Back to Mono


Funnily enough, it’s guys named Kevin who have introduced me to music. When I was growing up, it was my nephew Kevin; when I was grown, it was my dear friend Kevin. When the Kevins bring the music, I just open my mind… because their minds are open, I guess.

Recently I was hanging out at my friend Kevin’s place, and he played some ’50s/’60s music–which I didn’t know he even liked–from his Phil Spector Back to Mono boxed set. As we listened, I sang along to every song that came on: To Know Him is To Love Him, Corrine, Corrina, Spanish Harlem, Pretty Little Angel Eyes, I Love How You Love Me, Uptown, He’s a Rebel… Because this was the music I grew up on.

Of course, I’d first heard these songs on radio. Even for a kid, they were pretty easy to pick up: two listens and you’d have it memorized. It also helped that they were usually about love–teen love, unrequited love, hopeful love–and since I was a mushy kid, they were right up my alley. Plus, those suckers were so short–a little over two minutes. And there was kind of a formula: two verses, a part in the middle (when I got older I learned that that was called “the bridge”–thanks, professor James Brown), then one more verse, and it was done.

(That under-three-minutes radio format changed with one song: Love to Love You Baby by Donna Summer. When it came out in 1975, there was much controversy about the song, because it was extremely risqué for the time, what with ol’ Donna moaning in ecstasy over and over. But what was really, truly shocking, was the length of the song. That’s what everyone talked about the most: “Oh snap! Did you hear that Donna Summer song? It’s SIX MINUTES LONG!”)

As for my enjoyment of that ’50’s music, get this: a few years ago I was hired to copyedit the book Doo-Wop: The Music, the Times, the Era by Bruce Morrow and Rich Malouf (plus write a few quick chapters myself). Coincidence? YOU decide!

doo wop cover

No, those ain’t lipsticks… they’re cool car headlights

doo wop acknowledgement page

“Cousin” Brucie’s acknowledgement page, mentioning me!

So tell me, dear reader: in your radio-listening history, what’s the format change that affected you the most?

3 thoughts on “Back to Mono

  1. eight tracks!!! up until that time, in cars there was only radios, and trust me when you’re trying to get your groove on with that special honey those damn commercials would break the mood, or not play the next right song! but when eight tracks came along you pop the special album in the deck and get things going for the rest of the evening. then god bless the person who invented the cassette tape that you could record the music you wanted for that special evening ……by the way did i tell you i have five daughters ……damn love songs !!!

  2. Kevin

    I think the format change that affected me the most was the change from cassette to CD. My music appreciation came late. A full one-third of my albums were Bill Cosby comedy albums. But by cassette, I was exploring.

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