Tuesday, August 17, 2010

AM radio

There is a station that we get in Toronto, Oldies 1150 (CKOC) out of Hamilton. It's one of the few oldies stations on the dial, so I have it programmed in as one of the 18 push-button options on my car radio. It and the all-news 680 (which I listen to mainly for traffic) are the only AM stations I have chosen to program in.

It's always an odd thing, when I happen to push this button, how the quality of sound is so different than the FM stations. The scratchy sound is like the grainy picture on an old TV with only aerial reception. The (lack of) sound quality, even more than the particular songs, really takes me back to my adolescence, when I listened to the radio on a sturdy battery-operated radio (it even accompanied me during my bath) and sometimes on a tiny avocado-green set that fit into my palm.

Back then, we didn't care much about the sound quality as much as the songs. I got excited the first time a disc jockey (on CKFH) played a request for me--it was 1971 and he played "Brand New Key" by Melanie. I spent most of the 1970s obsessed with the Beatles (yes, I know, I was a decade late, but better late than never). Mostly I listened to then on a portable record player that spun at 39 RPM instead of 33 1/3 (I had timed it). As the songs were speeded up, I always seemed to be getting up to change the record.

Listening to the few surviving AM music stations today, there is an odd time-warp about suddenly being surrounded by the sound texture of my childhood. It's as if I suddenly had a delicious whiff of my mum's "Green Pepper Delight" or plunged my nose into my dad's tin of Revelation tobacco.

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