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Songwriter Ridgway Offers Potent, Eerie 'Snakebite'

Stan Ridgway
Stan Ridgway
'Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs' CD cover.
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'Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs' CD cover.

In the early 1980s, Stan Ridgway's nasally vocals and eerie, marching keyboards propelled Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" up the charts. After a brief taste of success, the New Wave band -- whose name was a play on Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production style -- broke up in 1983.

Over the last 20 years, Ridgway has continued to record as a solo act, telling stories of intriguing, eccentric characters in song. NPR's Liane Hansen talks to Ridgway about his career and his new CD, Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs.

For a punk rock pioneer, Ridgway reveals a few interesting musical influences, including Henry Mancini and Jerry Goldsmith, the Oscar-winning film composer who recently passed away.

Ridgway's style has often been described as cinematic -- he originally envisioned that Wall of Voodoo would produce soundtracks for low-budget Hollywood films. When no such work materialized, life as a band seemed like the next best option.

Ridgway's wife, keyboardist and composer Pietra Wexstun of the group Hecate's Angels, is a frequent collaborator and their "Manhattan Moment" on Snakebite had an unusual muse: the urbane pianist and wit, Oscar Levant.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.