Songwriter Ridgway Offers Potent, Eerie 'Snakebite'

Stan Ridgway

hide captionStan Ridgway

'Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs' CD cover

hide caption'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.

Stan Ridgway

hide captionStan Ridgway

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.

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