Anyone who knows me more than passingly–be that IRL or online–is well aware of my interest in the eighteen-plus years of the original Casey Kasem run at the helm of American Top 40. I charted the show over roughly the middle third of that span. Even when I “outgrew” faithfully listening to the show not long after I left for college, it would be years before I stopped paying attention to the up-and-down rhythms of the Billboard Hot 100 and stopped listening to stations that played most of the songs Kasem would have been announcing. About the time I turned forty, now a husband and a father of a pre-schooler, nostalgia for those days began setting in, leading me to assemble playlists for dozens of those countdowns. In summer 2012, I became re-obsessed with hearing the actual shows not long after I realized they were being remastered and distributed again to stations everywhere for rebroadcast. I’ve now been at that game for longer than I listened as a teenager. It’s immensely enjoyable to have the opportunity to hear shows of all stripes–before, during, and after my charting years. With a few exceptions, I don’t have much desire to own personal copies of the shows, to listen to on demand–it’s enough right now to be able to check in on whatever the execs at Premiere and SiriusXM select each week. I imagine there’ll come a day when those same execs realize the folks most interested in classic-era AT40 are too old to make continued broadcasting sufficiently profitable, but I’m hoping that time is several years off.
AT40 of that era touched–to varying degrees, of course; I’m an outlier on the high end–the lives of a large proportion of people my age, plus or minus a decade or more. This weekend makes fifty years since Casey’s first broadcast. Numerous stations are celebrating by playing many of the special shows originally broadcast on various July 4th weekends of the 70s and 80s. There’s been some media attention given to the anniversary, too. And Premiere has the first show, chart date 7/11/70, on offer this weekend. I’ve never heard it in full, but I hope by the end of today that will have changed.
Two songs from that show, brimming with very different kinds of energy, have titles that, when taken out of context, feel appropriate for the occasion. If you secularize Pacific Gas & Electric (#19, on its way to #13) and de-sexify Rare Earth (#13, heading down after peaking at #4), the question “Are You Ready?” and command “Get Ready” tell us everything we need to know about the cultural tsunami headed our way.
Happy golden birthday, American Top 40.