Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Is An "Oldie"? (Part 2)

>>>Scroll back to see any other parts of this
discussion that you may have missed

Obviously Kent you must be bored. FH must not be keeping you busy enough these days. I think you will have opened Pandora's Box by asking what's an oldie.


Yeah, well, I guess I asked for it ... and I just KNEW that this would be a hot topic with our readers ... but I NEVER expected the first-day responses to fill my mailbox and shut it down!!! (Think we struck a nerve with this one??? Wait till some of the deejays on the list put this out to their listening audience!!!)

Anyway, we've cleared out our mailbox ... and we're ready for more. Over the next several weeks we'll run random comments and ideas ... so if you weren't able to get through the first time, try, try again ... 'cause we'd LOVE to hear from you. (It just may take a little while to weed through all of these responses!) So be patient ... and read along ... some interesting thoughts and perspectives await you! (kk)

You mentioned that you will be doing a series on "What is an Oldie?".

I don't know if you will take comments from your readers but I will certainly write in and give you my idea if you do. I have always said that if you took, say 10 people at random, and asked them what their definition of an oldie is, you probably would get 10 different answers.

We ABSOLUTELY want responses from our readers ... and man, did we get 'em!!!
It's this wide-range of responses that is going to make this poll work. And, quite honestly, we're hoping that the oldies nation listening at large will respond, too, because THEIR thoughts will perfectly help to balance those from our list readers who, like us, are here because they'd like to see the envelope pushed a little further ... and a little more often.

So we encourage ANYBODY who listens to oldies music to drop us a note and let us know what you think ... what IS an "oldie"? What are the oldies stations doing wrong? What do you want to see / hear more of? Less of? What works and what doesn't? You get the idea. Send us an email (forgottenhits@aol.com) and let your voice be heard!!! (kk)

Just like THIS guy did ...

While forgottenhits.com focuses -- as it should -- on showcasing the songs missing from "Oldies" stations' meager playlists, I think there's another, almost as important aspect to the pop music of the past: Diversity of genre.
During the 1960s particularly, Top 40 radio had nearly every conceivable type of popular music: rock, country, jazz, reggae, show tunes, blues, rockabilly, surf music, easy-listening, world music, TV themes, folk, stuff that's utterly uncharacterizable (Mrs. Miller, say, or Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point School Third Grade Class), and more.
The week of January 18, 1964 is a case in point. That week, the Trashmen and the Singing Nun bumped up against each other in the Billboard Hot 100 at Nos. 5 and 6 respectively, and I defy anyone to name two less similar songs than "Surfin' Bird" and "Dominique"! They shared air time with Jan & Dean, Chubby Checker, Connie Francis, Al Hirt, Pete Seeger, Martha & the Vandellas, Bobby Vinton, Cliff Richard, the Beach Boys, the Supremes, Roy Orbison, the Ronettes, and jumping in at No. 45, "I Want to Hold Your Hard", by some brand new English group. It was a rich stew of styles, not only entertaining a wide variety of people of all ages, but also educating them about music types, and introducing them to unfamiliar material.
Where's the diversity of genre on today's "Oldies" stations? Which Czar decided that only three or four types of music can properly be called "Oldies"?
Would a fan of Elvis or the Shirelles enjoy the music of jazz organist Jimmy Smith? Perhaps not, but in May of 1962 they could at least give him a listen and decide for themselves, because all three acts were on the radio. These days -- forget it, because Jimmy Smith apparently hasn't been blessed by the Archbishop of Oldies.
Urging programmers to play some once-popular but now largely forgotten hits is noble work! And it should be accompanied by requests to broaden the very definition of "Oldies." No one knows better than you that there's a LOT of great unheard stuff out there.
Henry McNulty
Cheshire, Connecticut

I couldn't agree more, Henry ... music has been segregated for SO long now that a lot of people don't remember that ALL these different styles used to be played side by side at one time. We have been pushing for AGES now to see more variety in oldies radio programming.

Want further proof that oldies radio has fallen into a serious rut? Here are two recent field study cases that I did as part of my own "coincidental research" ... both are 100% absolutely true stories that I just happened to observe while going about my daily business over the past ten days. (kk):

How badly does oldies radio need a face lift? How desperately do they need variety and personality to continue as a viable format?
True story: the other night I got out of work late (AGAIN!) and was driving home a little after seven o'clock. Turned on the radio (The True Oldies Channel ... button #1) and they were playing "Night Moves" by Bob Seger. Now I mean no disrespect to Mr. Seger, but this is NOT one of my favorites by him ... so I pushed the button, taking me over to Y103.9 ... and THEY were playing "Night Moves" by Bob Seger. Honestly, this isn't even all that unusual of a circumstance
... it happens FAR more often than you might think ... so I hit the button AGAIN, switching over to The Drive ... and THEY were playing "Night Moves" by Bob Seger. There was simply no escaping this song! The fact that these three stations (and probably half a dozen more in Chicago alone) program this song into their regular play list shows you how seriously LACKING of variety radio really is these days. There is absolutely NOTHING here to distinguish one channel from another ... at some point, they all sort of blend together into one numb background hum that we don't even really listen to anymore ... it's all become "surface noise" ... making it all that much more likely that if somebody actually had something new or interesting to SAY on the radio, we may not even recognize it or hear it!

