Remembering Radio Countdowns

When I was a kid, back when “new”/”popular” music was still halfway decent, the local radio stations would have big end of the year countdowns. These would last the better part of a day, and they would play the full version of each song. I remember my mother spending all day recording the whole affair off the radio. She would have to keep track of the cassette & try to catch it before it hit the stupid leader portion of the tape (the clear plastic strip at the beginning/end of each side, the part you can’t record on) and flip the tape or insert a new tape. Leading up to the big event she would go to the D&K store and get a bunch of blank tapes. (They typically came in a pack of 3 tapes packages in a long plastic pouch, without any individual cases, and were around $1/pack.) She would then get the stereo set up & monitor it all day. I seem to recall her making written lists of the songs too, but I’m not 100% certain of that.

Since the tapes didn’t have individual cases, she would store them all in a plastic shoe box (which was still a relatively new product at the time). I don’t really know what the point of all of it was though, because despite having many years of those countdowns saved up, she never once listened to any of those recordings again. The plastic shoeboxes were essentially blackholes, tapes would go in & never come back out.

Still, it’d be interesting to go listen to some of those tapes now, some 20+ years later. I’m sure she still has them, the question would be how well the magnetic recordings have held up over the years (and how many of the little felt pads inside the tapes have come unglued), and whether or not I can dig up a functioning tapedeck.


Team Retroist Chief Nostalgia Psychic...

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7 thoughts on “Remembering Radio Countdowns

  1. vinvectrex says:

    It’s funny you mention it, but finding a functioning tape deck is a problem. I just came across a box of tapes and realized I don’t have a working tape deck in the house.

  2. Chris Chase says:

    Great memories ! I remember listening to the ” Top 100 ” back in the early 80’s. They used to countdown on New Years’ Eve day, and having number one play just a few minutes before midnight. Sometimes, they would print the list of the Top 100 in the local newspaper prior to the countdown – I always thought this was a bit of a let down – took the surprise out of it.

    My worst memory of the Top 100 countdown – 1983…”Every breath you take – The Police” was number one and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was number two ! The travesty ! Ha ha…

    How times have changed ! Happy New Year to everyone, and to you Retroist…thank you for your efforts with this site and the podcasts…a LOT of work, but it is truly appreciated !

  3. I have a few tapedecks lying around still, and they worked the last time I used them. I haven’t used them in years though, so who knows what their current state is.

  4. This was totally me from about 1981 on, even with the bargain bin blank tapes! I still have quite a few of them, actually. I know I’ll be listening to RadioBDC’s countdown tomorrow, and will most likely catch the replay on Tuesday as well.

  5. Always remember being poised with a finger on play & another on record just waiting for the radio DJ (possibly Casey Kasem) to finish the intro so I could get as clean of a recording as possible. That memory will never leave me. And I think I have a few of those tapes left as well.

  6. As a child of the 80s I used to do the same thing and still have many of those tapes. I have gone one step further and converted many of them to mp3 format. The only problem is, I don’t know of a good way to share them. Soundcloud and Youtube both reject them because they contain copyrighted music.

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