And Now, Joey Sweeney’s Unfinished Thoughts On WOGL 98.1FM’s Recent Inclusion Of Hits From The 1980s Into The Canon Of “Oldies”
In accordance with oldies stations all over the country, WOGL 98.1FM, Philly’s longstanding Oldies radio station, has recently opened up their format to allow — “allow” doesn’t really cut it, though, since they’re clearly doing it with purpose — hits from the 1980s. Technically, of course, they’re right: A song like “Borderline,” for instance, which one can hear on WOGL these days, was released in 1984, which would make it 26 years old. When the concept of “oldies radio” was invented in the 1970s, a song that had been released 26 years ago would certainly qualify as the most golden of oldies. And yet, this weekend, sitting on the roof hoping to hear “There’s A Moon Out Tonight” by The Capris or “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings, I couldn’t help but feel like it was still kinda bullshit. Because in addition to WOGL’s format change, they’ve also changed their tagline accordingly; WOGL now brings you, as any jock there will tell you, “the hits of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.” Which is the second sting of it all: The move to play ’80s hits is not really so much an act of inclusion as it is exclusion. The hits from the 1950s, which for so long were the wild engine that made Oldies radio work, are gone.
Imagine the scene, if you will, in Oldies Heaven, where great hits (and some even not that great, like “American Pie”) go to what they thought was their final resting place: After years of valuable service, defining the summers and the souls of listeners from here to Margate, Oldies God calls the hits of the 1950s — from “Do” by The Marvelows to “Lollipop” by Ronald & Ruby — into a nondescript conference room.
“You’re fired,” he says. All of the 1950s Oldies look at Oldies God, and then at each other, darkly mystified.
“Are- are we being downsized?,” they ask.
“Not exactly,” says Oldies God. “You still get to stay here — I mean, you are Oldies, and you will always be Oldies, but you’ll no longer be on the air, unless it’s a specialty show or something. Doo-Woppers, you know how this goes. But you’re being retired from regular airplay.”
“But we already thought we were!,” says one, “we thought that’s what being an Oldie was!”
“Not exactly,” says Oldies God, looking at the clock. “Look, I’m trying not to be callous about this — what you’ve done for everyone, your service to the country and indeed the world — that is something you can be proud of forever. But I’m sorry. We’ve got New Oldies now.”
The group falls silent. Turns out, that final resting place is not so final. And Oldies Heaven could also well be Oldies Hell.