Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


Radio Ga Ga Saved My Life Tonight

When I was a kid, up until about the age of eleven, we moved around a lot. My father’s engineering job took us to such exotic locales as Port Huron, Michigan and Norcross, Georgia. It also dumped us in Wiesbaden, Germany for about 8 months in 1976/1977. Seeing as how I didn’t really speak the native tongue, an AM radio became my best friend.

I didn’t listen to any of the German stations, maybe short of spinning the dial to see what was on. No, I fixated on the Armed Forces Radio, and more specifically, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 weekly countdown. This is probably where my chart obsession began. I would write down the countdown weekly and create my own personal charts, ranking my favorites to see how they would compare to the real thing. This also may have been where I picked up my uncanny knack for calling out a hit long before sometimes it’s even released as a single. [I’m calling it now: Shinedown’s “If You Only Knew” is going to be a MONSTER.]

Bands like Electric Light Orchestra, Pilot, Jigsaw and even Abba felt like best friends. To this day their songs still bring a reminiscent smile to my face and have become sort of a musical comfort food for when I’m moody. Seriously, you try being in a bad mood jamming to something like “Sky High” or “S. O. S.” I’m sure this also has a lot to do with my undying love of 70’s AM Gold and how every time the Time/Life infomercial comes on for any number of their collections, I’m hooked for a good half hour. Can any one go wrong with Redbone?

When we returned to the US, I started to buy my own music. I still have some of those early 45’s that I used to buy at a local store in NJ for .79 cents (though warped from sitting in a hot attic for many years). Oddly enough, the B-sides grabbed my attention as much as the single itself and as I grew older, albums and those deeper tracks became a weird sort of journey of discovery. For every “Photograph” I was as equally a fan of “Stagefright” (both from Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” in case I lost you). And, when I discovered import singles from the UK and their non-album track B-sides, I was in musical nirvana.

Those album cuts became even more important in my high school days as I discovered the art of the mix tape. There was always something very therapeutic about putting one together, making sure you get it JUST right, then taking it out for a cruise. Sometimes you wouldn’t know if a mix even worked or not until you listened to it a few times.

I was also a geek enough musically that I used mix tapes to make friends, both of the platonic and romantic kinds. Sometimes I wonder if those extra-special tapes that escaped my “studio” are still out there somewhere, waiting to rear their embarrassing heads.

While I still follow the charts, radio is now such a morass of overplayed tunes, over processed DJs and so much advertising clatter than I cannot imagine a life without my iPods. Yep, plural. I own two actually. A 16gb iPod Touch that holds all my recent music and an 80gb iPod Classic that holds everything else (actually, decades of chart tunes organized with the help of books from Joel Whitburn). When you throw the iTunes Genius feature in, it’s like someone is personally programming a radio station just for you.

About the only time I ever listen to radio anymore is when it’s out of my control. This is about all the confirmation I need that radio is as bad as I remember it. Just this past weekend I was subjected to the same Lady Gaga song six times in the span of six hours. That’s a lot of “P-p-p-p-p-p-p-poker Faces.”

It’s unfortunate that something that used to mean so much to me has became so irrelevant to my life.

  • mycool44

    Wow, this entry def resonates with me.

  • Layla

    I used to love AM radio back in my youth….and flipsides of 45s. Some of the best songs were on the flipside.

  • brian

    Just 2 iPods? Man I have like 5 here. haha….

    iPods have made us lazier as music listeners though. Just think how easy it is these days to pick up your iPod and go directly to that song you are looking for – click, spin wheel, click, done. No more digging through huge piles of CDs trying to find that one Chumbawumba album that had that song on it you used to love because you already have it in your hand (if it is part of your play list on your iPod of course).

    I remember how long it would take me just to make a mix CD for someone once CD-R’s were cheaper and made available to the public. Now to make a play list you just pick, burn, and go! (not that I am complaining about that part…)

    Granted it is a project in itself to download all your music to a computer but once done iTunes and most any other music program out there for MP3 players just requires a click before that song you are looking for is played.

    It’s funny to think not even ten years ago my car was filled with 4 Case Logic cases full of CDs. 4 years before that I had a wood produce box full of cassettes in my backseat. Now I just have an iPod directly hooked up to my car and have access to my large music collection with just the push of a button.

  • Kurt Torster

    Oh Brian, I totally relate. From driving around with a case or two of tapes to CDs to now just an iPod…

    I find I have a harder time coming up with a playlist maybe because I have so much at my disposal. There was something more definitive and final about mix tapes and CDs.

  • Kevin Brennan

    Hey Kurt,
    Since you are a fan of 70s AM gold, as I am since I lived it, get off of Def Leppard’s “Photograph” and move over to Ringo Starr’s “Photograph,” one of the greatest songs of the 70s and beyond.

  • Matt Wardlaw

    That Shinedown album is such a monster. Started off with a rocker single (“Devour”) and strong second cut (“Second Chance”) and I’ll agree, from the first time I heard “If You Only Knew,” I knew that if there was a god, that track was gonna be huge.

    Their live show has been a bit ragged vocally everytime that I’ve seen them. I would love for them to get a handle on that, because they’ve got the tunes, for sure. Shinedown is one of the few bands in recent memory, that I’ve enjoyed each and every album they’ve put out.

    The new one is the best to date, without a doubt.

    I now have an Ipod, and a USB powered external drive holding all of the music that powers my daily musical listening. It’s unreal to think that I used to be happy with a walkman, a couple of cassettes, and batteries that I hoped would last through the family car trip.