Beverly Godfrey column: Listening to some new oldies
I didn’t understand “oldies” radio when I was a teenager. I figured I’d always be interested in current music, unlike old people who seemed stuck in the ’60s.
“Why don’t they like new songs?” I wondered. “That will never happen to me.”
I was so naive. Or delusional, especially since I’m such an unsophisticated music listener. When I arrived at my college campus, “What music do you like?” was the most common conversation-starter. I had no answer. I liked lots of things, whatever was on the radio, basically. I hadn’t given it that much thought. But in college, edgy, obscure, loud and angry were the common themes of “cool” music.
I continued to listen to whatever was on the radio for years. But for a while now, I kinda can’t stand it. Even if I like the songs, the way they’re played over and over bothers me. I’ve also fallen into the trap of saying songs today are too nasty — of course, people said that about Elvis, but I don’t think he ever appeared in a music video naked while licking a hammer. (If you don’t get this reference to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” good for you, I say.)
I was driving around town a couple weeks ago when — again — I got tired of the song on the radio. I started flipping around the stations and found a song I like. Then another song I like came on, then another and another.
“That’s weird,” I thought. “That never happens.”
Listening closer, I realized it was, indeed, a new station — a reformatted station, actually, FM 95.7, formerly Rock 96. It changed on Feb. 17.
“It’s what in the radio business is called ‘adult hits,’ geared towards probably that 30- to 50-year-old person,” operations manager Mark Fleischer said. “It’s a lot of songs from when they were growing up, that they haven’t heard in a while, mixed in with some current music.”
The change was a business decision, Fleischer said, “though we had great listeners on Rock 96, it wasn’t well supported by the business community.”
As we talked, Fleischer mentioned that Rock 96 had played groups such as Metallica and Pantera. I thought he said “Panera” but Googled it and saw that’s just the bread company — and in doing so, might have proved a point about demographics.
On the new station, I’ve heard Tears for Fears, Journey, The Police, A-ha — songs that tap into a part of my brain where I still remember things. How else could I explain knowing all the words to “If This Is It” by Huey Lewis and the News? It’s not like it’s a favorite song; I wouldn’t buy it to own, but it came on the radio, and there I was, singing along to every word as I folded laundry.
The station features local DJs, which I appreciate, instead of canned national programming. Among the staff are Pat Kelly and Dave Strandberg, both of whom, I hope, won’t mind my pointing out they’ve been broadcasting in the Northland for decades.
And so I’ve made it a few degrees farther around the circle of life, where I’m listening to an oldies station — though they don’t call it that — of songs from my youth. Yes, it happened to me.
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor and columnist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.