question about oldies radio stations

On a recent visit home, I rented a late model car with a good, to my ears, sound system. I noticed that on the oldies stations (there were two of them), I was hearing bass lines I never knew existed, or background vocals I never remembered hearing when the hits first came out. Later, my sister happened to comment how irritated she was that these stations were playing old songs that were actually done by imitators, and that the stations did not say they were covers; that they were presenting the songs as if they were the originals, when in fact they weren’t. I chalked the differences I noticed up to re-mixing, digitalization, and modern sound technology; she claimed these were people other than the original artists doing the song. Is she crazy? Are radio stations doing this sort of thing, so as to pay lower royalties, and not being explicit about it on the air? And is there a new industry of producing these ersatz recordings, paying off the copyright owners and then selling to commercial stations at lower rates? Anybody know?

I can’t speak directly to your situation, but I can guarantee you that if my local oldies station started playing new covers of famous old songs, I would notice immediately.

And I wouldn’t be the only one - the oldies stations in every city I’ve ever lived in have had a huge following and there’s simply no way that following would fail to notice different musicians playing their favorite old songs. More so than other formats, their target audience wants to hear the originals.

Now, it could be that it wasn’t an oldies station and you heard a new version “Live for Today” by Lords of the New Church rather than the original by Grass Roots. Or, you heard The Shadows of Knight version of Gloria and you’d only heard the Them version before…

I worked for an oldies station. We played the original music by the original artists. We used “Billboard” CD’s that anyone can buy too.

(channeling an obnoxious vinyl freak–wait, I already am one!)

It’s called “high fidelity.” The originals were mixed for the limited range of AM car radios and pocket transitors. Simply moving those mixes to CD revealed both nuances not heard on the original 45 and that some frequencies had been mixed up or down so it would sound good on a crappy radio and they now blared on decent equipment. And annoying instruments seemed to appear from nowhere, like how Aunt Bea seemed to be the Rolling Stones piano player on “Satisfaction.” A lot of that bad stuff has been eliminated in newer CDs remastered for CD but you will still find instruments you had no idea were there.

Another thing is that you may have heard an alternate take. The Beach Boys were especially fond of separate takes for the single and the album and I think I’ve heard FOUR different versions of “Barbara Ann,” and that was before alternate takes started showing up on CDs (gotta fill a 70 minute CD somehow when the original album was half that).

I have absolutely noticed this myself, and it sure can’t be the case that my ears are better than they were 30 years ago.

I also attribute it to better recording and mixing techniques, the better sound reproduction off CDs, and the incredibly bad sound on AM radio in the old days.

And I am another who would notice if even one note was shifted out of place on these songs. Think of of this way: you now have what every brother wants - proof that his sister is crazy. :slight_smile:

Dropzone scores!

Barry Gordy mixed his stuff on a small mono speaker for…
AM air play!
Many oldies stations depend on services like TM Century (14444 Beltwood Parkway) in Dallas for complete libraries based on Billboard charts. By the mid-60’s there were very good studio mixes coming out that most AM listeners didn’t notice.

That said, there is also some horrible stuff out there that should only be listened to on AM. Most of the real white-knuckle material would come out of '55 to '65.

Yeah, a number of bands from that era and even later - the Hollies notoriously - sounded as if they recorded over a tin can and a string.

Thanks for the responses, all.
And Exapno, my sister SHALL read the printout of this thread!

I know I have bought oldies CDs that were advertised as “original artists” and most of the cuts on the CD were original artists. But there will be a cut or two that are just covers by someone else trying to sound like the original. I am sure of this because you can’t fool me with a re-make of songs like “Green Eyed Lady”, you either have THAT organ or you don’t :slight_smile:

One more factor: Top 40 stations went through a phase of speeding up the top songs slightly (by about 5%), so they would run a tad faster, sounding a little more upbeat and leave more time for ads. When the songs are played at their correct speed nowadays, they sound too slow.

We still do time stretching today, Reality Chuck. It’s done with computers though. And then, as now, it was not to make room for more ads, it was to make the hour actually be 3600 seconds. Since all songs aren’t a factor of 60, and you have ads, promos, news service ASF, this is routinely done.
As late as 1985 (and maybe later), promotional copies of 45s were routinely made with a stereo version b/w a mono version.

It may well have been the original artists. They never said it was the original RECORDING. I have a couple of CDs full of mostly crap with new studio versions of old songs with one or two of the original artists performing. The person singing may not have even been a singer with the original group, but he had rights to the group name (or was hired by the person that owned the rights to that name). You have to watch for original artist AND original recording or you may not know what you’ll be getting. [Probably the worst of the group I have is Tiny Tim doing “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” many years after the song was popular and he just couldn’t hit the high falsetto through most of the song].

Oooh! I had forgotten about that! WCFL did it and WLS didn’t during one period and, with a limited playlist, you’d sometimes find they were playing the same song simultaneously, yet the WCFL one was moving along noticably faster.

Aaaackk! This happened to me, too! I bought a CD entitled “1969 Juke Box Hits” and it had lots of songs I loved. Some of the remixes are OK (my 16 and 12 year old daughters now love “Hair”, BTW), but some of it is such crap I can’t even listen to it! I’ll never make that mistake again!