One year after the 1983 release of her Giorgio Moroder produced sophomore album, Fearless, East Berliner Nina Hagen, often called the “Queen Mother of Punk”, met with British music producer Adam Kidron to begin work on the follow-up.
Nina began working on material for her third studio album, which would eventually be titled Nina Hagen in Ekstasy, throughout 1984 with frequent collaborator Karl Rucker, bass/guitar player Billy Liesegang, and Peter Krause. The album was recorded between two studios — Mediterranean Studios in Ibiza and Maracadet Studios in Paris– and mixed in Los Angeles and London.
Following her well-received Intergalactic World Tour, Nina was gearing up for the release of “Universal Radio,” the lead single from Nina Hagen in Ekstasy. The track, written by Ron Dumas and produced by Trevor Horn associate Adam Kidron, was premiered during the Rodney Bingenheimer radio show on the Pasadena FM and AM radio station KROQ. The music video that accompanied the single was filmed during Nina’s electrifying performance at the Rock in Rio festival on January 13, 1985.
Though the song kicks has a sound that could have been viewed by many as too experimental for Top 40, pop music fans who listened to the song long enough to get to the chorus were met with Nina’s most radio friendly and commercial sound. As far as Nina Hagen songs go, “Universal Radio” was easily her best opportunity to find chart success in the United States. The sing-along chorus was irresistible and Nina’s vocal quickness only added to the appeal. The release of “Universal Radio” was met with generally favorable reviews. In the May 18, 1985 issue of Billboard, Brian Chin praised the song, saying: “’Universal Radio’ (Columbia 12-inch) may be the one to put Nina Hagen over the top here in America. With a sturdy rock-hip hop beat and several different voices from Hagen, it’s amusing and danceable.”
To promote the song, Nina made several appearances on American television, including stops The Merv Griffin Show and the Late Night with David Letterman. Despite all the promotion, the song failed to make much of an impact on the pop charts. However, it did chart at number 39 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs. I interviewed Nina a few years back and she had little interest in talking about the song. Despite Nina’s lack of interest in the eccentric track, I find “Universal Radio” to be an undiscovered pop music gem that still holds a special place in my music collection.