Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Is An Oldie? (Part 11)

--->Scroll back to read all ten previous chapters on this topic!

I am amazed at the great amount of input of what Oldies are!
Me, too ... and there's still more to come! We got a GREAT response to this one ... hope some of the "powers that be" are paying attention out there! (kk)

Hi Kent -
I know that we haven't spoke for awhile, but I read the website all the time. Having lived through the transitions of rock music, I would like to give my opinion on the term "oldie".
First of all, in the mid 50s and early 60s, most popular radio stations played a variety of music. I believe that Alan Freed coined the phrase "Rock & Roll". This was a mixture of Blues, R & B, Rockabilly,and slow music ala the Platters, etc. The slow music was divided up into the Ray Connif style slow shuffle (eg Magic Touch by the Platters), R & B ballads (mostly cross-overs from the black stations), and then you had Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, etc.
Standards like Chances Are by Johnny Mathis, and finally the 12 / 8 tunes like So Young also received airplay at the time. The term Doo Wop, which referred to the lines that the background singers might sing, came to be in the early 70s ... it wasn't called "Doo Wop" prior to that, This kind of music was called OLDIES in later years, (as early as the mid 60s!)
In the early 60s, 1962 - 63, terms like Soul Music were used to describe songs recorded by black artists who came out of R & B or Blues. Motown and Stax / Volt had their own style and were often confused with each other. The Four Tops, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder were with Motown (to name only a few); Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Booker T and the MGs were with Stax / Volt (to name a few).
Along came the British Invasion, featuring artists like The Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, Led Zeppelin, etc. They competed with American bands like the Beach Boys, The Rascals, the Loving' Spoonful, etc. To me this was CLASSIC ROCK and was NEVER referred to as OLDIES.
I am stopping here as it gets much more confusing in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Now music was defined by style ... Disco, Dance, Punk, Glitter, Metal,Fusion, Hip Hop, Rap, etc. You would NEVER refer to the Trammps as an Oldie Group.
So I feel that anything recorded prior to the early 60s (and can be defined by the following terms): Doo Wop, Rock & Roll, Rock-a-Billy, Beach, Novelty, Twist, Mashed Potato, etc., cross-over country, are eligible for the OLDIE TITLE.
I have been playing since I was 12 years old. I had a few "forgotten hits" and I still perform on a regular basis. I have listened to people ask for requests for 50+ years and I base my observation on what the audience asks for. Needless to say, some of my work is backing Oldie Groups and over the years I have backed up The Duprees, The Flamingos, The Jive Five, Ben E. King, The Coasters, The Mystics, The Capris, etc, etc. I was a member of The Fireflies, Vito And The Salutations, The Daydreamers and finally recorded as a solo artist. As a studio musician, I have played on over 1500 recordings and was always aware what kind of music we were playing or re-creating and played in an appropriate style.
Best Wishes ,
Don Young
Thanks, Don, for your very insightful perspective. You're right ... the term "doo-wop" was coined later. And although the oldies radio station boom took off in the early '70's (when all you had to play were records from the '50's and '60's), think about this for a second. Little Caesar and the Romans scored a Top Ten Hit back in 1961 with a song called "Those Oldies But Goodies" ... so what music were THEY referring to?!?!? (Listen closely and you'll see it's the music of the '50's!!!)
You also bring up a good point again about how SO many different types of music were played side-by-side during this era. It exposed us to SO many different genres of music and can still be considered the most prolific time in rock and roll history. And it didn't have to be all rock and roll either ... as you mentioned, Johnny Mathis was one of the most successful artists of this era ... and I don't see him being inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame anytime soon!!! (lol)
Great food for thought ... thanks again! (kk)

I actually don't care what an "oldie", "newby" or "tween" is ...

