Friday, June 03, 2005

Oldies Radio.

Because my teenage children prefer music on the car radio (Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, and, incongruously, Tupac and Fifty, in the case of the 18-year-old daughter; a mix of appropriately cool and oddly named bands for my 16-year-old son--the Zutons, the Postal Service), and because television news and even the local newspaper do such a thoroughly lame job of reporting, and because I'm driving a new used car, and have not yet transferred my mix tapes from the old wrecked one, when I have control of the radio--i.e., when I'm driving alone--I usually listen to NPR. But today, I turned my radio dial (metaphorically--it's all digital now) away from my local NPR affiliate and landed on oldies radio.

First of all, there are often great moments to be had on oldies radio--a song you haven't heard in five hundred years that gives you a feeling of great relief, as if you had been waiting to hear "Rocket Man" but didn't quite know it. Also, there are unbelievably serendipitous moments, where you think, I wish I could hear "Blackbird," and then the radio gives you what you asked for--or something pretty damn close, like "Here Comes the Sun." Also, old Rolling Stones loses pretty much nothing with the years ("Start Me Up").

However, there are disturbing moments, moments in which you realize that even music you despised at the time (the seventies), you may have listened to enough to be able to sing along (that Carpenter's song that has this chorus: "Every sha-la-la-la/ every whoa whoa-o/ still shines"). No thought I have summoned up--such as the revelation that many ultra-cool rock stars love Karen Carpenter's voice--has alleviated the frightening dimension of that unconscious and unbidden sing-along, which has brought on a sobering reconsideration of all the happy memories I cherish of my youth.

I'm going back to my old policy, for the time being, of listening to music only under controlled circumstances. It's not safe to drive when you're that weirded out, for one thing.


  1. Have you seen that commercial, I think it's for water, that has a Carpenter's song as the soundtrack? I found myself singing along and then, almost at the same time, having that creepy feeling that also involved this thought: "this woman, singing so happily, died from starving herself to death." Oh, I know. It's "I'm on Top of the World." So disturbing. Even more disturbing is the thought that if you were, in fact, anorexic, you would probably only drink water. Creepy, huh?

  2. There was that compilation of Carpenters songs by edgy bands called "I want to be a Carpenter" that came--wow almost 10 years ago now. It made me feel better about the previously mentioned embarassing like of the Carpenters (which has a lot to do with my sister playing them when I was a little kid).

  3. Oh and On Top of the World is one of the creepiest songs ever; mostly because of its weird Nixon-era exhuberance.

  4. Sorry it is "If I were a Carpenter." Top of the World is sung by Shonen Knife (if you don't know they are a wacky Japanese Girl Band).

  5. Has anyone here seen Todd Haynes' ("Far From Heaven," "Velvet Goldmine") NYU thesis film "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story?" It's the 'real' Karen Carpenter story, done with barbie dolls. Very disturbing. I saw a 5th generation bootleg back in might be able to find it now, but somehow I doubt it. Maybe on the Internet.

    Wacky Japanese girl bands are great, but only if they aren't popular in Japan. Cibo Matto and Melt Banana (okay, they have a guy drummer) are two that come to mind.

  6. Oh I don't dis Shonen Knife for their popularity in Japan. I think they were the only Japanese Girl Band that actually got tour dates in the US.

  7. Actually I've seen Puffy play some shows here in LA. They were the original cute Japanese girl duo popular back in the mid- to late-90s. I think they have a Comedy Central animated series called "Hi-hi! The Puffy Ami-Yumi Show" (or something like that).



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