Friday, March 18, 2011

What Is An Oldie? (Part 8)

We're still getting LOTS of great comments on this topic ... seems like we've really struck a nerve again ... if you're new to this series, just scroll back to read all that's come before ... and then voice YOUR choice on this subject by dropping us an email at!!!
Hey Kent -
In response to your question about, "What is an Oldie?" ... I'm betting that you've probably opened up a hornet's nest with this topic, as probably no two people will have the same view on this subject. But, this being said, here are my thoughts on the subject:
First, let me start off by saying that in all of my years of being a music listener, record collector, historian, and compilation compiler and producer, I've NEVER liked the term, "Oldie" ... I've always felt that calling a song an oldie is really a derogatory label ... It's sort of like calling an 80 year old person an "Old Geezer". It also seems to me, that the term "Oldie" not only labels a song from the past, but also places that same label on the performers themselves who recorded those particular tunes that are considered "Oldies". I'm sure that most of the performers of the 50's, 60's and 70's that still perform today aren't crazy about being tagged as an "Oldies Artist". It places them into a category of someone who is no longer capable of creating any new music worthy of mass appeal, and thus, held captive in the time warp bubble. It's totally wrong.
The local FM "Oldies" station here in Detroit (who by the way, is completely useless now), no longer refers to themselves as being as "Oldies" station ... Even though this station still plays some (beaten into the ground) music from the 60's and 70's, they peg themselves as "Playing music from the 60's and the 70's and early 80's" ... Seems to me that because this station no longer plays music strictly from the 1960's, they no longer refer to themselves as an "Oldies" station. I'm sure that once this station drops playing any 60's music (as their so-called "demographics" will eventually tell them), then, this station will peg themselves as a "CLASSIC ROCK" station.
The bottom line is, I don't like the word "Oldie" being placed on any song or record from the past. Consider this point: I happen to own a showroom condition 1963 Ford Galaxie 500, but ... my car is referred to as a "classic car". Still, any record that I have in my record collection that came out in 1963 is referred to as an,"Oldie" ... Why is this?
Whether a record came out in 1953 or 1993, there should be a universal term that adequately reflects the historical importance of that particular recording, without making reference to it's age or musical style in a demeaning manner.
Jerry Schollenberger
And that has pretty much been the philosophy of radio programmers for the past decade or so ... every bit as much as a fear of insulting its audience as simply not even bothering to care about this particular demographic anymore ... placing so little importance on it, in fact, that they figure they can skate by playing those same 300 songs without any effort to improve their product. That's why we gave special kudos to Real Oldies and The True Oldies Channel ... Top Shelf Oldies ... and several others who EMBRACE the term with endearment ... NOT a slam to a particular generation of music fans but rather a means of HONORING this music. (That's why it is SO sad to see these stations follow suit and play '80's and '90's music now ... they have abandoned the core definition of who they are!!!) Maybe this little series will enlighten a few of them ... or at least cause them to pause in thought for a little while. (kk)
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.
Until the advent of classic rock radio, an oldie was described as anything released over a year ago. Using that as a guide, then anything released before 2010 is an oldie and, in a way, it still is. However before the mid 80s there were oldies stations and stations that played current music, regardless of genre. Classic rock took care of LP cuts and hard rock songs that had been dropped by oldies stations leaving oldies stations to pick up the time period from 1955-73 and classic rock from 1973 to current. 1973 is just being used as arbitrary year. It's not to be mistaken for an absolute stop / start point. I just use that year as the year WXRT-FM Chicago adopted the term "Classical Rock" for it's format before changing the term to "Fine Rock". Besides it was about that time that arena rock bands took over the FM airwaves and it's that genre that dominates classic rock.
