By Scott Christiansen
I generally don’t admit this, but I miss the Top 40 radio of the ‘70s, and the weird togetherness listeners felt if a song topped the charts, and hung for a few weeks until it seemed like everyone in the whole damn country knew the words.
Someone told me there are more than 30 stations on the dial in Anchorage today and that it takes a really good radio to count them all. Anchorage had maybe 10 or 12 when I was growing up, and because I was in the Matanuska Valley, the signals for some were barely audible while riding in a car around Palmer.
The stations we did have had really tight programming, generally with about 40 songs in rotation at a time. I know it sounds awful, not to mention antiquated, but the truth is that good songs found their way onto turntables anyway. Every now and then, and it usually happened in summer, a really good song would be on the rotation on several stations. It would go viral. In the summer of ‘71, the song “American Pie” did that. Don McLean may have written better songs, but none that infected the culture with quite the same sing-along-in-your-car magic.
I was only six going on seven. That was “six-and-half” if an adult asked. But that song came back in summer of ’72 and every summer after, usually in July and August, which in Alaska was about the only time of year to go for long car rides. Palmer to Anchorage took an hour and much longer than that in winter. And Don McLean would be in your car at some point during that ride, because he had what we used to call “the song of the summer,” a pop phenomena that I am not sure exists anymore.
So there were times form ’71 to ’73 and especially late summer ’71 when, if you stopped at a red light, and you were singing along to the chorus (or those confounding verses) of “American Pie” and you happened to look inside the car next to yours, odds were pretty good that person would be singing along to the same song.
Which brings me to my point. Here it is, winter 2012. I think we need a song of the winter. So if you are in your car, especially if you have a passenger who is six-and-half, keep one ear on the radio. Listen for this one.