I wanted to write a little about the sharp downfall of the oldies and classic rock radio I cherished so much in my teens and very early twenties.
I’ve been a Monkeemaniac since the ’86 revival, but I wasn’t really into any other vintage bands until I was thirteen. When my family were visiting my paternal grandparents in late ’92, I was watching VH1 and saw the music video for “Daydream Believer.” It reignited my Monkeemania in a huge way, and on 25 January 1993, I began tuning in to the two local oldies stations which were then in business.
The first weekend of February, I listened to Dick Bartley’s Rock and Roll’s Greatest Hits and American Gold (now renamed The Classic Countdown) for the first time. I still remember that the spotlight on Greatest Hits, that very first time I tuned in, was The Dave Clark Five, and it was a really big deal because their greatest hits were coming out on CD.
I was quickly exposed to and enamoured of so many of the awesome bands, groups, and musical acts of the Classic Top 40 era. During this early period of getting to know everything I could about Sixties music, The Monkees ceased being my favourite band, and were replaced by The Four Seasons. Then my third musical love became The Beatles, whom I officially declared as my favourite band on 9 April 1994. My fourth musical love is The Who, since late 2000, though The Beatles are still the musical love of my life. I sincerely believe they saved my life when I was so depressed and angry in eighth grade.
Anyway, there was such awesome variety, and a lot more special weekend programmes than are carried in my area nowadays. Besides The Four Seasons and The Beatles, I also got into The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits during this period, and a number of other artists whom I liked a lot. (I’m very particular about my favourite bands. I prefer a smaller list of quality acts I know I’ll love for the rest of my life, instead of a huge list that’s constantly changing.)
Since early ’95, there’s only been one local oldies station, and only one of Dick Bartley’s programmes, Rock and Roll’s Greatest Hits, is still carried. In perhaps 2007, the one remaining oldies station expanded their playlist to songs from about 1975-89. I was concerned about that development, but didn’t really realise what it meant for the future of oldies and classic rock radio.
Had I wanted to get back in touch with my Monkeemania today, I wouldn’t have such a richness of resources for Classic Top 40 radio. Now that I think about it, there’s a lot less variety today. Barely any pre-1964 music is played, to say nothing of early rock from the late Fifties. And there are far less songs per each act played. You’d think these people only had 4-5 songs each, instead of lots of albums and singles to mine from.
Dick Bartley really sold out when he switched to Seventies and Eighties music, and stopped playing true oldies, the classic rock and pop I fell so in love with at thirteen. As much as I love Eighties music, it’s not classic rock! I don’t want the songs from my childhood to be repackaged as oldies or “classic hits”! They’re Eighties music. It’s not just about feeling old, but about the traditional definition of oldies, about 1955-74.
I can easily think of a lot of songs I regularly heard back in my early teens, which I never or very rarely hear played these days. Apparently this is happening at many other radio stations, the oldest songs being dropped and a focus being on songs from 1975 on. There are some songs I immediately turn off or change the channel on, like “American Pie,” “Hotel California,” and “Pinball Wizard,” because they’ve been so freaking overplayed.
I felt so violated the night Dick Bartley played a shortened version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” That was just wrong. If you can regularly play “Hey Jude,” you can play a song that’s a little big longer. He also routinely says he’s not playing the 17-minute version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”
So what if the demographic who liked pre-1964 music, or oldies in general, is dying off? Young people like old music too, and now they’ll have less of a chance to discover it. Not all young people are into the music of their generation. I never was. I didn’t even become a Duranie until they were eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though we all know that élitist jerk Jann Wenner is probably keeping them out just like The Monkees, and many other worthy artists who’ve been eligible for years.
Apparently I’m in a minority for wanting to hear more than the same 500 songs over and over again. I want album cuts, B-sides, Top 100 hits, lesser-known material. Not “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Hotel California,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” and “Suspicious Minds” yet AGAIN. If listeners aren’t exposed to other material, they won’t know about it to request it. Let’s get back to a more diverse programming, not this boring, formulaic crap giving such an incomplete picture of classic rock and pop.