For most of my childhood – so the 70’s and early 80’s – radio was a kid’s social media. If you wanted to know what the new fad was, the latest music was, news, culture, whatever – radio was how you did it.
There was also TV, of course, but TVs were expensive so they tended to belong to your parents, and in turn showed what your parents were interested in; usually a game show of some sort. A cheap radio on the other hand could be had for lunch money, and because it was yours it played the stations that played your music.
Your radio also tended to be portable, so you could do you wherever you happened to be – and you could even listen to whatever your social group was into while out and about with them.
Back in those days, the DJ for whatever genera of music you were into occupied an interesting space – they were a disembodied voice that no one could put a face to, but were also a kindred soul for everyone in range of the transmitter who was into that genera. In school, there was as much to-do made about the specific DJ as there was about the music they played.
For me, the radio station of choice was “KBPI” at 105.9 – the “hundred thousand watt blowtorch of the rockies” as they called it.
There were also cassettes of course – everyone had a Walkman in the 80’s… Not many people had an actual Sony Walkman though, as they tended to be pretty expensive. See, anything you could carry that played a cassette and had headphones was a “Walkman” back then, much to the other manufacturers chagrin I’m sure.
But the blue and silver Sony with the orange foam headphones was ‘boss’ at the time, and the pinnacle of coolness. And having an actual Sony Walkman made you conversation-worthy in the school halls… Now, where you got the music for your Walkman was either copying a friend’s mix-tape, or making your own off the radio.
Sure, you could go buy the hot album of the week and then tape the tracks you wanted – but albums were expensive for that 1-2 tracks you were really interested in. And a cassette held 10-12 tracks per side, so that’s a dozen albums you’d need to buy for one tape… So, the better solution was the radio mix-tape, but that required heaps of patience and some skill…
I remember sitting in front of my grandmother’s home stereo on weekends, for hours, finger on the record/pause button, patiently waiting for a song I wanted to record to come on the radio.
It was always my grandmother’s stereo because my father wouldn’t let me within a dozen yards of his stuff, and my receiver at home didn’t have a cassette in it. So, I always enjoyed being shuffled off to my grandmother’s place in Golden on the weekends.
Listening to "The Spirit of Radio" by Rush