Monday, July 14, 2014

Oldies Radio

>>>I got an email  from a listener who told me that he does not like it when I mention how many years ago a song came out.  He says that it makes him feel old and he then turns off the radio. 
I have always thought that saying the year a song came out brings back even more memories of high school, college, girl friends, parties, weddings, etc.   Another dj told me some years ago that he was not allowed to mention a song's year of release at his station because a 'consultant'  had advised his station to never do that.  The expert mentioned the fact that it made people feel old and younger listeners would be turned off because of how long ago it actually was.  I don't agree with this, however, I thought perhaps you could ask your readers sometime and see how they feel.
(Phil - WRCO) 
>>>I've run into this more and more lately ... and the general consensus seems to be that listeners don't want to be reminded about how old they are ... and putting a time stamp on this music may turn younger listeners off because of how "ancient" and "dated" it is.  Even Rewound Radio uses the slogan "It's not how OLD it is ... it's how GOOD it is" as part of their regular campaign.  Then again, stations like The True Oldies Channel and Real Oldies have worn the banner proudly on their chests, exclaiming EXACTLY what they are.  Honestly I think "oldies music" has become more of a genre than an implication of a particular age ... sure, you're only going to hear music of a certain era ... but it's a "feel good" period in music when competition and creativity were at an all time high ... and all of this is reflected in the wide variety of sounds that captivated all of us then and helped to broaden our horizons as to just how much great music was really out there in this creative and rapidly evolving time.  A couple of years ago we ran a very successful series called "What Is An Oldie?" ... but even our team of experts couldn't seem to narrow it down to anything specific.  I'm happy to put your inquiry out there and see what comes back ... a pretty mixed bag of responses I would imagine ... with no real right or wrong answer.  What say you?  Drop us a line if you've got an opinion on this topic and we'll run some of your responses next week in Forgotten Hits.  (kk)
Naturally, I couldn't resist the temptation to wax on (get it?) about the sad state of radio today ...  Geez are there ANY oldies stations left that actually proudly PLAY this music???  (kk)
It is sad I will admit.  There are a few of us left living the dream in the smaller markets.   Most owners just let a computer run the whole thing after a live morning show.  We may not have the deepest voices and the funniest sound bites, but we are live and local. 
As you know, there was a time when radio was the be-all / end-all to our daily existence ... and there were radio stations that REALLY cared about what they put out there ... it MATTERED to them to be the FIRST one on the air with the latest hits by the biggest artists ... and they would stop at NOTHING to make that happen.  Radio was personality-driven and, as such, many of these disc jockeys became nearly as popular as the artists themselves.  Doing nightly and weekly record hops only helped to fuel the fire.  And yes, it WAS the day of Top 40 Radio ... so the play list was limited and repeated a lot ... but that's because that was the market at the time ... and we, as anxious kids and fans of this music, stayed tuned in from dawn to dusk (and then some, with radios hidden under our pillows when we were supposed to be sleeping at night!) because we couldn't wait to hear the latest Beatles or Beach Boys record again in two hours. 
Where oldies radio has dropped the ball is the fact that there is no longer a need for a restricted, tight play list.  Because this music encompasses the entire era, there is no end to the realm of possibilities of what can be played today ... and would sound good on the radio.
We didn't care back then ... we carried around our tiny little transistor radios and listened to the latest sounds coming out of a tinny, one-inch speaker.  Years later we went to tremendous sound systems with HUGE speakers and surround-sound ... only to end up again today listening to most of this music today on a tiny iPod or out of our little computer speakers.  To that degree, everything old is new again.
Remember, it was a black-and-white world then for the most part ... we had three tv channels to choose from so we all watched the same shows.  The next day, you could talk to just about anyone because odds were they watched whatever YOU watched the night before! 
Same with the radio.
When WLS would run a promotion at the beach, the radio crew could move from one end of the beach to the other and every single radio was tuned to the same station!  Even as a spectator, you didn't need to bring your own radio to the sandy shore ... every step you took kept you in touch with WLS, whether you had a radio with you or not!  So again, we were all exposed to the same sights and sounds ... and built our memories around this.
By the time we were old enough to be cruising around in our cars at night, we had a few more options to choose from ... but odds are if you were listening to one radio station and pulled up next to a car at a stop light that was blasting a better tune, you simply pushed the button and changed the station so that YOU could listen to it, too!  (Man, life was SO much simpler then!!!  lol)
With literally over 10,000 legitimate hit songs to choose from during the 25 year period of 1956 - 1980, it completely blows my mind that a radio station wouldn't program at least 2500-3000 of them ... more variety for the listener AND the guy in the booth who has to play them!  As mentioned SO many times before in these pages, many of us have ended up hating some of the very songs we loved the most, simply because of over-saturation of this same material ... and there's really no excuse for it ... especially not with so much good music to choose from!  Back then, it wasn't an option ... and, thankfully, records were released at such an incredible rate (bands were releasing three, four or five singles per year ... and sometimes as many as two or three albums!), the play list changed frequently enough that boredom never had a chance to set in.  There is absolutely NO excuse to subject us to this repetitive cycle of music today.  (kk)
We got a few responses and opinions on this one ... let's face it, it's totally subjective ... but maybe if more radio people understood how their listeners REALLY felt (rather than being told what some consultant wants them to hear), they could program their radio show accordingly and cater to the fans who actually spend time listening to them ... rather than a bunch of suits sitting in an office programming cookie-cutter radio stations all over the country, insuring that each one sounds exactly the same as the other.  Here are a few of the responses we received.  (kk)
Hi Kent, 
I have to admit I was surprised that anyone has a problem with a D.J. giving the year a song came out. I am with you in that it catapults you to revisit certain times in your life. Heck, with the memory not as good as it once was, music often is my link to many things I may have otherwise forgotten.
When you ran the piece on "What is an Oldie", my children were unanimous. They believe an oldie is music from your parents generation.
I love the Mark Lindsey song you posted recently, "First Hymn from Grace Terrace". I have always loved the song but I did not know it was Mark Lindsay singing it. I thought it was Bobby Goldsboro or someone like that. I hope that doesn't offend Mark. In any event ... good song ... thanks for bringing it back to me.
I agree that knowing when a song came out helps trigger a particular memory of a special time.  One of the reason we do The Saturday Surveys is to better show you what "bulk" of music was out at a particular time, as sort of a "this is what we were all listening to on the radio then".  If one song doesn't spark a memory, odds are another one will.  (kk)
Hi Kent, 
As an Oldies freak, and also someone who grew up in the 60's 70's, I like it when a DJ tells when a song was out. I already know I'm getting old so most times I know when those songs came out. I still like it though, cause I don't always remember correctly. 
Again I'm an Oldies freak and really love knowing the history of our music. I suppose the average listener doesn't care as much. Then again, if I were a young listener and I thought a song was cool, I might be interested in hearing more songs from that year if I knew when it came out. I think most radio consultants should be fed to the dinosaurs since they've screwed up our beloved radio so much.   
Hey Kent -
Regarding your discussion on mentioning how old a record is - I say do it, cuz we all know how old we are, and it does bring back memories (hopefully good ones) from those days. And I saw a guy the other night at the Elk Grove Survivor concert wearing a t-shirt that said 'I love Geezer Rock'! He said a bunch of people wanted to take a picture of his shirt! Made me laugh, and at this point, that's the best thing to do!
Hi Kent,  
Just saw this article and thought I'd pass it along.  Not sure I agree with it, however. Seems to me as though Classic Rock tunes are the same in all parts of the country. This article sites Clear Channel folks as saying that's not so? 
It sure seems to be the same everywhere WE go!!!  (kk)

