(Pictured: Rick Springfield, dressed to appear on a 1974 Australian telethon for blindness prevention. Sometimes the jokes write themselves.)
For a music and radio geek, there’s no more reliable source of entertainment than ARSA, the Airheads Radio Survey Archive. It’s raw material for the history of popular music, the history of American radio, and in a sense, the history of America itself, from the 50s to the new millennium. While entertaining myself the other day, I found five interesting oddballs to share with you.
KHJ, Los Angeles, July 10, 1979: “I Want Johnny’s Job” by Ray Sawyer, in which the guy with the eye patch in Dr. Hook beseeches NBC chief Fred Silverman to make him Johnny Carson’s replacement. It was a one-off single recorded while Dr. Hook was still a going concern, but the Internet doesn’t know much more about it than that.
WACK, Newark, July 11, 1965: “Summer Sounds” by Robert Goulet, which was running through my head just the other day: “Listen to the music of the carousel / The ting-a-ling-a-linging of the ice-cream bell.” It comes back to me every summer, and I am both surprised and not surprised to learn that it was on the radio 50 years ago this week. As I have said many times before, my parents were inveterate radio listeners. Because of that, “Summer Sounds” insinuated itself into my five-year-old brain and has stayed there forever after.
KEYS, Corpus Christi, July 10, 1965: For a music geek with a sense of history, July 1965 is almost too much to take in: “Satisfaction,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” “What the World Needs Now,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Help Me Rhonda.” But what survives to make the history books is never the whole story and so, alongside these epic mega-hits, we find “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte” by Patti Page. It sounds like it came straight out of 1955, although in its original habitat, it has a much, much different effect. It’s from a movie of the same name starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland, in which Charlotte, accused of the brutal hatchet murder of her betrothed, eventually goes insane, partly because of a song that keeps playing in her head: a condition we can fully understand ’round these parts.
CKRC, Winnipeg, July 14, 1967: And speaking of too much to take in: “Windy,” “Light My Fire,” “She’d Rather Be With Me,” “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” “White Rabbit,” “San Francisco,” and “Whiter Shade of Pale” all on the radio at the same time. And also “Love Is a Beautiful Thing” by the Gettysbyrg Address, a band from Winnipeg that included Kurt Winter, future guitarist with the Guess Who, although several members would belong to various incarnations of that more famous band in years to come. “Love Is a Beautiful Thing” was co-produced by Randy Bachman. You’ll have to imagine what it sounds like since it isn’t posted anywhere at YouTube.
KTKT, Tucson, July 14, 1974: Rick Springfield’s “American Girls” is a difficult song to track down. I am half-sure it’s not the same as “The American Girl,’ a track from his 1982 album Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet. It looks to have been released only as a single in 1974, and it’s not at YouTube either.
The obscurity of “American Girls” doesn’t matter to me all that much, however, because other stuff on the KTKT survey is far more interesting. Like this note: “Have you noticed the crisp new sound on KTKT? It’s a special piece of equipment we’ve just installed . . . sounds like dynamite.” Nothing warms the heart of a geek like a radio station bragging about its audio processing.
Elsewhere, there’s a profile of nighttime DJ Ron Wiley, which says, “It’s not an ego trip; it’s not mindless chatter . . . being a disc jockey is developing the art of saying clearly what you intended to say, and having it understood.” In this, he’s absolutely right. But then, Ron’s profile takes a weird turn. “People have more time to talk at night, and although Ron may correct you if he thinks you said something you didn’t mean, he believes that what you say to him on the phone is just as important as what he says to you on the air. He said to ask you to give him a call.”
So kids, be sure to call Ron so he can tell you what you’re really thinking and how you should have expressed yourself. Just like every other adult in your world does, every damn day.