From the 20's to the 10's, I'll spin anything I think is fun, well crafted and sounds good on my freeform webradio station. Overthinking and wasting time about it kills enthusiasm ...
Those who want to get into hardening of the categories, be my guest ... I've got better things to do ... I'd rather play on ...
John B. Krug
Yes, you can turn me on! I'm on the radio!
Surf City Sounds Plus:

I agree ... good music is good music, regardless of when or where it comes from ... and the widest possible mix allows you to showcase ALL of that ... but then don't call it "oldies" ... because it's not. And, unless it really IS the top 300 - 500 - 1000 - 2000 songs of all time, DON'T call it "The Greatest Hits of All-Time" either ... because they aren't. (kk)

I like this next idea ...
Hi Kent,
It's nice to see a debate that ranks with "What is Country?" and "What is Jazz?".
I have TWO answers; one as a fan and collector, the other as a radio programmer.
As a collector, I dislike the term Oldie (but not as much as Doo Wop) for many of the reasons already mentioned. As a collector, I define Oldies as being from the beginning of rock and roll until about 1975, BUT I also include more recent recordings by artists from that era and newer artists like Kenny Vance and the Planotones, Pure Gold and Isadore and the Inquistors who perform in a retro style.
As a radio programmer, I would use the term Oldies because - albeit imprecise - it is a term used by listeners. I believe that the scope of an Oldies station should be determined through (often maligned and usually misused) music research. I never thought that I knew more than the collective wisdom of any of my stations' listeners. I am probably best known for my programming from 1975 - 1981 of WHN, a Country station in New York City. Our 1,000+ oldies rotation included lots of Elvis, Sun records, the hits by frequent Forgotten Hits contributor Paul Evans and, yes, even "Susie Darlin' by Robin Luke. I could have never figured out which ones fit listeners' expectations of a Country station in New York City at that time and which ones didn't without the help of my audience. My answer as a PD would be "Oldies are whatever the listeners to your Oldies station consider Oldies. You have to test an enormous number of records to do it right, because there are so many records that could qualify" By the way, WHN did pretty well in it's time. :)
Ed Salamon
I agree ... the listeners SHOULD determine what is ... and what isn't ... an oldie ... and then it's the radio station's obligation to fill that definition ... or, don't call yourself an oldies station. The '80's are not ... nor will they ever be ... "the oldies" ... in fact, based on the consensus of the responses thus far, the oldies era pretty much runs from 1955 to about 1975 ... just before Disco invaded the charts. Now that's a pretty small window of just 20 years ... and it leaves out an AWFUL lot of really good music ... but good as it all may be, it's NOT "oldies". Go ahead and do your Saturday Night Disco Dance Party if that's what you're into ... program your "Retro Rewind" '80's stations ... play the music from the '80's, '90's and today ... or the '70's, '80's and '90's ... there IS an audience for that music ... but it's NOT the same audience that loves their oldies ... and expanding your playlist to feature more late '70's, '80's and '90's music ISN'T going to sway any of your listeners who prefer the '50's and '60's music, especially if you're playing less and less of it! Instead, you'll find that you're driving your "core" audience away. Without question, it's a tough call to make ... if Forgotten Hits decides to limit itself to that 20 year era (plus a couple hundred songs from either side of that window, simply because they HAVE to be included) ... we'll have to stop featuring much of our favorite music ... but if you're going to call it "oldies", then you have to conform ... otherwise, quite simply, DON'T call it "oldies"!!! (kk)

In fact, WE get questioned, too ... just yesterday I received this email ...
Hi Kent,
I've been noticing lately that almost all of your Monday to Friday Forgotten Hits have been from the '70s. I do hope there isn't a new emphasis in Forgotten Hits on this decade.
All the best,

Our new "Today's Forgotten Hit" feature (launched the first of this year) will feature music from the '50's, '60's and '70's ... it's all over the board and we've already put together a list of HUNDREDS of songs that qualify as "under-played but still deserving" radio hits. We have featured several '70's songs of late ... but a quick check of the "play list" shows 14 of the last 25 songs featured are from the '70's, the other 11 (including today's) are from the '60's. Before the week is over, you'll find one more from each decade posted during our hot new Monday thru Friday feature. (kk)

