Thursday, May 31, 2007
A recent post about a rock station top 350 countdown had a reader wondering what's the distinction between oldies and classic rock.
The concept of oldies in the rock era obviously couldn't start until the music had been around a few years. Still, teenagers have a high turnover rate, and Little Caesar & The Romans had a hit with ''Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me Of You)" in 1961.
By the end of the 60s, oldies compilations were being released. Even amid all those extended jams, there was a revival of 50s music; remember, Sha Na Na played Woodstock. By the early 70s, there was a huge nostalgic movement for early rock and roll (helped along by American Graffiti) and radio stations adopted the "oldies" format. At the time, oldies essentially meant rock music up to around 1964, when The Beatles conquered the world (and, to some, the music changed for the worse). Meanwhile, "classic rock," as we'd call it today, was still being created.
As the 70s wore on, oldies stretched out a few more years--Beatles, Beach Boys and Motown were heard more often, for example. But at a certain point, "classic rock" started. The most convenient line of demarcation would be 1967, when The Beatles changed music yet again (for the worse, yet again, according to some oldies fans) with the Sergeant Pepper album.
By the late 70s, the "classic rock" format--The Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin--became prevalent. These stations didn't play much music from before 1967, and almost nothing past the mid-70s. Certainly no disco or punk. Furthermore, the playlists of oldies and classic rock station had little in common.
However, as time moves on, eras start to run together in people's minds. (I've written about this before regarding movies--I keep hearing about the great screwball comedies of the 1940s). By 1990, it wasn't unusual to hear stations advertise music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s--which would have seemed like three very different eras 15 years earlier.
So it's true, there's been plenty of leakage. What wouldn't be played by an oldies station in 1975--"Imagine"--can make the top ten list of all time today. In fact, oldies, which use to be almost all 50s stuff, has less and less music from that period. (Kids who grew up listening to Elvis are now retirees.) And those who program "classic rock" allow more and more recent stuff as well--though you're still unlikely to hear any doo-wop.
"Oldies" and "classic rock" are still terms that have meaning, but I wouldn't be surprised if someday, the top ten of both include "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
ColumbusGuy adds: Nice post. This is the thing LAGuy does very well. Still, I find myself unable to stop thinking of Phil Spectre's angus.