In a world of digital music, where millions of songs from the most famous to the most obscure are immediately available to anyone almost anywhere on the planet with a few clicks on a computer, it seems almost absurd that AM radio was still a meaningful popular music medium in my lifetime. Sure, it was on its last few breaths from the oxygen tanks slung over the back of its motorized scooter, but in the early eighties AM radio was more than the carnival freakshow of sports, news, and talk it is now. In fact, some AM stations were still quite famous.
One such station was CKOC out of Hamilton which remains the longest continually operating radio station in Canada. I only know that because I just read it on Wikipedia. For me, CKOC was famous because it was a Top 40 radio station whose signal reached Sauble Beach over 200km away at a time when the rigidly CRTC controlled Canadian airways meant this area was sadly lacking in radio options (or TV for that matter).
Sauble Beach was where my family spent all our weekends and some entire weeks during the summers of my youth. We had a trailer at Carson’s Camp which we kept there year round, a poor man’s cottage as it were. Many of my fondest childhood memories occurred here; I knew that when they were happening and I know it even more so now.
Our trailer neighbour for many of those years was a spirited family who had a son two years my senior. That two year age difference seemed cavernous when I was ten but we managed to become good friends for several years. Proximity and few options no doubt played a role in our friendship but there was also a genuine bond between us I think.
I have one particular memory which I cannot share here. How’s that for baiting? I have another to which this song is central but is otherwise innocuous and rather dull other than it reminds me of my former friend. My neighbours had an add-a-room on their trailer, a canvas tent that you could attach to the side greatly enhancing the size of your trailer. These were the days when people camped, even in permanent spots like ours, in modest sub-thirty foot trailers. Add-a-rooms were a luxury back then.
On rainy days in particular, we would hide in this add-a-room to play board games or mess around until venturing outside was deemed safe once again. I distinctly remember them having a transistor radio, or maybe it was a clock radio, in this room and it was tuned to CKOC. The only song I ever remember hearing on that radio is this one. I have no idea why. Nothing important or special was happening. It was just another summer day. But I remember it clearly and solely. Weird that.
Nowadays I remember this song for an additional reason. My kids think the lyrics are funny, especially the “bright orange pair of pants” part. They know my favourite colour is orange so the concept of orange pants makes them giggle. Little do they know I actually have a bright orange pair of paints in my keepsake box. Ah, but that’s another story for another time.
For today, let’s kick off the weekend with the Billy Joel classic “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” from the 1980 album Glass Houses.
Official Video Version: