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Scolding the Oldies

After making the 2,000-mile auto cruise down Route 66 from Los Angeles to St. Louis, I think wheel partner Jeff Burk and I can agree on the one thing that we needed to bring that we didn’t bring in our rent-a-Ford.


I don’t mean laughs, farts, belches, sneezes, and hacks; you can get those anywhere. I mean sound as in music.

Why didn’t you turn on the radio?

We did.


Oh officer, it was terrible, just awful. They wouldn’t stop. I heard “My Love” by Paul McCartney six times in 12 hours. Then I got car sick. I kept thinking, ‘Why doesn’t God stop them?. Oh no, not the Beatles again, oh no, the third time for “Hang on Sloopy,” I… I…

Certainly, you could’ve tried another station…

We did, we did, but it wouldn’t stop. Not only was the music horrible, but if you hated that, all you had left was blockheaded sports talk, guys who couldn’t speak English, and some pile of leaves called Rush Limbaugh. And this went on for three days. TTTHHHREEEE DAAYYYSS!!!!!

Three days in a tightly-packed, no-room-to-move Ford Taurus. Jeff and I tried rock, scissors, paper and other desperate diversionary tactics to kill the cramp time, but invariably our hands would work back to the radio’s “Seek” button. Man, we’ve gone 100 miles, maybe we can pick up some new stations. We did and until we hit Missouri, they all sucked and you can put “Sucked” in capital letters. (In the Show Me state, we heard an entertaining old guy who played everything from 1920’s gut bucket jazz to modern rock. Out of his house yet.)

I mean What is the Deal there.

Who are the radio programmers in northern Arizona and New Mexico? Do they come to Earth with powers and abilities far below those of mortal men and who, described as dockers-wearing dweebs, fight a never ending battle for mediocrity, deafness, and USA Today?

I’m sorry and I don’t mean to offend anyone’s tastes, but goddamit how many times do you have to hear, the aforementioned “My Love,” “Takin’ Care of Business,” “Penny Lane,” “Baby Love,” “The Rain, the Park, and Other Things,” “Hang on Sloopy,” and stuff by hair-spray hippie wanna-bes like Tommy James and Chicago, before you crack up.

Most of the southwest’s radio rock (Boy, is that a swing and a miss term) is couched in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and somehow, as if by magic, these oldies radio programmers manage to miss the essence of this seminal period by a few million light years.

Why do they have to play the most sacchrine, sappy, punchless music of the period over and over and over again? I’ll tell you why — because they were hits. The majority of these songs were promoted by the biggest kingmakers in the record industry and came right after the Beatles and Rolling Stones and San Francisco scene exploded in the middle-to-late 1960’s. In their infinite wisdom, they threw aside content and went 100% for form, realizing that this era was really all about bell-bottoms and carefully coiffed long hair and not the huge artistic and political breakthrough period of the last half of the century that it was. Spontaneity took it in the shorts, and hits were manufactured. I mean “Baby Love’s” a good enough record, but after hearing it 1,000 times, c’mon. And as for “Yummy, Yummy” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company, it was released as a novelty record for Chrissakes. Gee Mr. Cleaver, why don’t they play “Alvin’s Harmonica” or “Disco Duck?” Those are oldies rock records, aren’t they? Rock records, like hell.

Today’s programmers keep alive that profit-oriented attitude. Sgt. Friday wanted just the facts, they want just the hits. They are so gutless, so artistically spineless, that rather than expose the listener to material they might really dig or draw a favorable response like, “Hey I forgot all about that band; that’s hot,” these road apples chicken out and go with what’s safe, the same lame drool day in and day out. Consequently, I’d rather be caught schmoozing with the Flat Earth Society rather than listening to an Oldies station.

I love old records, too. I have somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 of the little devils, so I have a rough idea of what I am talking about. While my tastes now go more towards hip hop, hardcore punk, and spoken word, I can say without fear of contradiction that there are thousands of gems being missed by these Coke bottle-goggled oldies programmers.

I like the Beatles, but let’s hear “For No One,” or “Across the Universe.”

I like the Stones, but let’s hear “Parachute Woman.”

I like the Supremes, but let’s hear “When the Love Light Starts Shinin’ Through His Eyes.”

I like Marvin Gaye. How about instead of “What’s Going On,” we hear “One More Heartache.”

I like car songs, but kill “Little Old Lady From Pasadena.” Gimme “Scattershield” by the Surfaris, “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Johnny Bond, or how about “Route 66” by Bobby Troup, or even the “Route 66” TV theme by Nelson Riddle.

Ever hear of Jim Hendrix?

And if you want to get a little adventurous, why not try the fans out on “White Light, White Heat” by the Velvet Underground? How about the Stooges and “Search and Destroy?” “Trash” by the New York Dolls? “Amphetamine Gazelle” by Mad River? “It Didn’t Even Bring Me Down” by Sir Douglas? “Jack Daniels Old No. 7” by Jerry Lee Lewis? There are tons of fabulous old songs waiting in the wings and gathering dust. A pox on these modern-day bean counters and graph-watchers who dare utter the word: rock. You wouldn’t recognize rock if it struck you between the running lights.

And on the subject of running lights, that brings me back to cars and the noise inside. Two quick rants and I’m gone. Southwestern sports talk radio, go die! It’s okay to worship Tiger Woods, but not Dennis Rodman. It’s okay to bash the hell out of spoiled $50-million a year .250 hitters, but you can only love tap the greedbag owners. It’s okay to get pissed at spoiled rotten, professional non-students getting fat with under the table gratuities, but not at the universities and the agents who set the game up in the first place. It’s cool to stand up for Michael Jordan, Kurt Warner, and Mark McGwire, but you are really out of line if you think Mike Tyson, Lawrence Taylor, or Rodman have any redeeming qualities. Only the most reactionary, dim-witted callers that agree with us will be treated civilly. So please call-in, we’d like your comments. Okay, here’s a comment, I’ve come for your FCC license for your role in the dumbing of America. Hit the bricks, birdbrain!

And Rush Limbaugh? No question about it, the greatest political mind since Dan Quail ... er Quayle.

I realize the above isn’t heavily car-ish, but most of you have radios in them and besides this is Drag Racing Online, soooo if what I’ve offered does make some sense, here’s a suggestion for your next long car trip ... learn to sing.

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