As a kid, I didn't listened to a ton of popular music, it was all about the "Oldies". It wasn't until sixth grade, when I lost a few nights sleep wondering how I was going to pay for that Columbia House cassette tape subscription that I learned who Madonna was. In fact, until I was fifteen, I thought that Liza Minelli was the singer who made "Son of a Preacherman" famous...not Dusty Springfield. This is because I was the child of an old guy.
There are a few of us out there -- kids of old folks. We have siblings that could almost be old enough to be our parents, we know who people like Engelbert Humperdinck are and most of us can tell you at least one embarassing story involving someone mistaking our parent for a grandparent. While most of my friends parents rocked out to Neil Diamond or the Beatles standards, my dad was a fan of Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey.
As a child, radio in my house consisted of either oldies radio stations, AM 1160 (W-J-J-D!) or Dick Biondi, formerly on 104.3 fm, where mornings were spent listening to songs like "Boom Sha Boom" or classic MoTown.
I didn't notice until recently that 104.3 fm and 94.7 fm pulled a "Freaky Friday", both deciding to switch formats around the mid-2000's. Somehow, I missed that as I raced through my twenties. Plus, the rare times I do realize what radio station I am listening to, 104.3 fm is usually playing something like the 1976 Kansas' jam, "Carry On My Wayward Son". The other day I realized the format was now "Classic Hits" when I heard Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love", while stuck in traffic on Ashland. I laughed, Robert Palmer couldn't possibly be that old, he is not classic -- not yet. Is he?
Then Genesis' "Invisible Touch" came on and besides making me do a double take, it immediately made me feel old. Sure I'm no spring chicken, but I wouldn't nail the coffin just yet. To me, these songs are 80's hits, belonging in the ranks of "light rock" stations, their tunes shuffled somewhere between whimsical 90's pop groups like the New Radicals and Sister Hazel, not between the Kinks.
According to Rick Kaempfer, author of The Radio Producers Handbook, a former Oldies 104.3 fm producer and a weekly contributor as "A Suburban Dad" on the popular ChicagoNow blog, "A CityMom", it's important to not confuse "Oldies", "Classic Hits" and "Classic Rock" with each other. "Hits" can refer to any song of a specific time period where "rock" is rock.
Kaempfer was about thirty when he started at what used to be Oldies 104.3 in the nineties, "At that time, 'Oldies' referred specifically to rock and roll hits from the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. They had to be hits--otherwise it was referred to as "classic rock", like Zeppelin and The Who, bands that technically didn't have many actual hits."
Those hippies played on The Drive!
As rock and roll progressed to punk, hip hop, dance and pop -- radio stations had to change the format, thus grouping any "hit" with one another -- early to mid-80's now included in that. Kaempfer says that "The new stations that play "Oldies" don't really call [songs] that--they call them 'Classic Hits'. That gives them carte blanche to play [different] songs into the early 80s".
Sometimes I see that my Facebook and Twitter friends in places like New York, NY compalin that, "White Wedding is on the classic rock station WTF ??!!". Or, "Really, Hall & Oates is an oldie" (that from Bend, Or). It has made me realize that it is not just me who doesn't like the idea of having to give up my bygone memories to classic oldies and classic rock radio, there are quite a few of us who aren't ready to let go of the one thing that can make us feel young, our music.