Monday, July 15, 2013

Radio Radio - part one, the 1960's

If I ever really let myself remember how good I felt in 1973 I would probably put a bullet through my head.  My lovely wife Debbie HATES when I say things like that, and I can hardly blame her, but the fact remains unfortunately true.  1973 was a pretty great year - it was the year I moved away from home and got my first apartment; it was the year Mott by Mott The Hoople, Aquashow by Elliott Murphy and the first New York Dolls album all came out; and it was probably the last year that the radio didn't suck.

The radio was a lifeline for me when I was a little kid.  (see blog entry The Transistor Radio, January 2012)  It's virtually impossible to explain to anybody under the age of 55 how great radio was in the 1960's.  You could hear ANYTHING.  Forget about The Beatles, that's a little too obvious.  You could hear The Rolling Stones doing "Satisfaction."  Just listen to that song again and think about how SCANDALOUS a line "She tells me, 'Baby, better come back, maybe next week, 'cause you see I'm on a losin' streak'" was in 1965, bringing the topic of menstruation, and its impediment to Mick Jagger scoring female companionship, to AM radio for all the little rocker boys & girls to hear.  And that song was played on the radio EVERY COUPLE OF HOURS.  (Plus that's another great point, even Stones singles didn't get played every hour, there were actually 40 tunes in rotation, so you didn't immediately get sick of songs you really liked.  Only new Beatles songs got played every hour, and that was only in the first week or so they were released.)

(sidenote; I was home from sixth grade with chickenpox when "Eight Days A Week" by The Beatles came out.  I had a fever and was sick as a dog and that song played EVERY HOUR.  I was too weak to even get up and turn the radio down or off, and to this day I hate that song and get queasy when it comes on oldies stations.)

A random sampling of twenty 45-rpm singles I pulled out of my vinyl collection tonight in 2013 that I bought between 1965 and 1967 because I heard and fell in love with them on WCOL-AM here in Columbus, Ohio:
  • "Gloria" by Them (we were lucky in Columbus, we got the Van Morrison-growled original version rather than the more watered-down "safe" Shadows Of Knight cover);
  • "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers
  • "Just Like A Woman" (Dylan cover) by Manfred Mann
  • "Psychotic Reaction" by Count Five
  • "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" by Herman's Hermits
  • "Hey Joe" by The Leaves (to this day a song that rocks harder than ANYTHING in "alternative-rock," including my beloved Jack White tunes)
  • "With a Girl Like You" by The Troggs
  • "I Am A Rock" by Simon & Garfunkel
  • "If I Were A Carpenter" by Bobby Darin
  • "Follow Me" by Lyme & Cybelle (absolutely SUBLIME folk-rock tune, Warren Zevon's first record ever, which he also co-wrote)
  • "Where Were You When I Needed You" by The Grassroots
  • "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" by The Bob Seger System (whose "2 + 2 = ?" was an even MORE savage rocker/protest song
  • "The Pied Piper" by Crispian St. Peters
  • "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" by The Walker Brothers
  • "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" by The Standells
  • "Talk Talk" by The Music Machine
  • "Little Black Egg" by The Nightcrawlers
  • and, finally, "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina" by The Left Banke, either one of which just might be my favorite song of the 1960's
(sidenote; Not one of these singles listed is by The Dave Clark 5, The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Yardbirds, The Doors, The Turtles, Bob Dylan, etc., whose every single release I bought religiously.)

All of them hits, all of them and hundreds of others, all of them on the radio.

The other thing to keep in mind about 1960's radio was CONTEXT.  You just never knew what you were gonna hear next, or in what bizarre, great new juxtaposition.  As great a song as "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan is, it was an even GREATER tune when all six rocking, revolutionary, lyric-spewing minutes of it came on the radio in between "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" by Mel Carter, "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers and/or "Houston" by Dean Martin - all three of which it shared the Top 20 with in September, 1965.

By 1970, when I graduated from high school, AM-radio had already started its long, slow slide toward irrelevancy and "free-form/progressive" FM-radio was on its way.  More on that next time in Radio Radio - part two, the 1970's.

© 2013 Ricki C.

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