Sometimes these articles that I write bring unexpected rewards. The one from the end of May did just
that. After church the following Sunday, an elderly gentleman stopped me and told me about a radio
station in Corbin--AM 680--that played oldies, with little advertising.
Voila! Upon arriving home, I found the station. And it features real oldies, everything from Big Band to
psychedelic, with some later hits from Air Supply, etc., thrown in. I'm hearing songs that I haven't heard
in 30 or 40 years.
They omit titles and artists, so sometimes I feel like I'm once again playing that 1950's TV game that I
loved, "Name That Tune." Such fun.
Rod Stewart covers some of the '30s and '40's songs. He seems to have made a second career with his
American Songbook series, a couple of which I have. Many of these are songs of unrequited love--called
"torch songs", as in "I'm carrying a torch for you." Always pleasing.
On this station, I hear Floyd Cramer's "Last Dance" and Barbra Streisand's first hit, "People"; Jimmy
Dean's "Big Bad John," and lots of songs and artists I never hear on other stations.
A good dose of folk-rock gets thrown in: Peter, Paul, and Mary; Bob Dylan; Judy Collins. Folk-rock sent
me to UK, because after Hootenanny filmed there, somehow I fell in love with the school.
We don't hear much about folk-rock, but with it "rules were being broken" (Judy Collins). Songs reflected
everything from war protests ("Where Have All the Flowers Gone?") to segregation ("We Shall
Overcome"). It linked pop music to politics ("The Times, They Are a-Changin'").
Lots of instrumentals here, some original, some covers of vocal hits. They remind me that "Moon River,"
a hit by Andy Williams, also won the 1969 Oscar for Best Original song as a Henry Mancini instrumental.
Here are favorites from the 1960's--"Different Drum" (of course I thought I traveled to that beat), "I've
Told Every Little Star" (why didn't I tell you !?), "Wishin' and Hopin'"(not very good at the planning
part), "Alfie" (and what was it all about, anyway?).
I hear Dean Martin's "Gigi" and I want to run to Blockbuster to rent that sweet movie. I hear Debbie
Reynolds singing "Tammy, Tammy, you love him so" and I remember my father driving my friends and
me an hour from home to see the movie.
I hear Joplin's (not Janis!) "Maple Leaf Rag" and I am back again at a makeshift outdoor theater on a
naval base on Guam, watching Butch and Sundance jumping off a cliff. I hear "Traces" and am reminded
of the school prom there, 1969. I never understood why they chose such a sad song for their theme.
On this station, you realize that hit songs weren't deterred by foreign lyrics: "Volare," "Que Sera, Sera,"
"Cara Mia," even the unlikely hit "Sukiyaki." Lyrics completely in Japanese. In 1963, we had no
translation; we just loved it enough to propel it to #1 on the Billboard charts. Now, listening on YouTube,
I am surprised by the sadness of the translated lyrics, considering the song's upbeat tempo.
Immersing myself in this music led to a re-viewing of my History of Rock and Roll video series. It
provides lots of insights. I gain a new appreciation for the influence of Bob Dylan, who I would have
written off in the '60s with "He can't sing." But I guess you don't need a Nobel Peace Prize to realize that
he was "the ear of his generation."
In his development, he was influenced by the Beatles. But probably more importantly, he influenced them
when he once told them that their music had no depth.
All in all, these songs shelter our memories. Those memories, perhaps buried deeply, begin to surface
with renewed exposure to their musical triggers. Will I tire of them? Who can say? But right now, I'm
walkin' down lonely street, toward the green green grass of home, chasing an elusive butterfly, with my
hair blowin' in the wind as I listen to the leader of the band on my iPod, and wonder, what kind of fool am I?