TOC plays Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation" quite a bit. I looked it up in Whitburn; it was released as a single from one of his LPs but I don't ever remember hearing it on either WLS or WCFL!!!! This must be one of the songs you're referring to from the Millennium package. I'm none too crazy about it, but I notice they do play "Little Sister" and (even less often, seemingly) "Too Much" and "Viva Las Vegas." But, now that you mention it, they hardly EVER touch the prolific Elvis output from 1956 through 1965 - not to mention 1968 through 1972. (I think Biondi is "permitted" to play In The Ghetto every so often since he likes that song, but that must be the exception that proves the rule!!!)
Scott Shannon is a HUGE Elvis fan ... one of the BIGGEST ... so it's just got to eat at him a little bit that he has to limit the amount of Elvis airplay on his station ... especially when it's called "True Oldies" ... the plain and simple historical fact is that Elvis has got to the the preeminent oldies artist!!! (In addition to the Elvis tunes you've mentioned, he does seem partial to "Return To Sender" ... I hear that one quite a bit on The True Oldies Channel ... and "Love Me", too ... which is also one of MY early favorites.)
"A Little Less Conversation" was first released as a single back in 1968 ... and it TOTALLY tanked. (It came from his movie "Live A Little, Love A Little" and peaked at #53 on the Cash Box Chart ... and only reached #69 in Billboard.)
At this point, Elvis hadn't made his Comeback Television Special yet ... that wouldn't air for a couple more months ... it was pre-Vegas appearances and post "Viva Las Vegas" ... so radio wasn't paying much attention to The King anymore at this particular point in time. (In fact, Elvis hadn't had a bonafide Top Ten Hit in over three years!)
It was rereleased in 2002 in its remixed version which, apparently, caught on in a VERY big way in the European Club Scene and actually went to #1 in several countries. (Here in The States, it peaked at #50.) I've often wondered what Elvis would have thought about the revamped version. It's not that it's a bad song ... actually, I've always kind of liked it (but am partial to the original version) ... it's just that the 2002 remix has absolutely NO place on oldies radio!!! And CERTAINLY not at the expense of Elvis' other 150+ chart singles that AREN'T getting played. Yet it seems to be one of those that have fallen into heavy rotation when it comes to Elvis music on the oldies stations ... and that's just wrong. His entire body of work (including over 120 songs that charted BEFORE "Suspicious Minds", which seems to be the "starting point" in Elvis' radio catalog these days!) is being ignored in favor of two or three songs that don't even represent The King in all of his true glory. This man changed the face of music FOREVER!!! Everything that has come since started with this guy! Heck, if they played one Elvis hit song per hour, you wouldn't have to repeat a single one of them in over a week! (Now maybe that's overkill ... but doesn't he deserve at least 40 or 50 spins a week of something OTHER than "Suspicious Minds", "Burnin' Love" and the 2002 remix??? (kk)

>>>If you're going to DO an oldies show, it should be the AUTHENTIC, original versions that are featured ... and, in order to come across as believable doing it, the deejay really has to know the difference. We hear remakes slipped in from time to time ... and we recently gave Y103.9's Jeff James special kudos for actually pulling one of them off the air mid-song a few weeks back. (It was something by The Everly Brothers and evidently whatever was in the computer was a '60's remake rather than the Cadence original) kk
Yeah, they remade a lot of their songs; guess it had to do with Stereo!!! Actually, ever notice the Stereo remake versions of some songs become more popular than the original versions later on? But, really, other than collectors, do people actually remember the "original" versions from decades back? Heck, no! If they claim they can, they are fibbing! I mean, I sometimes test my older sister, and let her hear an outtake or alternate version, and she has to question if what she was listening to was the "hit" version. Even I, after hearing the hit single version, such as "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, question what I heard or what actually made the song chart! Same with The Jaggarz, "The Rapper" ... two minor different versions exist, and I recall hearing both on radio and in jukeboxes! It was neat to find Cozy Cole (NJ drummer) and his other hit, "(Topsy) Turvy II". Most everyone publishes it in mono, when the promo 45 was Stereo / Mono!! Had to let Ace (UK) know they were taken!! I'm sort of shocked they did little research! I still have a couple vinyl price guides left :-)
But, hey, let's face it, music artists are hard up for money; this is why you can find them remaking songs for money!!!
Had to let Nancy know, I caught that Johnny remade "Poetry In Motion". She said it was remade for MGM. Sad thing is, these remakes disturb people, especially when they are expecting original versions!! But I give Madacy Entertainment some applause, since they do specify recreations on their CDs!!!

