Sunday, March 27, 2011

What does the word “oldies” mean now?

Some of you have gone through it already. Some of you have not.

If you’re lucky, you will go through it. But you probably won’t like it.

I’m talking about that not-so-magic moment when you hear a song from your high school days…on the oldies station.

For me, it was even worse. I was listening to K-EARTH 101, the premier oldies station in Los Angeles, and “Fresh” by Kool and the Gang came on. I was in college the year it came out (1985).

Suddenly, I felt that much…older.

If you listen to K-EARTH, or any other oldies station, you’ll find that it’s now full of 1970s and 1980s songs. When I was in high school, “oldies” meant the 1950s and 1960s, sometimes reaching up to the early 1970s. I was way into 1960s music back then, far more than what was currently on the radio, and in addition to listening to K-EARTH and KRLA 1110 AM, I bought oldies 45s from a small record store on Venice Boulevard, not far from my high school. I still have most of those 45s somewhere.

What joy I heard in “Summertime” by Billy Stewart, “Groovin’” by the Rascals, “Let’s Live for Today” by the Grass Roots, “Friday on my Mind” by the Easybeats, “Come on Down to My Boat” by Every Mother’s Son, “Laugh Laugh” by the Beau Brummels, “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band, and so many other songs that you don’t hear on the radio anymore, even oldies stations, unless you subscribe to Sirius XM.

The line that divides oldies from “today’s music” moves slowly, but it moves. Back in the 1960s, “oldies” meant songs from the 1930s and 1940s. Where does one go when the oldies are the songs you once tried to escape from with older songs?

To talk, that’s where. (The good kind – the kind you’ll find on NPR, Pacifica, and progressive radio stations. The opposite of “progressive” is “regressive”. Think about it.)

Now I’m as eager a collector of radio podcasts as I used to be of 45s. Rarely does a day go by without listening to talk in my car, on my computer, and even through the radio sometimes. I have all but stopped listening to the songs I loved.

Maybe that is why I feel so dull and dry inside too often.

What does the word “oldies” mean, anyway? If songs make you feel young and happy…are they really that old?

If songs can make me feel excited and fresh again…why aren’t I listening to them?

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