Oldies music should, but doesn't, encompass rock and roll all pop / rock songs up to the early 70s with a few exceptions like comeback hits by oldies artists such as the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, the Everlys, etc, who all had hits in the 80s. Or songs like Crocodile Rock that fit the genre. Perhaps the problem lies with us baby boomers who think that our music is the only music that matters. Like it or not we have become our parents and grandparents who thought the world had gone to hell with the likes of Elvis and the Beatles. Avid survey collectors will tell you that well into the 70s you still saw songs by decidedly 50s pop crooners on the charts. Many in the record industry then still saw rock and roll as a passing fad almost 20 years since Bill Haley and many radio programers still felt they had to justify playing the "Devil's Music", by programing "acceptable music".
Your kids and grandkids have, or will have, their music which will become their oldies. We relate to oldies as it represents a special time(s) in our lives, whether it be grade school, high school or college. Your first girl / boy friend. That first kiss. The day you got married or had your first kid / grandkid. I could go on. Sadly oldies, as we know it, are getting old just like us. That's why you have more and more 80s songs creeping into oldies rotation. Who would of thought that disco would be considered oldies and even more amazing is that people would want to hear it on the radio. Many felt that once was more than enough.
There will come a day when your kids / grandkids will wonder, just like our parents and grandparents did, what kind of crap are you listening to? And they, like us, will find comfort in listening to the songs they grew up with.
So yes, Kent, one day Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus will be considered oldies acts. Of course we'll be dead and that will be a burden your offspring will have to endure.
So to answer your question, oldies music represents a time in which we grew up and as each succeeding generation becomes of age, and advertisers see them as their prime consumer market, oldies radio will program music to that target audience. The only products advertisers target us for is Depends, Viagra, life insurance and life alert systems. You heard it here first, it's gonna get worse.
Jack (Rock And Roll Never Forgets, but I find I forget a lot more)
I agree with much of what you're saying. To somebody like one of my daughters who only listens to B96, for example, any song they hear that comes on from six months ago is an oldie ... that's because they play the same 20 songs over and over and over in steady, constant rotation and don't step outside the box that often. (Our Top 40 Radio back in the '60's really wasn't that different ... when the new Lady GaGa single came out a few weeks ago, B96 played it every hour on the hour ... just like Super 'CFL used to do with a brand new Beatles or Monkees single ... and, at that age, we LOVED it ... and STILL couldn't get enough.)
But I think we've proven a few things here in Forgotten Hits over the years. For example, just a few months ago, we received a HUGE wave of mail talking about how much our readers loved hearing "Susie Darlin'" by Robin Luke ... and the comment made most often was that what they enjoyed MOST about the song was the "simplicity" of the recording. No techo-stuff, no fancy effects ... just a raw, bare bones recording with a great hook. I will agree that an awful lot of the '50's and early '60's music sounds EXTREMELY dated today ... even after its been cleaned up it truly reflects back to a different era. But for those who were there to experience the first time around, this is also part of its greatest appeal. Will it capture a NEW audience? Probably not ... there are a limited number of songs that will ... and THOSE are the ones that belong in heavy rotation. But that doesn't necessarily mean eliminate the other stuff all together ... because once we do, it ceases to exist ... and it's all still part of where all this music came from. As strong as their catalog was, there are Beatles tunes that don't hold up as well today, some 40-50 years later ... but there are others that STILL blow you away, even after THOUSANDS of repeated listens ... where you just sit back and smile and think, "How could this possibly NOT have been a hit?!?!?"
So yes, two years from now some 16 year old may call a Miley Cyrus tune or a Justin Bieber tune an "oldie" ... and in THEIR mind it is ... but if "oldies" is an era ... then zero in on that specific era and GO WITH IT!!! (kk)

