Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1979 Al Stewart – Song On The Radio

Al Stewart was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but grew up in Southwestern England. At age 19, he moved to London and bought his first guitar from Andy Summers (the future guitarist for the Police). He switched to playing an acoustic guitar when he obtained a regular spot at a local coffeehouse. He briefly shared a flat with Paul Simon in 1965. He began recording for Decca Records a year later and was fortunate enough to sometimes have Jimmy Page backing him up on guitar.

His second album, 1969’s Love Chronicles, won an award for the best folk album of the year. His music began to take on a stronger folk music sound and increasingly included historical references.

Al’s 1973 album contained the song Roads To Moscow, which followed the story of a Russian soldier who became involved in the Nazi invasion of Russia in World War Ii and relays the events that led to the soldier’s sad final fate in the Russian Gulag. Al read at least forty books while writing the song and many believe the song tells a story that is very similar to the life of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The eight-minute song was too long to receive any AM radio airplay and the involved storyline made cutting the song down to a manageable size impossible. Album-oriented rock stations and college radio stations helped bring the song limited public awareness. If you haven’t heard the song, you owe it to yourself to listen to it.

Al’s singles failed to chart until 1976. Alan Parsons produced three albums for Al from 1975 through 1978. The second album contained the single Year of the Cat, which reached the US top ten in 1976. Al moved to Los Angeles after the success of that album.

The title single from his next album, Time Passages, also reached the top ten in 1978. The album also spawned a second single, and Song On The Radio reached #29 on the Hot 100 and #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1979.

In 1980 Al used a new producer and Midnight Rocks became his last charting single when it reached #24 on the Hot 100 and #13 on the Adult Contemporary chart. He released eight more albums by 2010, but sales continued to decline during that time.

Al continues to perform at public appearances and has a website at https://alstewart.com/


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