Going back to Top 40 radio

I just happened across this post from Gil Asakawa about ReelRadio.com, a repository of AM radio history — Top 40 radio to you and me, at least if you grew up in the 60s and 70s.

Then I found the Reel Top 40 Repository, a treasure-trove of airchecks (recordings, often made by the DJs as part of their career “portfolios�). Many of the airchecks are “scoped,� so that only the DJ’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, that’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 ‘60s to the ‘80s. You can search by city, year, DJ name, radio station call letters.

One of the most amazing recordings that I’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 station’s stalwart jocks, “Tiger� Bob Raleigh, riffing his way through the hits and also reading the news (in a much more subdued, serious voice and calling himself “Bob Raleigh, WPGC news�).

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.

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