A lot of my posts start with me going on about how things were when I was a kid. But I think I ought to be allowed due to the myriad of changes in the world that have taken place since I was a wee lad.
I’m not a big fan of change, especially when it’s sprung on me all of a sudden-like and it’s not my idea. When faced with sudden change I tend to wave the stem of my pipe at it and ‘Hurmph!’ a lot. I had a tiny bit of change tossed at me recently. The battery in our trusty Honda died and we had to have it replaced. My wife did a splendid job of dealing with the fellows in the greasy coveralls at the garage near her office. I really think they like her there. Whenever we’ve needed repairs done they’ve gone out of their way to help her at a reasonable charge.
As many of you may know, when you disconnect a car battery you lose the stations that you’ve preset on your car radio. This is an inconvenience, but certainly not the end of the world. On the drive home after picking up the car from the shop my wife did her best to reset the stations. She got some of them right, but not all of them. The Central Coast doesn’t have a huge selection of stations that cater to my tastes. Plus the terrain changes quite a bit as you drive along the coast so some of the best stations don’t reach all the towns you have to drive through.
I am a child of the 60s and the 70s. In the late 60s all I had was a transistor radio, so I listened to a Chicago radio station called WLS. This was AM, of course. In the 60s the whole concept of what FM radio might be was totally alien to me. I was pretty sure that hippies who sniffed glue and smoked pot listened to FM radio. WLS played top twenty, or maybe top thirty songs, so over the course of two or three hours you heard every single song in their catalog, but that was okay.
In the 70s I learned what a great thing ‘stereo’ was, and that you didn’t have to sniff glue to listen to FM. In the mid-70s my friends and I learned that in addition to cool music, there was some subversive comedy happening on the radio—especially on Sunday night.
The fun on Sunday night actually started on television. At either ten or ten-thirty on WTTW, the Chicago Public Television station they started showing Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Nobody had ever seen anything like that. Once Monty Python was over you’ve turn on the radio and listen to the National Lampoon Radio Hour. A lot of early Saturday Night Live folks were on the National Lampoon hour, like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Belushi. Lampoon was more strange than laugh out loud funny, but certainly worth listening to. Next up was the Doctor Demento Radio show. (I never really ‘liked’ the song Fish Heads, but I appreciated what they were going for)
It’s no wonder some of us were so tired on Monday morning. But none of us were too tired to imitate that previous night’s Monty Python bits.
Occasional chunks of comedy and irreverence aside, most of my music listening during the 70s was top twenty and thirty. I was also very active in the high school choir, so this got me interested in Broadway showtunes. I liked to sing a lot back then, at home and in the car, so I gravitated toward singers near my range. I also liked clever wordplay and good storytellers. This meant that my album and 8-track collection included a lot of Paul Simon, Barry Manilow, Heart, Bread, Billy Joel, ELO, and the like. I’ve come to like many singer/songwriters over the years, but my heart has stayed in the 70s.
But something weird happened in the 1970s. Young George Lucas made a movie called American Graffiti. I didn’t see the film at the time but it seemed to glorify the music and goofy times teenagers experienced in the late 50s and early 60s. My sisters bought the soundtrack. There was some weird ass music around in the 50s and 60s.
Before long everywhere you turned you were getting blasted with 50s and 60s music. Even one of my favorite television shows, ‘Love, American Style’ featured a segment about life in the 50s. This segment went on to become the series Happy Days, which spawned Laverne and Shirley and seven or eight other series.
At some point someone decided to officially refer to a big portion of what was passing for pop music in the 50s and early 60s as ‘The Oldies’.
A lot of people, who were probably only scraping by with their music when it first came out, must have been making money hand over fist during the renaissance of The Oldies in the 70s. Good for them, I say. Everyone deserves to make a living.
I think the renewed interest in The Oldies more or less peaked with the release of the movie Grease. I think by that time we’d all had our fill of Sha Na Na. Besides, by that time George Lucas had given us Star Wars to focus on, and the 1980s were coming. Who had time for the Big Bopper?
The other day I heard from the Big Bopper again. Or maybe it was Buddy Holly. I was in the car singing along with a Barry Manilow classic (1979’s Ships, if you must know) and when the song ended they went right into some sappy sock hop do-wop diddy. It seems that one of the stations that my wife had programmed into the radio, a station that claims to have ‘all the classics you love, all day long’ has taken it upon themselves to smush together songs from the 50s through the 80s! If you want to know how good this combination goes together, mix yourself up a big glass full of mustard and milk. It’s just plain wrong. My wife tries so very hard to attend to my wussy 70s music needs (when she’s alone in the car she either listens to NPR or heavy metal CDs) so I in no way blame her. How could I? There's no way she would do such a thing on purpose.
Some things go great together. Other things make me want to drive an ice pick into my ear drums.