I have been a huge Madonna fan for essentially my entire life – I have distinct memories of spinning the 45 of “Dress You Up” and its b-side “Shoo Be Do,” which came out when I was three-and-a-half.
My father is a different story – and not just on Madonna. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him actively listen to a single song released after I was born (except, occasionally, Billy Joel). His taste in music is firmly rooted in the 50s and 60s – doo-wop, Motown, and early rock – and the radio in his car was permanently and without question tuned to Oldies 98.1, WOGL.
No exceptions, no Madonna tapes. Oldies 98.1 or else. And we spent a lot of time in that car.
When I first was old enough to care about radio stations I thought it was an annoying and restrictive rule. Seriously, no new music? How uncool was that?
Then I got to know the songs. At age five I would perform flawless choreography to “Stop! In the Name of Love” and sing along in parking lots to girl-group classics like “I Will Follow Him” and “Leader of the Pack.”
Those were the obvious oldies – Supremes and Stones, Beatles and Temptations. I’ve owned them for years. But WOGL was more than that – a never-ending stream of doo-wop, 60s pop, deeper cuts, and one-hit wonders. After years of riding around Philly with my dad, to this day I have instant and total recall whenever I hear a classic like “Lightnin’ Strikes.”
Relatively early in my life I remember asking him, “Dad, how old will I be when they play Madonna on WOGL?”
We did some math. Despite playing a lot of Doo-Wop, at the time the majority of WOGL’s songs were grouped around the late 60s and early 70s (disco was relegated to its own hour at night), so my father took The 5th Dimension’s “Age of Aquarius / Let the Sunshine” in as an average example.
“Well, ‘Aquarius’ went to number one in 1969, and now it’s a song we hear a lot on WOGL, in the 1980’s. So, it took it almost twenty years to become an ‘oldie’.”
“So, I’ll hear ‘Holiday’ on WOGL in… um… 2004?”
He laughed. “When you’re 23? Maybe. I don’t know if they’ll ever play Madonna.”
I giggled my agreement – how could Madonna ever be an “oldie”?
Now a full five years past his predicted 23, I’ve heard Madonna on WOGL. It makes a certain amount of sense – she’s an oldie to someone!
What my dad and I didn’t anticipate on our idyllic long rides was that when the oldies’ qualifying line reached forward into the 80s that the oldest tunes would reach their expiry. First it was the more obscure, one-hit doo-wop that went extinct – yes to “The Still of the Night,” but no more spins for The Del Viking’s “Come Go With Me” (very nearly my favorite song all time).
Then it was Doo-Wop entirely. Then the line crept into the sixties pop, slicing through all but the most enduring Motown and Brit Rock – stuff you can still hear on television commercials. Smaller pop singles like Lou Christie’s “Lightnin’ Strikes” went MIA. Now the midday playlist is mostly 70s classic rock and disco in the day time – where it should never show its spangled face.
Songs I once assumed would be forever woven into the fabric of my life have all but disappeared. Now I rely on random trips to the supermarket to jog my memory – that’s what it took to unearth Friend & Lover’s “Reach Out Of the Darkness” – and it’s from as late as 1968!
The same me that grew up with Madonna grew up with those songs, and this morning when Philebrity‘s Joey Sweeney posted his unfinished thoughts on WOGL 98.1 FM’s recent inclusion of hits from the 1980s into the canon of “Oldies” – complete with name-checking “Come Go With Me” – it resonated with me (and, from the looks of the comments, it resonated with a lot of other 20- and 30-somethings as well).
Yes, “Borderline” is an oldie now. But it’s on other formats, and on Greatest Hits CDs still moving thousands of units a year.
What about “Come Go With Me”? Will any eight year old Gaga-loving kid ever have the chance for that to be his favorite song? Has doo-wop seriously gone the way of ragtime and big band – a dusty antique with no relevance to today.
Probably. I guess that means when I have kids I have to alternate between Madonna and doo-wop on every car ride to make sure they know all of their musical fundamentals.