We most emphatically want to know the year a song we hear was a hit. Giving us the year is more effective than telling us how many years ago we heard it. People don't necessarily want to do the math, and giving us the year immediately lets the listeners key in to their own life experiences during the year the song was popular. The delivery can vary from "From the summer of '71, it's Three Dog Night" to "Where were you on this day in 1967?", to any variation on the theme. The problem with most stations that still play a few oldies is that the jocks are just not familiar with the music, or the era, or the history of the world or the bands and artists. The jocks are off the hook by just playing the music - and since so much is voice-tracked, they are unable to inject any energy in the way the music is presented. It's just so dull.  
Semi-related side note: I don't have Sirius / XM in my car and recently rented a car for several days that included it. We were on the road for long hours each day, so I had a good opportunity to listen to several channels. I was quite surprised at how often I heard repeats on the 60s channel. Honestly, several tracks that weren't Top 10 hits were being repeated every day, and sometimes even more often. With such a vast library to choose from, I was thoroughly unimpressed - and thankful for my iPod.
Why would anybody pay money to hear the same songs you're already hearing everywhere else, over and over and over again.  The entire concept of what satellite radio was SUPPOSED to be seems to have been lost along the way.  And this time it can't be because of advertising pressure ... these stations run commercial free.  So what's left?  Ignorance and Laziness?  Or perhaps a combination of the two?
Can you please add Kevin Boles to your email list?  He is a 27 year old with the heart of a 1950s and 1960s fan. He is a DJ on WATD in Marshfield, MA, playing the music we grew up with. He is a great kid and has visited me many times while I have been in the hospital. Thank God I am going home on Saturday,  However I have been in the same hospital as Lenny Baker of ShaNaNa so Lenny and I have been spending a lot of time together and he needs to be lifted in prayer, I am very worried about him.
Keep doing what your doing, because you are great at what you do.
Jimmy Jay
Glad to hear you're feeling better, Jimmy and are on the mend ... it's gotta feel good just to be back home again.  SO happy to hear that a 27-year-old has found an appreciation for this great music ... so much so that he wants to share it with others.  It's kind like I've always been saying ... give it a listen ... and you just may like what you hear!  (kk)