Meanwhile, accidents continue to happen ... even the record labels sometimes put out an alternate version without realizing it or acknowledging it!!! Heck, even Collectables has the song titles incorrect on many of their CDs (Drifters come to mind)!! But I agree, with actual alternate versions, you'd have to do one of those Outer Limits "There is nothing wrong with your radio. Do not attempt to adjust the tuner. We are controlling the transmission ... " LOL!! Joking aside, I'm grateful to those individuals and record companies that offered me unreleased material and / or unique material. I do make it a point to credit those who have on my site, but ONLY if they give me approval. I'm sure some of it, though decades old, can be backtracked to how, where, who, it was obtained from!!! Bob Pantano (WOGL) was a kind soul, decades back, when he played a foreign group song on his Saturday night show, and pinpointed me to the Cherry Hill (NJ) Mall where I found the same 12" single
Jersey John

First of all, those of us who grew up loving these songs ... and listened to the radio nonstop, DO remember the original vs. a remake or alternate take ... I pick them out all the time. (The other night Dick Biondi played an alternate version of "In And Out Of Love" by The Supremes ... and I noticed it right away ... and actually, it was pretty good ... a MUCH cleaner mix with a few very subtle differences ... but still enough to indicate to me that it was NOT the original hit single mix. And yesterday we shared with you some of the responses we received after we posted the album version of the Loggins and Messina hit "Thinking Of You" instead of the Top 40 hit single version. People know ... if you were into this stuff to the degree that a lot of our readers were, then yes, they WILL spot the difference.
Now I will agree that that's not main-stream America ... they wouldn't know the difference if you played them back-to-back. MOST of the oldies station listeners don't know the actual name of the song OR the artist ... they just know that they like a particular song ... and that's good enough for most of them ... which is probably why no real effort is made to make oldies radio any better ... they're just playing to their audience.
But wouldn't it be cool to advertise yourself as "The True Oldies Channel ... we play the songs you don't hear anywhere else" ... or "We remember the songs that the rest of radio has forgotten" ... set yourself apart from every other station in town that's playing the EXACT same music day in and day out ... make your station stand out for its diversity in music choices. Sure, you've still got to feature the most popular tunes 'cause that's what most of your listeners want to hear ... but bring that something extra to the table and distinguish yourself as THE oldies source. (And honestly, isn't it hard to listen to the new K-Hits station, knowing that the jocks weren't even born yet when some of these '60's songs they play were hits??? It is for me!!!) kk

