February 1, 2016
Before Billboard ranked 'em and Casey Kasem counted 'em down, Michael and his brothers released hits.
The opening piano sweep into the pop-filled bass line of I want you back takes me back to fifth grade lunch time.
45's, 33's. You probably don't even know what I'm talking about.
This is back in 1970. We didn't have MP3's. There was nothing digital in the whole audio tool chain - it was analog from end to end. No DVD's. No CD's.
We listened to music on vinyl.
I know - vinyl is cool again. People have rediscovered it like a pair of bell-bottom jeans.
In those days we had single songs on a single side of a donut of vinyl that was seven inches in diameter with a one inch hole in the middle. The disk spun at 45 revolutions per minute. The hit was on one side and the other had a B side. Those who bemoan that Apple Music means that people listen to music as singles forget that many people never turned the record over and played the other side.
Want more than two songs on a disk? There was the EP (extended play) and the LP (long play). The LP was twelve inches in diameter with a small hole and spun at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.
Some record players came with an adapter so you could play the 45s on the same machine as 33's. Most of us had yellow plastic adapters we snapped into the singles so we could play them on record players that didn't have a built in adapter. The record players had a knob you turned to adjust the speed.
Spring 1970, the Jackson 5 release their second album.
The radio station we listened to on the west side of Cleveland of CKLW - the big 8 from the Motor City. It was a Detroit radio station that was actually based just across the border in Windsor, Ontario.
Forty-five years later and I can still hear the voice of Brother Bill Gable in the Boss radio format introducing "Smokey Robinson and the Tears (pause) of a Clown on the Big 8 - C - K - L - W." Bam. He'd hit the post - and the lyrics would start.
Man, DJ's were larger than life. If my voice ever changed - that's what I'd do.
And the Jackson 5. They were they Jackson 5 but they were all about Michael.
There were kids in my class older than Michael. And there he was - well there they were - at the top of the charts with "I Want you Back", "ABC", "Got to be there", "Stop the Love you Save."
Give them a listen. They're still a lot of fun.
We understood the Jacksons didn't write their own music. It was written by The Corporation and others. So what. That wouldn't matter to us for months when we'd discover Albums.
For now it was Ted "The Bear" Richards playing the hits.
It was "Farmer Jack Savings Time". We were from Cleveland. We didn't even know what Farmer Jack was.
My wife grew up on the east side where they listened to WIXY 1260.
Same hits - same excitement. Same production. Jingles. Energy.
Energy from the air staff. Not enough energy from the transmitters. Not enough power to make it to the west side.
Wow. Amazing how a song from so long ago can trigger so many memories.