That's why these "Wow" songs jump out at you the way that they do ... hearing virtually ANYTHING off the beaten-to-death play list is an attention grabber. Because you can hear everything else literally ANYWHERE else.

That being the case, radio needs to give us something worth tuning in for ... because the simple fact is that, on a daily basis, you're going to hear the same songs on virtually EVERY station ... in America ... over and over and over again. Shake up the playlist a little ... put some personality back on the dial ... program in special features like some of the ones we keep talking about (Scott Shannon's got The True Oldies Time Machine Top Five, The Rock And Roll Calendar and The Cheezy-Easy Listening Song of the Day ... and could spice things up even more by adding features like Today's Forgotten Hit, the Daily History of Rock and Roll snippets, the Vintage Vinyl selections we talked about, playing songs from 1948 - 1963 that helped launch rock and roll in the first place ... two-sided hit two-fers and more artist portraits and salutes ... there is SO much more that can be done ... and we're available to help!)

Some of the very best features on The Drive include Album Sides Thursdays and selecting 2000 songs from their MASSIVE play list and then playing them back, A-Z, with new surprises added each and every time they run this feature; Bob Stroud's Rock And Roll Roots program, Ten at 10 (featuring ten great songs from one great year), and One 45 at 1:45. THESE are the kinds of things that will help to change the face of radio ... and listeners tend to wait for them to come on so we can listen ... all of this equals APPOINTMENT RADIO.

Even better ... more surprises ... where folks won't want to tune out for fear of missing something special. That's why "Wow" Songs play such a big part of successful radio programming. Y103.9 (and Jeff James in particular) will throw some songs at you that you haven't heard in YEARS ... decades even ... their All Request Show "Live Drive At Five" offers even more surprises, proving again that the listeners want MORE than just these same songs shoved down their throats day in a day out, day after day. They're asking for stuff you virtually NEVER hear on the radio anymore ... and these are the station's regular, every day listeners
... not a "specialized group of oldies fanatics" who subscribe to our newsletter. The same is true with The True Oldies Channel ... when Scott Shannon plays the listeners' requests, they're most often songs that he wouldn't be playing otherwise ... and we LOVE it!!! (The "Oldies Police" be damned!!!)

Another case in point (#2 for those of you out there keeping score): The other day while grocery shopping at Dominicks, a local food Chicagoland chain, we heard Forgotten Hit after Forgotten Hit after Forgotten Hit coming from the overhead speakers. It was literally a Forgotten Hits Playlist of songs that you don't EVER hear on the radio anymore. (We've talked before about some of the incredible music you'll hear while you're out shopping ... and this was the PERFECT case in point ... even I was completely amazed by what I was hearing!!!) So I immediately started to scope the other shoppers ... to see if anyone else was picking up on the same vibe that I was ... and there were at least six or seven shoppers who literally stopped in their tracks, looking up at the ceiling for a moment, straining to better hear what was playing in the background
... most likely because they just couldn't believe what they were hearing ... proving again my theory that if the song WAS a hit ... and was part of our lives
... we WILL remember it when we hear it again ... and feel a certain excitement that we just DON'T experience when hearing "Born To Be Wild" or "Satisfaction" for the 7th or 8th time today. There IS a reaction ... and it's a GOOD reaction ... it's something that these radio programming consultants can't gauge because they themselves aren't seeing and experiencing it. They're looking at a list of songs on paper ... NOT taking into consideration the reaction one might experience by hearing something that's not already ON the list.

Now the argument will be from these know-it-all radio consultant experts that "Sure ... WE recognize it because we were there when it was all brand new the first time around ... but our 'core audience' won't know what it is" ... to which I reply "And just whose fault is THAT?!?!? You've kept this music locked up and off the airwaves for so long now that it truly IS all but forgotten. Give your 'new' audience a chance to discover it for themselves and draw their OWN conclusions."

Now I'll be the first to admit that they're not all winners that should immediately jump to the top of the repetitive play list ... many of these songs don't deserve more than an occasional spin at best ... but when used as a tool to break up the monotony of the same songs day in and day out, they become even MORE powerful to your listening audience ... and they ALSO let your listeners know that YOU remember these tunes, too!

Again, please keep those cards and letters coming, folks ... I think we're on to something here. Oldies Radio just might open up their eyes and ears when they start to hear it from their own listeners ... so please tell everyone you know who loves and listens to oldies music on the radio to climb on the bandwagon ... we're out to rock your world! (kk)