Then I found the Reel Top 40 Repository, a treasure-trove of airchecks (recordings, often made by the DJs as part of their career â€œportfoliosâ€?). Many of the airchecks are â€œscoped,â€? so that only the DJâ€™s breaks and commercials are included, and you only hear the beginning and end of the songs. But some are full-length airchecks with all the songs. The site costs $12 a year (you can donate more), which is just $1 a month, to be able to listen to the airchecks, and for any boomer music fan or fan of radio as an industry, thatâ€™s a terrific price of admission to so much history.
You can search the repository for wonderful audio time-machines from major and minor radio stations from the early â€˜60s to the â€˜80s. You can search by city, year, DJ name, radio station call letters.
One of the most amazing recordings that Iâ€™ve found is a two-hour recording from July 20, 1969, of WPGC-FM, an FM station that at the time still played a Top-40 format. It was a Sunday morning broadcast featuring one of the stationâ€™s stalwart jocks, â€œTigerâ€? Bob Raleigh, riffing his way through the hits and also reading the news (in a much more subdued, serious voice and calling himself â€œBob Raleigh, WPGC newsâ€?).
History buffs will recall that July 20, 1969 was just a couple of weeks off from Woodstock in August, but more important, that July 20 was the night that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
I grew up on Top 40 radio and listened to it until the day I bought my first Elvis Costello LP in 1977. Then the world changed and I realized there was a whole universe of music that was better and more interesting. I pretty much haven’t been much of a radio listener since (today, it’s my own MP3s on CD or iPod and the occasional tune-in to XM Radio). But ReelRadio.com looks like it will be a fun, nostalgic trip back, so I’m going to spend some time there when I get some time.
Also, note the user-contributed nature of the site — and how vast the collection it is. Most of the recordings seem to have been contributed by collectors, not the original DJs or radio stations. This should, I think, give you more appreciation for the nature of user-controlled sites and the power of the long tail.
BTW: Gil’s got a great blog. I need to add it to my blog roll.