It’s August 1979 – The Dead Of Summer In New York City – 90 degrees – 90% Humidity – It’s A WOR Weekend.
WOR-Weekend – August 25, 1979 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Here we are – in what seems like entering our third year of Stay-At-Home – yet it’s been a little over three weeks. With all the time in the world to think, to catch up, to occupy an otherwise empty schedule; those four walls. My thoughts, as I am sure a lot of other people’s thoughts, are hovering around New York City this weekend – as it has for the better part of this quarantine so far. New York has been a recent epicenter of sorts for a baffling pandemic. Looking at live footage of an empty Times Square, thinking it’s a scene out of a Science Fiction film. But no – this is reality, or a version of it. Your head spins back to other times – times when the city was alive with a permanent fixture on moving – either backwards or forwards but always in motion; always something going on – always people and places to visit – the smells of the city, especially in Summer. All those sounds – a cacophony of noise that vanishes after a while, becomes aligned with your own rhythm and slips effortlessly to become part of it.
And with all the changes the city has gone through over the years since 1979 – the gritty giving way to the gentrified; the vibrant giving way to the controlled, it’s still New York though, and that will never change.
Radio however has. What we listened to on any given day 41 years ago was a lot different than what it is now. Like the empty Times Square or the genteel and family-friendly 42nd street, radio was a different kettle of fish in 1979 than in 2020.
And maybe you weren’t around at the time; never heard anything like this before. Or maybe you were, but your music was different. And maybe this one hour slice of WOR-AM became background music to a stifling trudge on the subway or a distant buzz slipping out of a Bodega – or a musical companion to the salad bar at the corner market. It was there; it got under your skin and stayed there.
Whatever it was, this was what most of New York was sounding like and listening to on August 25th, 1979.
We’ll get through this and we’ll remember – not with as much fondness as 1979 – but for different reasons and remembering just the same.
But for now – distraction for the next hour.
Special thanks to Peter Bennett for the photo – like the town and the times, it’s magic.