As much as I play bits of Top-40 radio from Los Angeles from the 1950s to 1990s, there is also a vast amount of radio from other countries who were doing pretty much the same thing over the years and achieving a wide range of results.
BBC Radio 2 – probably a close comparison would be to KMPC in Los Angeles from the 1970s until they went all talk by 1980. It was Top-40 but it was Easy Listening Top 40. Although you’ll notice a goodly chunk of hits from American artists during this two-hour survey of hit records of 1979, it was mostly Middle-Of-The-Road music hosted by a personable Disc jockey, much the same as KMPC was at the time.
Listening to this in 2018, and comparing it to similar radio recordings from the same period, most of the music doesn’t sound familiar – the artists, such as Art Garfunkle do, but for the most part, this wasn’t laying the groundwork for what was on the musical horizon from either Britain or the U.S. during this time.
But it’s interesting to listen to what mainstream hits were like in 1979. Aside from the Garfunkle piece, not much is familiar here, and clearly the audience is skewed to being older – perhaps the audience who came of age during The Beatles were not finding much to like via The Damned or Elvis Costello.
And then there’s Terry Wogan, who hosted one of the most popular morning programs on British radio in the 1970s. Referred to as “A National Treasure”, Wogan held court from 1972 until his initial departure in 2009. He would come back in 2010 before leaving for good in 2015, citing failing health. Wogan died from Cancer the following year at age 77.
So this may be unfamiliar to you – or you may have been a fan – in either case, this was the state of mainstream Pop music in 1979, giving further evidence of just how much music changed in the 80s with the advent of MTV.
History you can dance to. All on New Year’s Day – 1980.