Thursday, June 19, 2014

Top Of The Pops

Casey Kasem has signed off for the last time. No longer will there be a need for him to keep his feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. He now lives among them. He is stardust. He is golden. He is also a part of history now, and the kind of pop icon that we won't soon see again. Disc jockey? What's that? Doesn't everyone run a podcast out of their garage these days? Wolfman Jack and Dick Clark come to mind when I try and find an easy allegory to Mister Kasem's cultural impact. His voice was the one that told us what was happening and what was hip, as well as being part of a group of meddling kids who uncovered the truth behind that haunted amusement park.
I probably listened more to Shaggy than Casey. The adventures of Scooby-Doo held a lot more intrigue for me than the current list of top forty hits in America. I've never been much of a top forty guy. Sure, I bought Fleetwood Mac's Rumours  because everyone else did. I also bought Silver Convention's "Fly Robin Fly" as a forty-five when it made the Top Forty, though all that math confounds me today. I owned these records as a surrender to the peer pressure of pop culture, something that I began to work actively to subvert shortly after that episode. That's when I started buying albums by Cheap Trick and DEVO. Even though both of these bands were capable of turning out the occasional pop hit, they weren't the flavor of the moment. Which explains the horror I felt when I received the soundtrack from Grease  for my sixteenth birthday. This was the moment when I became fully aware of just how far I had moved from the country of Top Forty. It remained in its protective shrinkwrap film for months until one night, a friend decided to see if I was serious about "folding that record in half" if it ever touched my turntable. I made it down the stairs in less than the time it took for Frankie Valli to commence to warbling about how Grease really was the word. I yanked the needle up, grabbed the record in both hands and, in front of my guests, I folded it in half, sending shrapnel in all directions. Everyone who asked got a lovely parting gift that night: a shard of Grease.
Since then, I have kept to the fringes of popular music. I have owned my share of number ones, but only because of their particular merits outside their position on the charts. I know people who devoted weekend evenings to the anticipation of what Casey would ultimately announce as Number One, but that wasn't my scene. I was headed to the alternative side of things, mostly out of sheer stubbornness. These days, I find myself downloading Olivia Newton John tracks with my tongue squarely in my cheek and my heart on my sleeve. I watch with amusement and respect as Bruce Springsteen covers the Bee Gees in his live shows.
Casey Kasem, arbiter of taste? Not exactly, but a voice that could make you believe it. He and Shaggy stomped on the Terra. Aloha, Casey. See you in the stars.

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