Saturday, April 02, 2016

Music Years of My Life: 1984

1984 was the year I discovered that there was a vast history of Rock and Roll that I knew little about.  Oldies?  Sure I heard them and even listened to them.  I worked at a hotel in 1984 and one of the cook's would keep his radio tuned to an oldies station.  On Saturday's Wolfman Jack's syndicated show would come on.  Records that in my childhood days would go right past me were now catching my ear.

Also in 1984 I bought two books that not only looked at the albums of the day but music of the past:  The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (1983 edition) and Robert Christgau's Rock Albums of the 70's (1981).  Christgau's book I remember skimming though in a library in 1982.  But with interest music before 1984, I decided to finally buy both of them.

The third thing that fueled my oldies obsession was making 1 or 2 trips a month to Tower Records.  The nearest Tower store was 60-90 minutes away, so given a free day I'd make a trip.  And having read both of those books and doing even more research at my local library, I found myself heading to Tower's oldies sections more often.

Happily, the catalog reissue boom was just starting to take shape.  Rhino Records was off and running as were imported catalog titles.  And even major labels were digging deeper than they had in the past.  My Tower trips were getting expensive.  While I would still buy the latest titles locally, the only way to find deep catalog was by going out of town.  Might be hard to believe, but I owned very little Beatles titles in 1984.  And not many more Elvis Presley ones.  But other names were on my mind.  Oldies stations were easier to find in 1984, and I would seek them out.  And my library reading on the history of Rock had me scooping up many of the originators. I'd come back from Tower with Greatest Hits albums by the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dion, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, etc.  Moving forward came more Hits albums, everyone from the Doors to the Monkees to the Band.

One time I decided to take a night trip to Tower.  For the whole ride I put on an oldies channel.  I became transfixed by the Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You".  A perfect nightime record.  Have I heard this before?  Probably.  But now I'm floored.  I've got to have this record.  This is how it started.  It's something I still do today.  Buried treasures are still out there.

1984 was also the year where I first started to buy Country oldies.  Merle Haggard, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, etc.  It's a glorious time for the music biz, right?  Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) is in its last years, before the fragmentation of radio formats.  Albums are selling in the millions.  It's the era of the Big Blockbuster Album.  Thanks to Thriller.  We now have monsters like Born In The USA, Purple Rain, Footloose.  MTV is King.  Everyone is happy.  Labels, artists, radio, tour promoters.

For the next few years, until the Compact Disc comes into my life, my vinyl collection grew substantively as I added oldies along with current titles.  A glorious time for the music biz?  Nope, I look back 32 years later and consider it a glorious time for me.  Discovering new music in old titles.

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