A Bustle in Your Hedgerow and Other Sounds of Note

Apparently a couple of folks amongst the readership took my final pre-Christmas post as an omen that I might not be back at this stand ever again. Nah. Fish swim, birds fly, and gasbags gas. What follows are some worthwhile links that have showed up on my Twitter feed since Christmas.

Listen to the Countdown: Starting in 1970, I frequently spent the evening of December 31 listening to the top songs of the year. I don’t remember the WLS countdown on December 31, 1971, but an aircheck from the show surfaced recently on the WLS Musicradio Facebook group. It features night jock J. J. Jeffrey and overnight guy Gary Gears fooling around as the clock nears midnight. It’s a ragged bit of radio, but old-school WLS fans might enjoy it. Eight years later, I would not have been home listening on New Year’s Eve, but I would have been listening somewhere, to somebody’s countdown. It wasn’t the WLS countdown on December 31, 1979, so I missed Jeff Davis doing the last of it live from Old Chicago. This wasn’t the chain restaurant familiar to us today, but a combination shopping mall/indoor amusement park that had fallen on hard times by the end of 1979 and would close in the spring of 1980. This aircheck from that night features the WLS Timesweep, which became a New Year’s tradition at the end of 1973. It’s a montage of every #1 song from 1955 to the present, and the 1979/80 version is interspersed with vintage WLS jingles that were not a part of every Timesweep.

(Shout-out to WLS Musicradio group members Greg Barman and Tim Brown for posting these airchecks.)

TV as a Mirror: The transition from 1973 to 1974 is the subject of a fine post at It’s About TV, with an epic college bowl game, a bunch of failed TV series premieres, and Guy Lombardo. (The post features a brief mention of the proprietor of this establishment, for which I’m grateful.) Also be sure to read a fascinating look at the history behind the Rose Bowl game played on January 1, 1962. It was not so much a traditional showdown between Big 10 and Pac 10 powers as it was a barometer of how American culture was poised to change as The Sixties, capital-T and capital-S, were about to begin.

Take a Sad Song and Make It Better: You may not recognize the name of Paul Frees, but you’ve heard his work, as the voice of Boris Badenov, various characters in Rankin/Bass holiday specials such as Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, and on commercials by the hundreds. In 1970, he took advantage of his talents and made an album titled Paul Frees and the Poster People, on which he performed familiar pop and rock songs of the moment in different character voices. “Mama Told Me Not to Come” as W. C. Fields and “Hey Jude” as Peter Lorre are the best of the bunch. The musical backing is generally very well done, although that’s not why anybody would want to listen to this.

Under Cover: In a post before Christmas, I said that “Stairway to Heaven” is one of a handful of songs that should never be covered by anybody. That’s not strictly true: Dolly Parton recorded it on her album Halos and Horns in 2002, and her version is better than you’d expect. Heart has always understood how to approach Zeppelin songs—their version of “Rock & Roll” is classic, and at the recent Kennedy Center Honors, they performed “Stairway to Heaven” with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin in the audience. And holy smokes it was great.

That’s all I’ve got for 2012. Thanks again for your patronage. Please return in the new year for more along our familiar line.

5 responses

  1. was reminiscing with a friend recently about being glued to our giant console stereo listening to the WLS countdowns on 12/31, taped many of them on an old Certron cassette. Great quality! :)

    Some friends and I took a day trip to Chicago area in spring of ’80 and roamed the dying expanse of Old Chicago. The thought of that still depresses me to this day.

    Paul Frees also did Beatle voices on the old cartoon series.

    Happy New Year, jb and keep it coming…..

  2. Indeed, keep ’em coming. You’re an entertaining/informative ‘gasbag’ we’d hate to do without.

  3. Many thanks for the link and the kind words! It’s great to be mentioned by a site as much fun as yours!

  4. Old Chicago! I remember that place. I’d won a good amount of tickets — 10 to 20 , can’t recall all these years later — from WMET in a “Beatles/Beach Boys” contest where you had to guess what songs featured the snippets that formed an ersatz “MET” jingle. All I remember from that event was going to Old Chicago and meeting MET disc jockey Greg Brown. This was 1977, I think, so the place was “in its prime,” but it still was never much of a challenge to more established theme parks. Never wound up using all of the tickets….

  5. OMG! Just listened to Ann and Nancy Wilson perform “Stairway To Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors. Awesome!

    Also listened to the aircheck of WLS from New Years Eve 1979. I listened to the Big 89 Countdown that night at home in Wisconsin. What took me back to that very night was Jeff Davis proudly exclaiming “WLS and Rock….RULES!” Then, the #1 song of 1979, “My Sharona” from The Knack.

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