Regarding announcing the year of  a song's popularity, an informal survey got me four responses and three of the four said they're satisfied just knowing the decade, as opposed to the specific year. Actually since you're posing the question to music lovers, many of whom know the year whether or not the jock announces it, the fourth responder and I agree that they should announce the year. I'll take it one step further and say ANY info the jock has, provided it's accurate, is always appreciated.   
Certainly makes the whole listening process a lot more interesting to my ears ... but you're right ... more often than not, I end up cringing at some bad, misinformation being passed along instead.  (That's why I like hearing from some of these "vintage" jocks that were actually there at the time ... many of them had the chance to hang out with these artists during some type of concert or promotion or in-studio visit ... THOSE are the stories I love hearing!)  kk

Hmmmmmm.  I think the problem is more of a personal one when it comes to naming years.  Facts are facts.  Should we change history?  No naming of when Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin actually recorded and were popular?  Or is it just a fear of a personal era ... any era that involves us?  We don't have to run around the neighborhood and say, "They are playing a song from 1962 on the radio and it makes me feel sooooo old!".  Nobody need know.  Enjoy the song, forget the year.  I'm sure there are some under 30's who feel the same way about 90's songs.  Oh well.  THIS will be the best year of my life for me!
Shelley J Sweet-Tufano
Perhaps because I've been a fan of music for so long, hearing it now acts as sort of a "time stamp" for me.  I already know that my favorite year in music was 1967 ... as such, the minute a song from 1967 comes on, I proudly puff out my chest and say "I rest my case" ... but the years ALSO reflect how the music changed and developed over time.  I have ALWAYS enjoyed hearing the stories behind the songs, particularly from the artists themselves.  It adds so much more to the listening experience.  In fact, for years now I've been telling Scott Shannon of The True Oldies Channel that he should share more personal experiences on the air.  This guy has been there and done it all ...  met SO many of these great artists and has SO many stories to tell, all from a first-hand, hands-on experience.  I believe the listeners will respond well to Scott's personal anecdotes ... I know I'D sure love to hear them!!!  Not every song ... not even every day ... just once in a while ... maybe a few times a week ... share a particular memory or incident related to that song or artist that make the record more "personal" for the listener.  (kk)
And, speaking of Scott Shannon, we heard from HIM, too!!!  The newly revamped True Oldies Channel (v2.0) is up and running ... and better than ever ... on the web.  Fewer commercials ... more music ... more variety ... I've been listening and he has amped up the playlist with more late-'50's and early-'60's music ... and more "wow" songs.  Oh heck, I'll just let HIM tell you all about it!
KENT ,,, 
I've been listening quite a bit myself lately ... and it's great to hear the "beefed-up" True Oldies Channel ... running with more freedom and variety than ever before.  Who would have EVER thought, all these years later, that Scott would be more popular than ever with his new WCBS-FM gig and the newly revamped True Oldies Channel (Remember the old adage "Life begins at 40"?  He truly seems "reborn" at the age of 66!)  And it sounds like he's having the time of his life ... happier than ever ... and every bit of that comes across on the air!  (Scott's been doing this for a long, long time ... since he was just a young boy, he's known exactly what he's wanted to do ... and he's been living that dream ever since.  How many of us out there can make THAT statement?!?!  Some of you may remember, many, many years ago, reading in your history books as a child, that the night that Thomas Edison first invented electricity, a young Scott Shannon exclaimed, "Good!  Now I can listen to Dick Biondi!!!")  kk