Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Allure of the Oldies

There is a Blackberry app store available now, which allows me to shop for applications that I can download and use right on my phone. I suspect this is RIM's answer to Apple's iPhone app store. (RIM is Research in Motion, the company behind Blackberrys.) I've had some fun shopping around, especially since I've been able to find a bunch of free downloads that have expanded the versatility of my Blackberry Bold on the cheap. Rather than list my faves, I thought I'd focus on just one that I have particularly enjoyed. It allows me to play 100's of radio stations...both local and from around the country. As long as I have a cell phone signal, I can access a wide variety of radio formats.

From 1964 through 1975, I was in junior high, high school, and college. It was during those years that I listened faithfully to a couple of local Top 40 radio stations, first on a clock radio by my bed, then on a small transistor radio I got for Christmas 1964. (Eventually I earned enough money as a paperboy to buy some of this music on vinyl 45's and play selected songs on my record player.) As I look back on those years, many of the events I remember are punctuated by the music I was listening to at the time. For instance, if I hear a few bars of "Wooly Bully" (Sam the Sam and the Pharoahs, 1965) or "Wild Thing" (The Troggs, 1965), 44 years just melt away, and I am in the wrestling room of Woodland Ave. Jr. High School, where we were permitted to dance to popular music during lunch period. There were two local radio stations in Philadelphia back then that built their audiences by playing the popular rock 'n roll music of the day. WFIL and WIBG (Wibbage) routinely pitted the Beatles music against that of the Beach Boys, asking their teen listeners to call in and vote for their favorite. Once I graduated from college and begain teaching in 1975, for some reason I stopped listening to popular music, and pretty much left the radio off until several years later when I was more interested in classical music, NPR, and eventually talk radio. Songs from those transistor radio years represent the true oldies era, in my book.

One of the stations available on my Blackberry now is out of Minnesota somewhere, and it plays those true oldies 24/7. Music from the late 50's, the 60's, and the early years of the 70's. It couldn't be more perfect. I've listened to other radio stations that claim to have an oldies format, but their definition of oldies is much broader than mine. After all, songs from the late 70's and 80's can certainly be considered "oldies" now in 2009. They're just not MY oldies. And now I've found a station that caters to the very years I was listening to popular music. And believe me, there is quite an allure. Once I turn it on, I find it hard to turn it off. Each song that comes on seems to pull me back in time where I can remember people, places, and events that I often haven't thought of for decades. Over 40 years after receiving that first transistor radio with the single earplug headphone, I slip my Blackberry into my pocket, pop in the stereo earbuds, and head out to do yardwork. But I'm not really in my yard, and I'm not really weeding or pruning or planting stuff. I'm really back in my junior high school dancing to "Lightning Strikes" (Lou Christie, 1966).

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