I confess, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the “oldies.” For a long time I listened to radio stations that advertised they were playing, “The songs we grew up with.” I kept my old albums and tapes and CDs.
When I bought my last car, I signed up for SiriusXM Radio. Now I listen to the ’50s channel, the ’60s channel, and sometimes the ’70s channel.
Music from the 1960s is still my favorite, because that’s when I was a teenager, and even though to this day I have mixed feelings about those years, the fact is, that’s when popular music becomes internalized — when you associate certain songs and bands with particular rites of passage.
I remember my sister had a 45-rpm record player, and she would listen to Dion and Rick Nelson and Neil Sedaka all night long. I remember to this day, hanging out at a friend’s house, and hearing those first strains of a Beach Boys tune.
I hear “I’ve Got You, Babe” and I’m sitting on my girlfriend’s front porch in the summertime.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place — I’m at school, just before Thanksgiving, looking forward to the long weekend.
Good Lovin’ — I’m at a party at a friend’s house.
Sunshine of Your Love — at an outdoor concert.
Rubber Soul — Played over and over again on a three-day school trip. And later Abbey Road, played over and over again in a college dorm room.
I’ve listened to so many of these songs so many times. But I’ve gotten tired of many of them. They’ve lost their emotional pull — their lovin’ feelin’.
So sometimes I flip over to the ’70s station. I was in college in the early ’70s and still listened to a lot of music. But by the mid-’70s I’d graduated and was working and getting married, and I had better things to do than listen to the radio or sit around fiddling with my tape deck. Besides, by and large, popular music from the 1970s was less compelling than the music of the 1960s. (Wouldn’t you agree?)
And ’80s music? God only knows. I never listened to it. My children were born in the 1980s, and the song I sang along with for most of the 1980s was, “The eensy weensy spider crawled up the water spout . . .”
Now I’m listening to the ’50s channel more and more. I find that the songs are inventive, and they seem fresh to me. I was too young in the 1950s to hear most of those songs the first time around (except for Elvis, which my older sister liked, and The Kingston Trio which my older brother liked). And so, unlike the songs of the ’60s, I am not yet sick and tired of them.
Just so you know, I’m not a complete boob when it comes to music. Sometimes I listen to classical. I turn to the Bluegrass station every once in a while. I listen to contemporary Indie rock. And because I go dancing with my wife and we do cha-cha, rumba, salsa and bachata, I also enjoy Latin music.
But I admit, I spend most of my car time listening to the oldies. And here’s the problem with that. You forget that time has gone by. The Beatles or the Rolling Stones or the Four Tops come on the radio; and in my mind (without even realizing it) it’s 1966 and I’m in high school.
I’ve Got You, Babe starts up and I’m driving around my hometown, going to see my girlfriend, and maybe over to the swimming pool. Then it hits me. Sonny died a long time ago. Cher is on Social Security.
Two of the four Beatles are now dead. Two of the Four Tops. Two of the Beach Boys. Those gloriously youthful Mamas and Papas? Three out of four of them are long gone.
We all know about The Day the Music Died, and we recall how Elvis tragically died in his bathroom. Do you know about the curse of 27? The rock stars who died when they were 27 years old: Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison of The Doors, and more recently Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Amy Winehouse.
Jeez, 27? That’s younger than my youngest child!
And when did Roy Orbison die? Wilson Picket, Marvin Gaye, Harry Nilsson, Davy Jones of The Monkees, Tiny Tim … remember him? Laura Nyro, Dusty Springfield, Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Andy, Robin and Maurice Gibbs? Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy Ramone?
Suddenly, listening to the 1960s station takes on a sadder note, as you realize: a lot of time . . . has . . . gone. . . by.
But wait. We know people die. As far as those of us who live on, maybe those old singers would be happy to know that we’re still listening to their music, singing along, reliving our younger years. Here’s one list of the Top 100 Songs of the Sixties, and another list from Rolling Stone. And there are plenty of others.
So let the beat go on . . .