Forgotten Oldies

Why is it that oldies stations play the same oldies over and over again, but we never hear other great records? This may not seem like a serious problem to some of you, but it really bothers me. Sure, some people might say there are real problems like global warming we should worry about, but after this last long, cold winter, I'm not sure the planet is getting too warm. But I am positive that I miss not hearing certain songs. Here are some examples.THE MELODY IS GONEWhen is the last time you heard such great records as: "Rockin' Robin" -- Bobby Day (1958, Number 2) "Robbin' the Cradle" -- Tony Bellus (1959, Number 25) "I Love the Way You Love" -- Marv Johnson (1960, Number 10) "Lonely Blue Boy" -- Conway Twitty (1960, Number 6) Why don't we ever hear these records? It's getting so I can't help myself when I hear "I can't help myself" by the Four Tops over and over yet again. (Why won't oldies stations put the Tops' "Ask The Lonely" in rotation?) All the records discussed in this article made the Billboard Top 40, so we aren't talking about obscure records that nobody ever heard. Where have they gone and why?RACE RECORDSMany of the hits from the golden era of rock & roll were really rhythm & blues records by black artists. They used to be listed as "race" records. Perhaps today they sound too "black" to be played anymore. Who knows? In any case, we're missing some great records like: "Baby Scratch My Back" - Slim Harpo (1966, Number 16) "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" - Jessie Hill (1960, Number 28) "Itchy Twitchy Feeling"- Bobby Hendricks (1958, Number 25) "I Cried A Tear" - LaVern Baker (1958, Number 9) "Don't You Just Know It" - Huey (Piano) Smith & the Clowns (1958, Number 9) You never hear really great artists like Etta James, Little Willie John or Bill Doggett and I, for one, can never hear enough of them.BEFORE COUNTRY WAS COOLIn the early days of rock & roll, there was a very thin line between rock and country and pop, with the result that plenty of country artists had Top 10 records. But -- guess what? -- you never hear them anymore. Perhaps they sound too "country" to be played these days. These artists were country and pop before it was cool. Wouldn't it be great if we could turn on the radio and hear: "I Guess Things Happen That Way" - Johnny Cash (1958, Number 11) (This was a bigger pop hit than "I Walk the Line") "Big Bad John" - Jimmy Dean (1961, Number 1 for 5 straight weeks) "Walk On By" - Leroy Van Dyke (1961, Number 5) "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" - Hank Locklin (1960, Number 8) "The Old Lamplighter" - The Browns (1960, Number 5) And how about the great Patsy Cline? You never hear her anymore either.THE NOVELTY IS GONEIn the early days of rock & roll, there were lots of comedy and novelty records that sold big and got lots of airplay, but do you hear them today? (Take a guess.) Perhaps they sound too "novel." Here are some novelty records that are missing in action: "The Flying Saucer" - Buchanan & Goodman (1956, Number 3) "They're Coming To Take Me Away" - Napolean XIV (1966, Number 3) "Cinderella" - Jack Ross (1962, Number 16) "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor" - Lonnie Donegan (1961, Number 5) "The Yellow Rose of Texas" - Stan Freberg (1955, Number 16) You never hear the great parody records like Homer & Jethro's "The Battle of the Kookamonga" or Phil McLean's "Small Sad Sam," probably because you never hear the records they were making fun of like "The Battle of New Orleans" or "Big Bad John," and I miss them. These days I could really use a laugh.WHERE HAS ALL THE FOLK MUSIC GONE?In the mid-1950s calypso music helped launched the folk music revival. It was no accident that the most popular folk group of the 1950s took their name from the city in Jamaica that was the home of calypso -- the Kingston Trio. There were a lot of folk music and calypso-influenced hits but you never hear them anymore. Perhaps they sound too "folky" today, but I really miss them, folks. I'd love to hear these again on the radio: "Banana Boat" - Harry Belafonte (1957, Number 5) ("The Banana Boat" by the Tarriers went to Number 4 the same year) "Michael" - The Highwaymen (1961, Number 1) "Green, Green" - The New Christy Minstrels (1963, Number 14) "Greenfields" - Brothers Four (1960, Number 2) You hardly ever hear anything by the Kingston Trio, or Peter Paul & Mary, much less the Easy Riders, whose record of "Marianne" made it to Number 4 in 1957. What's going on around here?SEX AND THE SINGLE RECORDRock & roll's early days were a more innocent era. Sex could only be hinted at, but nothing overt was ever heard like Alanis Morissette's frank talk about oral sex, intercourse, you name it. The trick was to talk about sex without really mentioning it. Here are some of the sexy records you don't hear anymore maybe because they're too sexy -- by yesterday's standards. "Do It Again A Little Bit Slower" - Jon & Robin (1967, Number 18) "Tonight's The Night" - Shirelles (1960, Number 39) "Something's Burning" - The First Edition (1970, Number 11) "Pushover" - Etta James (1963, Number 25) "Make Yourself Comfortable" - Sarah Vaughn (1954, Number 6) (For those trivia fans reading this -- and face it, if you've reached this point, you are one -- Ms. Vaughn made it into the Top 20 with her version of "The Banana Boat Song," another version of one of the calypso folk songs mentioned above.) Sex is a really powerful subject, how else can you explain never hearing Elvis Presley singing "Love Me" from 1956, which made it to Number 2? Even though it was a success by the most popular singer of all time, it's generally unavailable and even many die-hard Elvis fans don't have a copy.NOT PLAYING FAVORITESFinally, there are records you never hear because they weren't really hits. Oh, I can hear you whimpering, "Well Mr. Know-It-All, why should a radio station play a record that wasn't even a hit 30 years ago and is probably unavailable even if they wanted to play it?" First of all, stop whimpering, it's really distasteful. Second, It's Dr. Know-It-All to you, pal. And third of all, I'm writing this, not you. So. Where were we? In a more perfect world, these records would have been Top 10 hits and would now be played as oldies so often, you'd start to hate them. Wait a minute, on second thought, maybe it's not such a tragedy that these great sides weren't wildly successful. After all, I used to love to hear the Four Tops sing how they couldn't help themselves until I heard it 13 bazillion times. Here we go down memorable lane: "River Deep, Mountain High" - Ike & Tina Turner: Phil Spector's greatest production that only George Harrison loved. "Melancholy Music Man" - Righteous Brothers: Blue-eyed soul at its finest, but it never made it. Incidently, Bill Medley, the deep-voiced brother (they were both the sons of Mrs. Righteous) made a great solo record, "Brown Eyed Woman," that was never a hit, possibly because no one wanted to buy a record by a singer who was self-righteous. Sorry. "The Avenger" - Duane Eddy: The twangy guitar player's hit streak ran out just as he released this killer. "The Cat In The Window" - Petula Clark: Perhaps the most wistful record ever made; wistfulness just doesn't sell. "Talk to the Animals" - Bobby Darin: This song from the flop movie musical Dr. Doolittle did very little. I could go on, but this article is already too long and I have to go to meet the banana boat. Daylight has come and I want to go home.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.