The Weekly Top 20 – Thirty Years Later

sony-cassetteIt’s funny how some dates just stick out in your mind. I’m not talking about the usual ones like birthdays, anniversaries, graduation dates and the like. I’m talking about ridiculous days that you never seem to forget.

For example: July 21st, 1979 is a day that sticks in my head. It was the day my father came home with this big black electric box and said “Hey family, there’s this new thing called HBO. Check it out! All we have to do is hook up this contraption to our television, turn it to channel 3 and then twist the dial on it. We’ll get to see all of these new movies they never show on TV”.

Why that particular day sticks out in my head is still a mystery to me but I’d really like to focus this blog entry on another ridiculous date two years later: August 10th, 1981. I recall that it was a beautiful sunny day just a few weeks before I started 7th grade.

The summer of 1981 was one for the books. Days were spent in our swimming pool with my cousin and having picnics. Nights were spent by the fire and chasing lightning bugs through the backyards in bare feet.

Music was also a big part of that summer. Casey Kasem’s Weekly Top 40 always filled the airwaves almost every weekend (although as a child, every day in the summer is like the weekend).

The song “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang had just come out and I remember many a night listening to its soulful lyric “We’re gonna have a good time tonight. Let’s celebrate. It’s alright!”…pumping from our little AM/FM radio that sat on the picnic table on our patio. Some nights, we’d sneak into the house and watch Smokey and the Bandit on HBO. Jackie Gleason’s “That some-bitch!” line always cracked me up.

The summer of 1981 was also the summer I got my first tape recorder. You know, one of those Panasonic job-ees. The ones with the big red button to alert you that you were actually “recording”. Ones where children with nimble fingers could press the record and play buttons with just their thumb. For something thirty years ago this was high-tech and I used to spend countless hours that summer recording anything and everything. Usually it would wind up being me interviewing myself using different voices.

On this particular day though, after listening to another “Long Distance Dedication” portion of Casey’s radio show, I had an epiphany. Why couldn’t me and my cousin do our OWN show? We could tape record it and mix in the songs we heard on the radio! That little idea turned into the one thing I remember most about that day: The Weekly Top 20.

We found out quickly that in order to stay relevant we had to record hit songs on the radio that were current. So we spent a few hours doing the prep work of recording songs off the radio (in retrospect, we were probably one of the first kids guilty of piracy). The idea of actually getting 20 songs to play in full quickly became unrealistic. Mostly because my attention span for doing this wasn’t going to last and soon the swimming pool would be calling me. So I had to get the show on the road. I think in the end we were able to get three or four songs recorded in pre-production. (I loved using technical terms as a young boy)

My cousin and I spent most of that afternoon recording The Weekly Top 20.  In between songs we did little interviews with each other and talked about the music. Our number one song the week of August 10th, 1981 was “The One That You Love” by Air Supply (one that actually was the #1 song just two weeks before). We also had Foreigner’s “Dirty White Boy”, Kool and the Gangs “Celebration” and Styx’s “Come Sail Away” as part of our line up.

The moment we wrapped, I remember writing the title of our show and the date, August 10th, 1981 on the cassette tape and then making a bee line straight to the patio where my Mom and Dad were to let them listen to the finished product. I couldn’t wait to see the look on their faces as they listened to The Weekly Top 20. Seeing them smile and get a chuckle out of what we accomplished was the greatest feeling an eleven year old could have.

It sure was an exciting day. My cousin and I talked about what we would do for next week’s show and how we would spend our money once the show went into syndication. The possibilities were endless. And to celebrate our success, we went swimming.

So here I am thirty years later sitting at my computer and thinking about that day again. Technology sure has come a long way since I pressed record and play simultaneously and HBO is bigger then ever.

I sometimes wonder how we would do that show now with all the new fangled equipment available. I suppose it would be much better but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing.

But the best part of all is when ever I hear that Kool and The Gang song on the radio now or at a wedding. I get to recall all the innocence of childhood from one of the best summers ever.

6 thoughts on “The Weekly Top 20 – Thirty Years Later”

  1. I remember recording songs off the radio also. Having to quick hit the stop button before the commerical came on. Hoping they didn’t talk before the song was over. How about 8 track tapes? I think I still have one.

  2. Were you able to develop the “magic touch” where you’re able to press the “pause” button so you didn’t hear the CLUNK when you turned off the recorder? Haha…And now you’re really going old school with the 8-tracks.

  3. This is just great how well you remember this day 30 years ago! How happy you were! I liked to read about it. Three of my children are in their 50s now. How good it would be if they wrote something like this about some happy childhood memories. I sure would love to read it!

  4. Thanks so much for the kind words. It really was one of my fondest memories of childhood. It’s funny, I can forget to remind my wife that the dentists’ office called and has to reschedule her appointment but I can remember every little detail (could probably even tell you what I was wearing) of that day thirty years ago.

  5. I love that you tried to do Kasey Kasem’s top 20. We switched back and forth from Kasey Kasem’s top 20 to Rick Deez …..DEEZ SLEEZE…. loved that show, and my sister used to mimic the little voices so well. I have oddly found myself pulling out little quotes from those shows lately.

    Today your show would be on youtube, not a tape recorder….and you’d be using Napster, not the radio, to pirate your music.sort of takes the challenge out of it in my book.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane Jim!~

  6. I remember Rick Dees as well. He used to get on my nerves…lol. But you can see that Ryan Seacrest is channeling him now.

    It would have been cool to have all of this technology back when we were growing up. You should’ve seen all the production that went into a bunch of us making Spiderman home movies with our ancient 8mm camera… lol

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