The classic age of Top 40 radio is a fading memory that a lot of people share and treasure. Ask ten people who are fifty years or older what the best Top 40 station was and chances are you'll get ten different answers. My personal favorite was WABC, which for many years, was the sound of New York City.
I didn't live close enough to the city to get the station in the daytime, but nighttime reception was rock solid. The way the music was presented was just so perfect. The records, the jingles, the commercials and the way the announcers spoke all combined to create a one of a kind experience.
Other cities had great stations as well, all across the United States of America. From coast to coast, great sounds just came pouring out of speakers. Most pop records were mixed, and most stations processed them, to sound best on car radios. These were not the poorly designed radios that are common in automobiles today.
These were radios that were well designed, and every car had an antenna feeding the radio.
Of course, by the 1980s, the classic Top 40 sound was hard to pull off. The records being released didn't flow together the way they had in earlier decades. The art's (and it is an art when done right) remaining practitioners scattered in different directions.
Some left radio all together. Some stayed in radio but went into sales or into management. Some of them found it in themselves to keep on keeping on and transformed the sound to fit an oldies format. Getting a record from 1965 to sound good sandwiched in between ones from 1960 and 1970 is not easy. It takes more skill, and more patience. But when it's done right, it can sometimes be as good as it ever was.
Sadly, the oldies format is in a very long, very slow decline. Play lists have been reduced to as little as 200 or 300 records that are repeated over and over. Announcers often have minimal knowledge of the music's history and don't take the time to learn at least the basics.
There are, thankfully, exceptions to the rule. There are some good over-the-air stations that still get it right. There are some good internet stations as well, but most of them have gone away due to the increase in royalty rates that went into effect earlier this year.
I have, over the years, built a library of close to 2000 hits from the classic Top 40 era. These are all the original records, with the original mono mixes, single edits and so forth.
I'm working on starting a new internet station that will feature these. Is this about showing off my collection? Sure, it is, a little bit. But I really want it to be more about resurrecting the sound I grew up with.
Watch this space for details.