Monday, July 13, 2009

On Casey Kasem as THE source of information

Why was Casey Kasem's American Top 40 important to people like me who grew up in the 1970s? Mike Hale reminded us in his retrospective look at Kasem:

[B]ack in the day — before the Internet, even before “Entertainment Tonight” — there were better reasons to listen to Casey Kasem. For one thing: as bizarre as it now seems, millions of people didn’t know what the No. 1 song was each week until they heard that drumroll on “American Top 40.” It was appointment listening, as much of a weekly communal experience as “All in the Family” or “M*A*S*H.”

That's something that even those of us who lived through the 1970s often forget. In addition to not having "Entertainment Tonight" and Mary Hart's legs, we didn't have anything called where we could look stuff up. In fact, if you took a time machine back to 1976 and mentioned "billboard dot com" to me, I'd probably think that you were talking about a Soviet music publication that said what May Day parade tune was at the top that week. (Yeah, Russian music has changed also.)

Hale makes another point:

As square as it was, by playing the entire Top 40 it gave many people a greater variety of music than they could get from listening to their local radio stations for a week.

Now I grew up in the Washington DC area, so I could probably flip my radio station around from WPGC to several other radio stations and get a good approximation of a variety of music. But in the 1970s, that was all that I could do. I couldn't go to Digitally Imported or or Pandora, and I couldn't listen to Australian radio stations on my telephone.

It's weird to just think about the changes in the entertainment industry in the last 30+ years, and how important any one news source could be. Just like we'll never have an equivalent of Walter Cronkite again, we'll probably never have an equivalent of Casey Kasem again.

Keep reaching for the stars, Casey.

More here.
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