For instance, I grew up where the most popular station for teenagers was an AM music station, WFLI. Jet Fli, as they called it, was joined later by a competitor, WGOW (Go or Super Go). They kept us up on the top music of the mid- and late 1960s, back when Elvis and Roy and Johnny and the Beach Boys were challenged by the British Invasion.
My parents would listen to the hometown station on our one radio, which meant local news, farm reports, obituaries and the like. I would have to beg to turn the station for a few minutes before the bus ran each morning, and that is where I first heard The Beatles one day when I was in the eighth grade.
All of the great folk and rock songs of the later 1960s came to me from the AM radio in my clunker while cruising the town square and the endless route of the three hamburger joints in our little city. Tommy James and the Shondells, the Troggs, the Byrds – it was a great time. I recall hearing The Doors on the jukebox in, of all places, a meat-and-three-vegetable diner on lunch break from my supermarket job. The Supremes came from a record player in an apartment a bunch of older high school guys rented – immediately making them the envy of their classmates.
Not long after, I was in boot camp, where we marched every day carrying heavy bolt-action rifles and watched jetliners soar overhead after departing the nearby airport. We dreamed of the day we would be on one of those birds.
As it turned out, Leaving on a Jet Plane, written by John Denver and recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, had been a top song, and it still got heavy airplay. We would hear it on the radio that the smokers had in their little room when the “smoking lamp” was lit. The rest of us could hear it through the wall.
“Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane,” the chorus went. “Don’t know when I’ll be back again.”
That was fine with us. Getting up at 4:30 was something we wouldn’t miss. That was the favorite song of everyone in my company.
From there, I would connect favorite songs with where I was living at the time: Simon & Garfunkel’s Cecilia when I was in Norfolk; The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes in Maryland; Frank Zappa in the tropics; and, in college and ever after, Bob Dylan.
As I said, radio took itself out of the running for my attention when it chose to switch to dance beats and songs whose lyrics I can’t understand – probably a good thing, too. Now I get my music from other sources.
So, now it’s your turn. Tell us about your experiences – where you were when you first heard the music of your life.