In regards to what is or isn't an oldie:
My opinion is that an "oldie" is any rock and roll or R & B song that was popular in the mid-50's through the mid-70's. I realize those dates could be considered arbitrary.
From the disco era forward, popular songs can be labeled whatever genre they happen to be in. "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead, is an old song, but it's not an oldie, just disco. Early rap songs can be 25 years old, but they are still rap. Conversely, "Catch A Falling Star" by Perry Como is a old pop song, and I don't consider it an oldie. Nor would I consider "Hey There" by Rosemary Clooney an oldie.
Radio stations helped define what an oldie is by the amount of air play a certain record got after it ceased being a current hit. Some songs weren't as big as others when they were current hits, but got much more airplay as an oldie. Case in point, "In The Midnight Hour" by Wilson Pickett, was not as big as one of your forgotten oldies of the past month, "It's Just a Matter Of Time" by Brook Benton. But it has received much more airplay as an oldie. In fact, "It's Just a Matter Of Time" never received much play as an oldie in the 60's-70's, so it was easily forgotten.
That's my two cents.
Jim B
Quite often a song that wasn't that big a hit during its original chart run will reap the benefits of renewed airplay, particularly after it's been featured in a motion picture or series of radio and television commercials. Some others (like your Wilson Pickett example) are truly inexplicable.
Incredibly, "Shout" by The Isley Brothers only reached #47 in Billboard when it was first released back in 1959. A 1962 reissue fared even worse (#94) ... yet its been an oldies staple ever since Otis Day and the Knights performed it in "Animal House". The Righteous Brothers' version of "Unchained Melody" was a Top Five Hit when it was first released back in 1965 ... but then went missing from the radio for about twenty years until it was resurrected in the film "Ghost". (In between, oldies radio played "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Soul And Inspiration" enough times to make them two of the most played songs in radio history!) Since its use in "Ghost", "Unchained Melody" has become one of the most over-played oldies of the past 20 years ... too bad because much of the pure excitement originally felt and generated by Bobby Hatfield's vocal intensity has been lost due to complete saturation ... now, instead of being awed by his vocal gymnastics, we find ourselves turning it off for the 2000th time.
The other day we mentioned "Old Time Rock And Roll" by Bob Seger ... NEVER off the radio (and fueled to over-played status by its use in the Tom Cruise movie "Risky Business). Another one that comes to mind is "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John ... not a day goes by where I don't hear that song come on three or four times ... yet it never even made Billboard's Top 40 when it was first released back in 1972. (It DID reach #29 in Cash Box Magazine, however.) How did THAT become one of Elton John's most over-played oldies? And what about Louis Armstrong's 1967 recording of "What A Wonderful World"? This one didn't even make Billboard's Hot 100 when it was first released ... but after being featured in the Robin Williams movie "Good Morning, Viet Nam", it's been on our radios ever since. The re-released single climbed to #32 back in 1988. And what's up with "Boogie Shoes" by KC and the Sunshine Band? I don't think I heard that song more than three or four times when it was out ... now I hear it nearly every single day on nearly every single station! And it was one of KC's lowest charting singles!
These are just several examples of songs that enjoyed a whole new life ... but what about the tens of thousands of songs that WEREN'T featured in a movie or some new ad campaign? They are destined to be forgotten FOREVER if radio doesn't at least acknowledge their existence and impact. I don't care if that means you only play them once or twice a year ... go ahead and stick with your day in, day out 300-500 heavy rotation tunes ... but make an effort to work in 200 "new" wow songs each month ... and, over the course of the year, you will have found a way to spotlight at least 2000-3000 songs that you're NOT playing now ... and your audience will LOVE you for it! (kk)
(Of course there's really no accounting for how some of this stuff sticks and some of it doesn't ... I just saw my third billboard today advertising "The Nanny" starring Fran Dreschler, which is now running in syndication. Why would ANYBODY want to watch an episode of that NOW when nobody even bothered to watch it in the first place? And could there BE a more annoying show on TV?!?!?) kk