Hi Kent,
Today's topic really hits home with me. First off, my views are from a perspective of a 64 year old who grew up listening to WCFL and WLS back in the hey-day here in Chicago and from a person who would rush home every day after school and put on American Bandstand and listen to the hits of the late 50's and early 60's.
I have always felt that the music we like the best is the music we grew up with so to speak. I, like so many of your readers, could not get enough of the music we considered "Oldies" and I was always looking for the latest "greatest hits" albums or Oldies but Goodies collections to play as it seemed I wasn't getting what I wanted on the local radio stations. As I got older, I remember having this reel to reel tape deck and taping the "History of Rock and Roll" series in a crude but at the time fashionable way and god forbid if a Thunder storm passed through the area because you got the static that only AM radio could provide to your precious tape.
So, for a long long time, I hoped an Oldies revolution would appear and at times it did. I went to Holiday Star Theater and Poplar Creek a few times to catch some Doo-Wop shows and always caught the Beach Boys on their summer tours through the area, but it was never enough and then, like a miracle, the Computer age was upon us.
And I, like so many of your readers, found an outlet on AOL called the "Oldies Music Chatroom" and I was hooked. I found people who grew up in the same time period as I who enjoyed the same "Oldies" and I loved sharing my memories with these people and learning what it was like to actually attend an Alan Freed oldies show in New York City and so much more. I found that I wasn't alone with my past but instead part of a large group of people who had similar interests and, more important, a shared passion for "Oldies" .
Kent, you were part of that period and you, along with a few others, have kept the "Oldies" dream alive. So many of us can't thank you enough for keeping our passion alive.
So now its 2011 and it's a new generation out there and things never stay the same. So many Internet radio stations have popped up and I have even dabbled with my own show (which, by the way, is off the air now.) It consisted of hits heavy on the late 50's, early to mid 60's with some 70's thrown in, so if you are asking me what a best Oldies station would play, that would be my answer. Yes, there is a audience who love the music we grew up with but there are so many outlets today that we just didn't have 15 years ago. That's my feeling that it is almost impossible for a show that caters to a select group of people like my age group to have a giant audience. Everybody has lives and there is so much going on today with the "new media' like IPODS and YOU TUBE and 400 channels of TV, etc, etc., that we all get our music today but from different sources. I see it when I post a song from the past on YOUTUBE and see the comments and see others share my passion.
And the demographics today are different. As you said in your comments, many people today consider Oldies to be 70's or 80's or even 90's and I have thought about this for a long time and you know something? That's OK. We all have our interests and, as I said in my opening comments, the music we like the best is the music we grew up with ... and today's audience is younger. Just look at the ratings that shows like American Idol and Glee bring in.
No easy answers here but a heartfelt thanks to you and those like you who continue to keep our music alive and give somebody like me a forum to talk about my passion for oldies. As I found out when I first went in the AOL Oldies room, there are so many people who know so much more about the music I grew up with and kudos to all of us who share that passion..
A big thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my feelings on this topic, so close to my heart, and I eagerly await, as always, comments from your readers.
Mark (GoHawksGo)
I don't think ANY of the radio powers that be or consultants truly have any concept of the passion we have for this music. They shrug it off as simply a tie to our youth ... but it's SO much more than that. I think the jocks today who REALLY click SHARE that passion. Many of these can be found on the Internet ... and you're right ... there are SO many outlets for music these days, that we're not all going to find or focus on the same one ... those days are gone. That being said, I think if we could find two or three EXCEPTIONAL outlets, folks like us would flock to these and embrace them dearly. I want to hear music I enjoy in the car ... it's often a 45 minute commute each way to and from work ... and we have a "no radios" policy at work ... so that's really my ONLY chance to hear what's going on ... so for those few moments I like to escape, relax and enjoy. What I DON'T want to do is turn off "Satisfaction" or "December, 1963" or "Oh, Pretty Woman" four or five times each way on each commute! C'mon ... entertain me!!! Let's face it, I can listen to ANY music I want any time I want ... so give me something more ... give me a REASON to tune in ... and stay tuned in. Radio today just doesn't seem interested in that challenge or that kind of commitment ... which is why radio is in the sad state it's in today! (kk)

