My Nest May be Empty, But My Kid Still Calls Me Mom

Summer Songs, Good Times

Summer Songs, Good Times

By on Aug 19, 2013 in Generation Fabulous | 12 comments

I am a member of the Generation Fabulous group of midlife bloggers, which runs a monthly bloghop. This month’s topic is “Songs of Summer.”

Did you catch that viral Stephen Colbert dance video to Daft Punk’s hit summer song — “Get Lucky” — a couple of weeks ago? No? Go look at it now and I’ll refrain from asking you which rock you’ve been living under …

Didn’t that make you smile? I first heard that song back in May, when my daughter had it in her head and couldn’t stop singing it. I liked it so much I actually purchased it on my iPhone, because it reminded me of the stuff I used to dance to back in the 1970’s.

I only recently learned that the “Song of Summer” is a thing now, with newspapers, radio and TV shows weighing in on whether this year’s title belongs to “Get Lucky” or Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” — which I guess means the real winner is Pharrell Williams, who had a hand in both those hits.

And to be honest, I don’t really care for the exercise of picking one tune and designating it THE song of the summer (or any season, for that matter) — not when there are so many wonderful recordings to enjoy at any time. How do you pick just one? I can’t — and so I won’t.

This year’s “Get Lucky’s” disco-tastic guitar riff was performed by Nile Rodgers, who practically invented that sound in the 1970s.

Mind you, I was a KMET listener back then — and if you are an Angeleno of a certain age, you know that means that I was not a fan of Nile Rodgers or his band, Chic. You would not find anything by the Bee Gees or KC and the Sunshine Band in my record collection. But if you were looking for a steady stream of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, I was your woman. (I also spent a lot of time listening to Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and anything Motown.)

1979's summer songs were heavy on disco

Dance tunes were hot summer songs in 1979.

In the summer of 1979, I landed a job at Los Angeles radio station KHJ-AM.

Ten years earlier, KHJ had been THE place you dialed to hear the hits — but by the time I got there, the superior quality of the FM signal had spurred a nearly total migration of music programming over to the other band, where a new hard rock “album oriented” format (AOR) took hold. I should know: from the age of 12 until I graduated from high school, KHJ was the only station I listened to. Then I switched over to FM and never looked back… until KHJ hired me to work in their research department.

KHJ was still trying to be relevant with its one-size-fits-all slate of Top 40 hits, as popular music began a rapid fracture into the different micro-formats we see today. It was democratic: Top 40 stations played disco, rock, country, and easy listening — all back to back. The only criteria was that the songs had to make it into the top half of the Billboard Hot 100.

I was part of a team that conducted listener surveys to measure the popularity of the songs we were playing (and some we were thinking of playing). Personal computers were not commonplace yet. Each day that summer, I was given a printout of random telephone numbers to call. If the person on the other end of the call fit our target demographic and was willing to participate, I would play a tape featuring a snippet (usually the hook) from each of about a dozen tunes.

So I spent that summer tethered to a telephone headset and reel-to-reel tape player along with three other individuals, making phone calls and listening to little snippets of hit songs. We conducted those surveys every day, Monday through Friday, for five hours a day, which meant I listened to those tapes a good 30 times or more each shift. It wasn’t a wonderful job in terms of creative challenge or salary — but it was fun, mainly because of the people I worked with. We supported each other. We hung out together. We became friends.

Popular music was going through an interesting phase that year. The charts were still heavy with the wave of dance music in the wake of the “Saturday Night Fever” phenomenon, but there was a backlash popularized by AOR disc jockeys like Chicago’s Steve Dahl. “Disco sucks” was their rallying cry, and I agreed.

But it was already too late. The taste of the music buying public was morphing. The punk rock aesthetic of high energy, less technically perfect production was coming into its own, commercially. The airwaves still carried a lot of dance music, but there was suddenly room for new sounds, too — from acts like Blondie, the Clash, the Pretenders and the Police — as well as a revolutionary little ditty from an act that called itself The Sugarhill Gang. Little did we know when we heard “Rappers Delight” that it would mark the beginning of an entirely new direction in popular music — which is still morphing today.

Hearing these songs makes me smile and you know what? It’s good to hear Nile Rodgers again.

This is a Blog Hop! Read other Summer Song posts by members of Generation Fabulous:

    12 Comments

  1. Working at the station must have been fascinating. I remember how important radio was to me as a teenager — and is actually again now as I keep up with the songs my own kids listen to!

    Lois Alter Mark

    August 19, 2013

    • It’s funny you say that, Lois – we had demographic quotas to meet and it cracked us up that the women over 35 all liked the same songs as their kids because they were listening together in the car. What’s less funny is that back then – when I was 23 – we referred to the 35 and older group as “the old ladies.” We didn’t even bother surveying women my age!

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 19, 2013

  2. OK, OK. I was apparently under a rock and didn’t even know it. Now I’ll be groovin’ to “Get Lucky” all day and trying to duplicate Colbert’s dance moves. (Where can I find a Matt Damon booth in KS?)

    • I know, wasn’t that video the best? About all I can muster is the Jeff Bridges booty shake on the stairs.

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 19, 2013

  3. First, thanks for sharing that video, which, if you can believe, I hadn’t taken the time to watch before. Second, I was also a KMET girl – “little bit of heaven, 94.7, KMET…tweedle-dee!” That’s an awesome playlist!!!

    Sharon Greenthal

    August 19, 2013

    • We will have to talk classic rock some time, Sharon. In the meantime, I think I need to make a new playlist of all the songs shared on this BlogHop.

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 19, 2013

  4. That sounds like a fun job to have had. BTW I LOVED Colbert’s “music video”!

    conniemcleod

    August 19, 2013

    • That video is delightful, right? As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to work it into this post. I’m glad you liked it as much as I.

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 19, 2013

  5. Radio was certainly interesting – I spent most of my teen years in PA, where the decent radio stations didn’t really tune in. So we were about six months behind any cutting edge trends, and had NO AOR. I think if I’d had that job I would heartily have grown to hate those hooks, but I love seeing them in your playlist now.

    beverlydiehl

    August 19, 2013

    • You’re so right, @Beverly. By the end of their run, I couldn’t bear some of those songs. But now I can listen to them and enjoy myself. I guess that’s why they call it nostalgia.

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 19, 2013

  6. I forgot all about Blondie and Heart of Glass. I loved that song and Call Me but kind of lost track of her after that.

    Jennifer Wagner

    August 19, 2013

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