My post about the September 21, 1985, American Top 40 show last week brought out an interesting comment from reader Steve E., who noted that the fall of ’85 was the moment at which he stopped listening to current music. I am guessing many amongst the readership had a similar moment—when they went from being regular listeners to a contemporary Top 40 or album-rock radio station and switched to oldies or classic rock or something else.
Mine came in 1987, when I went to work for the elevator-music station. I still listened to Top 40 in the car and at home sometimes, and I kept up a nodding acquaintance with the hits of the day, but only for a while. Give me a song title for any year between 1970 and 1986 and I can tell you approximately what month and year it was big. Give me one after the middle of 1987, and I can’t. By some point in the late 80s, I had made the same transition Steve E. did a few years earlier.
By 1990, I was working at an adult contemporary station, so I became retroactively familiar with some of the late 80s hits I missed, and I played the ones that crossed to AC as currents in the early 90s. From about 1994 until I started working at Magic in 2008—years when I either worked in classic-rock radio or was out of radio altogether—I missed pretty much everything. Today, I am necessarily familiar with current AC hits by people like Kelly Clarkson, Train, Maroon 5, and so on, but ultimately, they’re just equipment, like headphones and the clock on the studio wall. They aren’t what I’m listening to in my spare time.
It’s not strictly correct for any of us to say we’ve stopped listening to current music, of course. Recent albums by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Boz Scaggs, and Donald Fagen are in the hot rotation at my house, and by the time you read this, Elton John’s The Diving Board will be joining them. I await the new Rosanne Cash album in January, and Van Morrison hasn’t made a record in that last 10 or 15 minutes, so he’s due, too. Am I buying Macklemore or Vampire Weekend or whatever’s big on the radio right now? No I am not. But I’m not strictly an antiquarian either. Not yet, anyhow, although if you want to argue that listening to new releases by people I first discovered in the 70s and 80s isn’t the same as discovering new music, I’d probably listen to your argument.
So let’s hear from the readership. When did you stop listening to current music on the radio? Is there a moment or a reason you can point to, or is it something that just faded away? Or have you never stopped? I expect your stories will probably be more interesting than mine, so have at it.