An Oldie to me is like a fine antique. I collect the ones I like and don't bother with the ones I don't. I would love to hear more doo wop and less Beatles or Rolling Stones. I liked the Beatles, hated the Rolling Stones in my day and still do, but tired of hearing them on the radio. I would like to hear more Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Peterson, Ronnie Dove, Angels, Atlantic Starr, Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton, Brenda Lee, Chris Montez, Lesley Gore, Mel Carter, Ronny and the Daytonas, Tommy Edwards, Dion and the Belmonts and many more. There are also a lot of one time hits they just don't play anymore. I love the song "Close to Cathy" by Mike Clifford and you never hear it. Maybe you can feature it one day.
This is going to be fun to read the comments. Good idea Kent.

Personally I like the 25 years label. It makes it simple. What I hate is that we just can't have an oldies channel that will play it all with equal amounts given to all eras. I was born in 1957 and bought The Twist by Chubby Checker the first time he released it as well as others at the time. At the same time I loved much of the British Invasion stuff, Psychedelic, Soul and Funk, and whatever other top 40 goodies passed my ears. I'm a musician in a tribute band and believe me, that vast array of listening has served me well as a singer.
Regarding "Kokomo" and You Got It, it's a bit sad to me that those tunes get picked when so many others don't. Neither are the best by far of the artist's catalogs. It still amazes me that "Kokomo" made #1. But it's certainly worthy of airplay since it's a part of that generation's life, probably if not only because of Cocktail.
As far as The British Invasion being the death of Rock & Roll, rock came back to life with the British Invasion, IMO. After Buddy Holly, etc. died in the plane crash, rock became a wash in violins and giant choruses for background singers. Thank God for the Beatles. They brought back guitars and a much more prominent beat back to rock and roll, not to mention Paul and John's vocals.
OK I'll shut up.

Thanx for asking what we'd like to hear on the radio! One more "Suspicious Minds" and / or "Kentucky Rain" or even "You Were Always On My Mind" and it may be MP3 player and my own playlist all the way. In fact, I wish DJs would never play ANY "fat clown jumpsuit" Elvis songs ever again and go back to when he started ... pre-Army, pre-Priscilla, pre-Mama dying, pre-Col. Parker ruining his career whilst chasing the almighty dollar ... and get truck drivin' roots Elvis back on the air. Anything after Blue Hawaii was a different singer ... still good ... still great voice and delivery. But early Elvis had an original interpretive style and organic vibe and deserves to be heard and appreciated so younger listeners will "get" why we fell in love with him. Was there ever anything better than Elvis jiving "You're So Square" or emoting "Lonesome Cowboy"?


What is an Oldie? Most people would say, the answer depends on your age. If you were born in the 50's, the British Invasion is your oldies era. Born in the 60's? Disco is your oldies era. Etc. However, I disagree with this argument. To me, the oldies are the roots of rock and roll. That, my friends, started in the 50's and pre-Elvis ... maybe even a little earlier. The amalgamation of gospel, blues, country, bop and more, brought about Rock and Roll, a term, coined by Alan Freed. While Elvis was the dominant force in bringing this genre to the fore, Bill Haley and Chuck Berry also had a big part in its rise in popularity. But its genesis is in Doo Wop and blues. Early Doo Wop pioneers laid the foundation along with the blues singers. If you are not a doo wop aficionado, you would not be aware that there were many types of doo wop. A real doo wop fan can discern the west coast doo wop from the east coast doo wop ... the Pittsburgh sound from the New York sound, etc. Out of these roots sprung rock and roll. Yet this era has been shamelessly under represented by the supposed Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A misnomer if there ever was one.

I propose that Oldies should always be considered the 50's to early 60's ... not because it's my age era, but because it is the foundation of the music we love. I believe any serious music lover should be exposed to this music in order to appreciate what followed. The Beatles have said many times that Chuck Berry was a big influence on them. Listen to the Beach Boys and tell me you don't hear any Chuck Berry riffs. I can tell you this much, when I turn on the radio to listen to Oldies, I don't want to hear Herman's Hermits singing Silhouettes, I want to hear the Rays singing the original. I don't want to hear Jackson Browne singing Stay, I want to hear Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs singing the original version. Don't misunderstand me, I like Jackson Browne and his version of Stay, but it doesn't have the raw grit of the original. So I would have to say that everyone wants to listen to the music of their early years. Those are your memories, but they are not necessarily the old roots of rock. That's the 50's to early 60's. The true oldies of rock and roll. They need to be honored and treasured.

Bob Hughes ... Maryland

To me, an "oldie" is a song from your past that, when you listen to it, you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing the first time you ever heard it. An "oldie" takes you back to an easier time in your life when the most important thing you had to worry about was what to wear to the dance on Friday night or whether or not, in fact, you even had a date for it. We weren't worried about the price of gas or the right of a man to hold the office of President because his birthplace was in question. We probably all knew someone who was somehow, connected to the Vietnam war, which was the catalyst for a lot of the "oldies" that we hold near and dear to our hearts today. "Oldies" make me forget about the trials and tribulations of a crazy world and take me to a happier place.