I have been a music maniac since New Year’s Eve 1968. These days, however, I describe myself more of an aficionado or, at least, a purveyor of the odd tune. But it was indeed a crazed, obsessive, and awestruck “maniac” that first expressed his doe-eyed and pert-eared wonder on that cold wintry night.
My sister Polly and I were home alone: she, in the den watching television and I, in my room, rearranging furniture and listening to the AM radio airwaves of WCOG. There, in my most intimate of privacy, I had my first meaningful pubescent moment.
Casey Kasem’s “American Top Forty” countdown of the top tunes of 1968 was excitedly announced as just moments away. Not knowing what to expect, I left the dial in place and moved my bed toward an alternative wall. The radio, after all, might make a suitable companion.
And then it started: no. 100 was “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” … no. 76, “The Fool on the Hill” … no. 62, “Revolution” …
By that time the die was cast. I had taken my radio and pillows into the living room and opened the draperies to reveal the snow-blanketed ‘scape. I curled up on the sofa intently and eagerly had “all ears” on the deejay.
No. 31, “Spooky” … no. 23, “Magic Carpet Ride” … no. 12, “Hello, I Love You” …
By that point, my sister had gone to bed, full of tease and mockery at my expense. My parents had returned and, yet, retired to bed as well. I was alone, having the time of my life (for age twelve), and not about to leave the room for as much as a soda.
No. 7, “Judy in Disguise” … no. 4, “Honey” … no. 3, “Love is Blue” …
From that night on (until much longer than I’d care to admit), I listened to Mr. Kasem dutifully every week, maintaining a journal of my lists and a catalogue of all my records. By the time I graduated from high school, I owned over a thousand 45’s and probably three hundred LPs. And that was just the start. My collection grew geometrically, eventually veering to cassettes to eight-tracks to CDs to downloads. Three of my neighborhood buddies from way back then are on Facebook and will reluctantly attest to my proselytizing the merits of the latest turntable sirens, and thus often holding them hostage!
And in 1968, the no.2 song was “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”…
I had purchased 45’s before that New Year’s Eve. My mother, Beatles fan that she was, shared with me her fondness for popular music and rock ‘n roll! At the very least, her car was always ebullient with the current sounds of the pop troubadours. In contrast, my father always had his car radio tuned to a news station.
But it was the escalating anticipation and suspense that at once had me, not just hooked, but a junkie for life. I devotedly continued to listen to ATF and idolize Casey Kasem until his retirement from the radio show in 1988.
Of course, my music compulsion continues just as feverishly these days. I have 3800 tunes on one of my iPods; need I say more? Although today I would fancy myself as somewhat of a music expert (especially in the genres of pop, alternative, dance, and musical theater), I admit the term “maniac” is much more apt in its connotation.
And that night in 1968, when “Hey Jude” was finally revealed as the year’s biggest hit song, my affinity was conceived!
On yet another note of life’s irony: three months after Mr. Kasem was replaced by Shadoe Stevens, he and his wife Jean were vacationing in DC and happened into the Georgetown store that I was managing. Yes, I came home that night (beaming like a budding teenager) with his autograph, which today is set in lucite and rests in honor on my desk.
“To Mark, You’ll always be number one! Casey Kasem” I was fairly certain that all his fans charted thus!