Musical Musings – Casey Kasem

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I remember turning on my radio every weekend to listen to the Top 40 countdown. Blank tape in the cassette player, I was ready to record my favorite songs from that week. I don’t remember at what age I started doing this, but it was a weekly ritual for many, many years. Even after Casey retired from the show in 1988, I continued listening to Shadoe Stevens do the countdown. Looking back on this, it’s clear that music has always been important to me. I listened to the radio, 8-tracks, cassettes, LPs. On weekends and during the summer, I could often be found listening to something at some point in the day. Queen, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, and one of my favorites as a child…Disco Duck. Hey, I was a kid! My sister would often quiz me on what was playing on the radio in our room. I’d have to give the name of the song and the artist. I got really good at identifying voices and songs within a few notes of the start. My friends and I would dance and sing along at slumber parties to whoever was popular at the time . Olivia Newton-John, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Steve Miller Band. We were children of the 80s and we had great music to listen to. But my family made sure I knew music from the 60s and 70s as well. We listened to Harry Nilsson, CCR, Bread, ELO, Earth, Wind & Fire, and many more.

At the end of the year, I anxiously awaited the Top 100 countdown of the year. I knew my day would be spent on the floor of my room in front of the boombox, pen and paper in hand, and cassette queued up. I wrote down the entire countdown for posterity and recorded anything I might have missed during the year. I took breaks only during commercials and Long Distance Dedications. Remember those? I rarely stuck around to listen to them because they were usually sad or touching and I didn’t like to cry as a kid.

This weekly ritual served me well in junior high. One of our teachers, Mr. Brimmer, would give us a music “test” several times a year. He would bring in his boombox and a tape of recorded music. We would write down the name and artist of the songs he played. There were usually only a few seconds of each song, so you really needed to listen carefully. Several rounds during the quiz were a lightning round where the first person to raise there hand and correctly identify the song got a candy bar, usually tossed across the room. The person with the most correct answers at the end got a prize. I don’t mean to brag, but I kicked ass at this game and collected many candy bars.

I still have many of the tapes I recorded as a kid. I haven’t played them in years, so I have no idea if they’re still good. But I don’t want to throw them out. Those are memories of simpler times and a piece of my childhood. I looked up the number one song of the year for 1987, which was the last time Casey Kasem did a year-end countdown during his first stint as host. I was stunned to see that it was the Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian.” The shock wasn’t from anything about the song itself, but by the fact that this was a song my friends and I danced around to at one of the last slumber parties my best friend Maureen came to after switching schools. Her not being at the same school was a huge loss for me. We had grown up together and were inseparable most of the time. School just wasn’t the same for me after she left. I’m thankful that Facebook has made it possible to reconnect after all these years.

I don’t know that this current generation will have a similar appreciation for music that mine did. I listen to what is “popular” now and I wonder what happened to the music industry. There are some talented artists out there, but so much of the music sounds the same. Maybe I’ve just gotten old. I’ll stick to my cds, lps, cassettes, iPod, and, if I can find an 8-track player, my 8-tracks. Thanks for all the music and memories Casey.

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