80s rock mix kind of way.
The â€œSpecial Mixâ€ of â€œRadioactiveâ€ (download) â€“ to this day, I have no idea who actually remixed the track, as they were not credited on the 12â€ â€“ was a rock radio programmerâ€™s wet dream. It was a new track by a rock legend, and the mix was very contemporary, shaking the cobwebs off of even the dustiest of playlists. Lastly, at just under six minutes, it gave the DJ a prime opportunity to go to the bathroom. Win, win, win. The remix even corrects several of the original songâ€™s mistakes. Slade and Franklin get considerable face time in the mostly instrumental track, and Pageâ€™s time in the spotlight consists of only one solo, not two. The most surprising â€“ and in retrospect, the smartest â€“ thing about the mix is that Pageâ€™s little scratcha-scratcha-scratcha-scratch, the songâ€™s hook fer crissakes, only appears once or twice. Rodgersâ€™ acoustic guitar is beefed up too. Basically, they sound like the Gods of Rock supergroup that they were supposed to be, but ultimately never were.
Had anyone but Page and Rodgers been involved, we probably wouldn’t be talking about â€œRadioactive,â€ or the Firm, today. Heck, the band didnâ€™t really blow any doors down at the height of its popularity; the album peaked at #17, and the single peaked at #28. (A second, better single, â€œSatisfaction Guaranteed,â€ stalled at #73.) With any new Zeppelin-related project comes expectations that could fairly be labeled unreasonable, so itâ€™s quite possible that the Firm never had a prayer from the beginning. Credit must be given, then, to Atlantic for doing something both aggressive and unexpected from a Page project and commissioning this remix. One thing is for sure: it sure as hell holds up better than the mixes Robert Plant would release of â€œHeaven Knowsâ€ and â€œTall Cool Oneâ€ a few years later.
(One confession about the MP3: I ripped it myself, and in a roundabout way (vinyl to cassette, cassette to computer), so this will not be the most pristine recording you will find on this or any other site. But since I do not believe that the mix has ever seen the light of day on CD to date, it will have to do.)