Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Firm: Radioactive

I can hear it already, there will be those muttering under their breath – “Is he crazy? The Firm had more than one hit besides their song 'Radioactive.'” True they had some airplay on two other songs, but our definition of a One Hit Wonder is that it was the only song by an artist to chart in the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Within those parameters, “Radioactive” was their only song with distinction having peaked at #28.

As for the other two songs, “Satisfaction Guaranteed” charted at #73 and “All the King’s Horses” did a little better at #61. Additionally, “Radioactive” attained the number one position on Billboard’s Top Rock Tracks chart. While “Radioactive” was their best known song in the US, it was not the case elsewhere. This 1985 American hit charted at 75 and 76 in Canada and the UK respectively. The album, “The Firm,” hit #17 on the LP charts and was certified gold in the US and Canada.

“Radioactive” and their self-titled debut LP was the world’s introduction to 1985’s new supergroup that featured Paul Rodgers (formerly of Free and Bad Company) on lead vocals and Led Zeppelin lead guitarist Jimmy Page. Rounding out the quartet was studio musician Tony Franklin on bass (fretless much of the time) and keyboards. Chris Slade, formerly of Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, handled the drums.

While the video shows Jimmy Page playing the lead on his cherry red Gibson 12/6 string double neck SG model guitar, he did not play the highly unusual lead guitar run on this recording. Vocalist Paul Rodgers played the lead that has been both praised and panned by critics everywhere. I like it as it is unusual. I tried figuring it out, but had difficulty in doing so and am amazed that no one has a tablature available for this solo or a YouTube video showing you how to play it.

The song is in Am and I tried a number of things including diminished arpeggios but could not replicate Rodgers’ genius on this track. I will have to say that it is what first attracted me to the song and I used to sing it in the mid 80s when I played keyboards with a local band named “Street Heat.” Not everyone has the same appreciation of this strange lead. Guitar World ranked it at 77 of their “Top 100 Worst Guitar Solos” list. Everyone is a critic these days.


  1. That strange little riff. It's so angular and peculiar, it just jumps out at me whenever I hear that song. Even to this day. It is very unusual and compelling.

  2. Great solo! The rest of the song is fine, but the solo is what sets it apart from anything else in the top 100 from that era.