Oldies Music or Music Oldies. AOL had a great chat room by this name. It was populated by mostly Baby Boomers and spanned the music between the 1950's up to half way through the 1970's. Many long hours were spent in this room sharing memories of our favorite songs. Often we would enter a song name and other 'roomies' would either identify the artist or type in the lyrics (this typing of lyrics was referred to as 'singing' and a lot of us would join in, typing the lyrics and, though the screen was silent, you could hear the music from where you sat).
Competition developed between roomies and people responded as quickly as they could to song titles, by typing the artist or artists that had covered the song. Terms like VG - very good, and WTG - way to go, were entered to reward the roomy who was first to identify the song. Great friendships developed in the room and soon get togethers were planned and roomies got together at 'fests' as they were called. A famous roomy now passed was Hugy and he began holding HUGYFESTS at his home and all members of the chat room were welcomed. I understand these were glorious events but I never attended any (I planned to attend the year I retired, but that was the year he passed, so I thought it would be cancelled ... it wasn't, but I found that out too late). I do not know why the chat room became 'unpleasant', but after the FESTS, cliques began to form and insults started flying. As such, the room fell from favor for a lot of the roomies, though many still remain connected through FH, and b-day lists, but the pure joy and innocence of the room has been sadly lost.
So to me 'Oldies Music' is all those great songs produced and sung from the early 50's to the start of the 70's. Teen Idol songs, Country songs, Doo Wop, and Popular are all inclusive. I also love the music from the 20's through the 40's ... those are the songs that begat our great 'Oldies', but they are in a different class as Nostalgic and Depression Songs and War songs. There are some songs from the 70's right up to now that I like, but not too many, but they, too, are not 'Oldies' ... nor will they ever be.
Unfortunately I am not sure that a Radio Station could survive today playing only those Oldies I love so much. Technology such as the internet and music streaming, Ipods and similar music players are ubiquitous and aren't broken up by commercials so they are preferred to radio broadcasts.
There is a terrific Oldies station in my area WATD 95.9 FM that I listen to from time to time, but most of the time I use my CD player with custom CDs I made for my own enjoyment, or I listen to my Ipod, my personal song lists without any annoying commercials.
One man's opinion, but I enjoy your site and wanted to participate in the dialogue.
The AOL Oldies Music Chat Room begat Forgotten Hits back in 1999. I was one of the regular visitors there (as The60sShop) and regularly participated and competed in the oldies trivia challenges you described. (Even met Mrs. K there ... "Cherricat"!!!)
From day one, I always tried to promote the songs that radio was ignoring and finally one day sent an email to 35 of my closest "roomie" friends and asked, "If I put together an oldies newsletter, spotlighting some of the songs and artists that radio is ignoring today ... but were legitimate, big hits at the time ... would anybody bother to read it?"
When all 35 said that they would, Forgotten Hits was born. I launched it Thanksgiving Weekend, 1999, and figured it'd be something I'd throw together once a month or so and feature a particular song or artist in some sort of a spotlight tribute. (Who knew how it would snowball from there ... and turn into literally THOUSANDS of daily postings!!!)
We've been to a few of these events (although we preferred the sunny west coast of California and Roc'n'60's barbecues over a trip to Philly ... but I have great respect for what Hugy did and he was a FH regular from Day One.) Over the years, we got to meet a number of FH Readers (from back in the day when the list was still "manageable" ... even when we first got to about 300-400 readers, I still knew nearly every single one of these people on the list ... then word of mouth and good buzz took over and today when Frannie asks me "Is so-and-so on your list", I typically have absolutely NO idea and have to look it up!!! lol)
I don't know if this series will help to pinpoint a definitive answer as to what is (and what isn't) an oldie ... but based on what I've read so far, the folks who LOVE the oldies and aren't embarrassed or ashamed to say so have determined that the songs that REALLY fit into this category seem to be the songs released between 1955 and 1975. To paraphrase what you wrote above, other songs may be "old" ... but they're NOT "oldies". It isn't just the fact that it came out 25 years ago ... it's a specific period in time that captured a particular mood and spirit. And the fact is, this music truly changed the world. Sure, there've been other musical milestones since ... and HUGE stars have come and gone ... but there's just something about that era that sets itself apart from any other.
Here at Forgotten Hits we dedicate ourselves to preserving this music and these artists. We can only hope that our oldies radio partners will do the same. Want to listen to '80's and '90's music? Go for it ... there are 12 other stations in town who will give you exactly that. But don't pollute our cherished oldies by throwing these tunes into the mix. You're not going to sway us into feeling differently by cramming these songs down our ears ... instead, the opposite will happen. The fans who LOVE the oldies will leave ... and dig deeper and deeper into their own music collections and Internet Radio Programs who are giving them what they want. Oldies Radio needs to step up and decide what you want to be ... and if you don't believe in the format, then it's probably time to hang it up and call yourself something else. (kk)