Tuesday, May 15, 2012

#559: I think we're all bozos on this bus....

From Nov 1970 2 Oct '73 I rode a bus 5 to 10 miles 2 gradeschool & junior-highschool, & if I wasn't already addicted 2 the radio by then, riding on the bus sure helped, cos thank Ghod R bus drivers cranked-up the radio 2 help cover up the screaming & screeching of the 50 or so kids carried along R bus route.
The radio was almost always tuned to Tacoma's KTAC AM 85, probly the #2 Top 40 station in the Seattle-Tacoma market in the early '70s. Seattle's KJR AM 95 was the top-rated area station, but they were farther away & harder 2 pick-up clearly.
In the morning KTAC seemed pretty lightweight & there was lotsa talk & silliness (syndicated short comedy programs like "The Tooth Fairy" & "The Adventures of Chicken Man"), but I also 1st heard Badfinger's "Day After Day" & "Baby Blue" on the 1/2-hour morning ride 2 school. The winters were cold & rainy, but I didn't mind so much back then, & on the way 2 school I would sit & sing along with the latest hits with my old buddy Mike Harvey, the world's biggest Carpenters fan.
In the afternoon, KTAC was a lot livelier, even venturing 2 play stuff I have NEVER again heard on the radio anywhere else -- Rare Bird's great guitar-driven "Birdman," Manfred Mann's Earth Band's "Living Without You," Brenda and the Tabulations' "One Girl Too Late" (great fake-Motown!), Johnathan King's silly "A Tall Order for a Short Guy," Billy Lee Riley's laid-back "I Got a Thing About You Baby," Joey Gregorash's non-hit version of Neil Young's "Down by the River".... & every afternoon at 3:30, just as we were getting outta school & rolling toward home, KTAC'd put on "Stairway to Heaven" for all us junior-high-school-aged listeners who were sucked in by the mysticalness of it. You could almost set your watch by it.
Their afternoon playlist was pretty wide-open. Many times pulling up in front of my house, the empty bus would B ringing with the vocal hysteria of Nilsson's long version of "Jump Into the Fire" -- kinda nightmarish 4 little 13-year-old me. Maybe not as spooky as Led Zeppelin, but still....
I 1st heard "Won't Get Fooled Again" & "Behind Blue Eyes" on that afternoon ride home. & "Cover of Rolling Stone." "Kodachrome" & "Mother and Child Reunion." "No More Mister Nice Guy" & "Elected." "Bang a Gong (Get it On)." Joni Mitchell's hilarious "Raised on Robbery." Stevie Wonder's "If You Really Love Me" & "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." Lee Michaels' great "Do Ya Know What I Mean." Joe Cocker's great "Feeling Alright." & sometimes KTAC would slap on the old hits, like "Tears of a Clown." Or "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
Mornings were usually much more laid-back: Bread doing their gorgeous "Everything I Own" & the just-TOO-sweet "If." Three Dog Night doing "Never Been to Spain" & "Old Fashioned Love Song" & "Family of Man." I remember Bing suprised 2 hear the Moodies' 5-year-old "Nights in White Satin" while it poured down rain outside the bus & the rolling green hills of western Washington went by.
& of course they always played the REALLY big hits: "American Pie," "You're So Vain," "Killing Me Softly," "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," "Joy to the World."
KTAC wasn't immune 2 playing crap either, if it was a big enuf hit: They were suckers 4 the Osmonds, "One Bad Apple" & "Sweet and Innocent" & "Go Away Little Girl." Ugh. Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman." Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Candy Man." Dr. Hook's excruciating "Sylvia's Mother." Melanie's annoying "Brand New Key." Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves." Not everything from the '70s is golden, Ghod knows.
But even tho I thot I was pretty open-minded at the time (4 a kid who started out with the Partridge Family), there was so much I missed, there was so much I ignored -- there was so much R rather-openly-formatted local radio never even PLAYED.
Looking back, I think I was lucky 2 hear the range of music that I did. I think I was lucky 2 grow up at a time when radio was still pretty open, when a song didn't havta B a Top 40 hit nationwide 2 still get some airplay. KJR is still with us, still playing yer standard '60s & '70s rock&roll oldies on FM, but KTAC is LONG GONE....
I went back a few years ago 2 see how much the old neighborhood had changed. I found my old house & even my old school -- which back in the day had a unique, airy, sprawling early-'70s open-campus design & more recently was stunningly adding a 2ND FLOOR.... But everything had changed SO much, everything was SO built-up, & I got so disoriented ... I hadta pull over & let the girlfriend drive....

1 comment:

timothy harrington said...

I only rode a school bus for 1 month September of 72. Miss Pam played top 40 station. I can only remember one song from those bus rides. "Black and White" by 3 Dog Night. Was aggravated even as a 4th grader by stiff and lifeless politically correct song that I was supposed to like because of its message.