Dateline: Downtown

Dateline: Downtown

Dateline: Downtown

Dan Roche

Oldies radio doesn’t sound like oldies radio anymore. Back in my day, Oldies meant Oldies. Girls were from California, not Uptown. Boys, in fact, were from New York City, oo-wa oo-wa oo oo ditty. They were most assuredly not back in town. So why is Oldies 103 playing Billy Joel and Bad Company, and not the Beach Boys and Manhattan Transfer? Sure, the Beach Boys are still on constant rotation, and no one remembers Manhattan Transfer, but they don’t play Oldies on Oldies anymore and that is a crying shame.

I listen to 103, and not ‘ZLX, because I want to live in a world not of stoners blaring “Takin’ Care of Business” from their Camaros, but of Wilson Pickett going “HYAAAAAAAAA! Unh!” and Jackie Wilson ululating. Oldies still plays the standards, Sonny & Cher and Elvis Elvis ELVIS, but now they play all this 70’s rock and disco, which pushes out the marginal, weird oldies that you used to catch. They don’t play “Age of Aquarius” anymore, which used to stun me into terrified silence when I was a kid (parents take note), and I don’t remember the last time I heard “In the Year 2525”.

Even as I type, they’re playing Billy Joel. Again. It’s this creeping classic-rockism that Oldies listeners must defend against, but we are losing the battle. They’ve forsaken the Derek & the Dominos’ “Layla” for Eric Clapton’s wimpy contemporary acoustic revision. More egregiously, they’ve forgotten the 50’s ever happened–now they advertise “The Greatest Hits of the ’60s and ’70s”, forgetting all about the least self-conscious decade in American history, and thereby depriving us of a lot of fun. Whither the Big Bopper? Buddy Holly? Bill Haley and the Comets? Eddie Cochran? The freak that did “Surfin’ Bird”? Gone, gone to Blueberry Hill.

I don’t want Oldies to be relevant or contemporary or whatever their executives think they’re being by messing with the formula. Oldies should never move out of the dinosaur era. I should be comfortably unanachronistic playing the station in my ’57 DeSoto as it drags a mailbox behind it, before I bash it into a supermarket display window. We need a bastion of conservatism shaking its cane at the dozens of stations full of the latest gangster rapping and heavy metal death music that the kids enjoy so much when they’re busy messing with my lawn. That means: no synthesizers, you punks.

I’m sorry, but you won’t change me; it’s what I think. I can’t fight this feeling, deep inside of me…

The argument could be made that as time marches forward, our conception of what constitutes an “oldie” must necessarily expand. What was an oldie- “Jailhouse Rock”, say–twenty years ago is now an old-oldie, while your favorite Bachman-Turner Overdrive song, not an oldie then, is now well over thirty years old, just as old as “Jailhouse Rock” was. I reject this viewpoint, and demand a return to the Original Format, as it was intended by the station’s Founding Fathers. These activist disk jockeys must be shown up for the wild-eyed radicals they are, before the unthinkable happens and they start playing Nirvana.

I can’t take the pressure anymore–now they’re playing Tavares! That’s it. I’m going to Kansas City; Kansas City, here I come. I’ll go Monday, but–Monday! Monday! Can’t trust that day. The question is NOT, however, should I stay or should I go. That’s for the classic rockists to decide. My questions run deeper; Why must I be a teenager in love? Will you still love me tomorrow? Because you can’t hurry love–no, you just have to wait. Love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give-and-take. And if you don’t know me by now, you will never never know me. So until then, I’m just gonna sit at the dock of the bay (wasting time). So take a good look at my face. You’ll see my smile looks out of place. If you look closer, it’s easy to trace…