Sunday, October 13, 2013

Discuss: Casey Kasem and American Top 40


Doug:  Sunday bonus, kids!  And it's somewhat fitting, as many of us listened to Casey Kasem on his long-running radio program "American Top 40" on Sunday mornings or afternoons.  Our pal Richard from Giant-Size Marvel Comics and Giant-Size Geek recommended this as a topic on our @BronzeAgeBabies Twitter feed.  Here ya go, Richard!

And of course, anyone wishing to branch out into Kasem's voice acting is certainly welcome to do so!


24 comments:

Colin Jones said...

"America's Top 10" was broadcast on British TV in the late '80s/early '90s. I always watched it and so did my father who normally hated pop music, but he really seemed to like Casey Kasem. It wasn't until later I found out that CK had been the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo, the greatest cartoon ever made!

redartz said...

Casey and AT40 kept me musically up-to-date from Junior High all through college. When a friend first told me about the show, I set up my cassette recorder. In those days before Youtube or video, this was an inexpensive opportunity for a broke kid to have a few tunes on hand. Those tapes are long gone, although one did resurface a few years ago. It had a great deal of hiss, but you could still hear Neil Diamond crooning "Longfellow Serenade".

Casey Kasem did a fantastic job as host. He was always upbeat, introducing songs both exhilarating and excruciating with equal zest. The trivia notes he added were greatly appreciated. The Special shows he interspersed occasionally were fun: "One-hit Wonders"," The top 100 songs of the 60's", etc.

AT40 still runs today, currently hosted by Ryan Seacrest. I've tuned in once or twice, but it just doesn't have the same appeal. Of course, today's pop music suffers in comparison to some extent. Yes, some of that is the "Back in My Day..." effect, and there is certainly much good music being produced. But there is so much use of Auto-tune (arrgh; don't get me started on that)...

The Groovy Agent said...

I can't imagine making it through my teen years without CK andAT40. It was almost (almost) as important to me as the Bullpen Bulletins and FOOM magazine!

Truth to be told, I pattern a lot of my Diversions intros after Casey's smooth patter. When I write my posts, it's usually CK's voice in my head. Well, except for those times Wolfman Jack slips in there...

Oh, and what about CK as the voice of Robin on Super-Friends?

Humanbelly said...

Heh-- redartz, I occasionally did the same record-from-the-radio routine on my Realistic Clarinette 88 3-in-1 (FM Reciever! Stereo turntable w/ record changer! Cassette Tape Player!), which was PRIZED possession that I purchased from RadioShack w/ my own money--!

Kasem's show was particularly good for that kind of thing, as it always made for good background music for whatever you happened to be working on. Great radio voice-- really a throwback to a sound more common in the classic radio days. And geeze, could there be a more iconic character than Shaggy to notch in one's belt? The only drawback was CK would often do some of the other incidental voices on the cartoon, and his sound is so distinctive that you'd immediately recognize him. Ironically, I never actually made the connection until many years later, connecting Shaggy's voice to some commercial or other, and then connecting that back to Kasem of AT40.

LOVE the fact that he is an American of Arab descent-- ensconced for decades right smack in the middle of mainstream American pop culture. And it was never, ever given a second thought (and absolutely correctly so). It's about the entertainment, baby, not the politics. . . !

I do have to say that the last couple of years of non-hip-hop/rap pop music has had a very enjoyable upswing. . . becoming very car-radio friendly again. I can tell you that the auto-tune sound is becoming a source of MUCH derision amongst the teen-girl target demo, and I'm not sure it'll hang on much longer. ESPECIALLY when someone like this youngster Lourde does such a phenomenal job using mostly her own natural voice for the body of this latest hit ("Royals").

HB

themiddlespaces said...

Used to listed to CK on the radio with my sister - didn't also briefly have a TV show? not an American Bandstand thing, but just a Top 40 show? Or am I misremember?

Of course, I can't hear the name Casey Kasem these days without thinking of this blowout (definitely NSFW), but hilarious!

As for current Top 40, I don't have much time for most of it, but not because of the infusion of hip-hop sounds or auto-tune - I actually love that stuff (and wrote "In Defense of Autotune" for a Sound Studies blog a few years ago) - but I just don't think the songs are very well written. They are melodically and rhythmically very similar and seem to be constructed specifically to emulate "a hit sound."

Edo Bosnar said...

Even though I was trying to be intensely cool by the time I hit my teens, I listened to the AT40 show on Sunday afternoons well into my high school years. And as much as I would have hated to admit it back then, I always found something oddly soothing about Kasem's voice. I also remember being shocked at around that time when I learned that he did the voices for Shaggy, Robin and a few other cartoon characters.

And HB, there's actually quite a few people of (mainly Christian) Arab descent who made a name for themselves in American popular culture. Besides Kasem, a few others that come to mind are Ralph Nader and Jamie Farr, and as far as I know Frank Zappa, Jim Backus (Mr. Howell!), and '80s mall singer Tiffany are also of partial Arab descent. And in Oregon back in the '80s, when I was growing up there, the state's governor was Syrian-American Victor Atiyeh.

Tony Gunns (sevensoldiers@gmail.com) said...

I listened to AT40 every Sunday morning while in jr HS and HS. It was my only connection to the charts til I actually started buying Billboard magazine each week. I still listen to replays of it on Sirius/XM every week. Great memories.

MattComix said...

I liked CK as Robin. Something about his voice still fit with teen-age characters even though he was well past being one when he voiced Robin and Shaggy.

Humanbelly said...

That's right, Edo-- I remember Jamie Farr & Ralph Nader, but had forgotten about Frank Zappa (who one of us is using as an avatar 'round here at the moment, I think, yes?)-! That's great- especially since they were making their mark back when pop-culture America was still woefully lacking in any kind of diversity in its face to the public. I like us best when we're that ol' cultural/ethnic melting pot. (Hmm-- makes me think of fondue. . . )

Jim Backus?? Wow, and you know what? If I had ever seen him in something where he was portraying a. . . well. . . arab character, I NEVER would have bought it! He's just. . .the dude is Mr. Howell-! And most of his better-known characters were variations on Mr. Howell-!

(Thanks for the cool trivia, there, edo--)

HB

Edo Bosnar said...

Osvaldo, I just listened to that YouTube link you provided; f-ing hilarious. And incidentally, I think in that last part Kasem's fury was entirely justified.

Richard Guion said...

Since I suggested this topic, I am obviously a big fan of Casey Kasem and AT40. As a kid, I listened to AT40 on the weekends while reading my comics. I associated certain 70s tunes with classic comics, even now when I hear one on the radio it brings back memories of the Bronze Age title that I read back then. I loved the small nuggets of information that Casey shared about certain groups or singers, this was before I started reading Rolling Stone. It was "must-listen radio" for me at the time. I started realizing Kasem's voice was the same as Shaggy on Scooby Doo, which was brilliant, one of my favorite cartoons at the time.

Nowadays I still listen to AT40 on Sirius XM Radio Channel 7 featuring the 1970s! Still have a Saturday morning ritual, listening to the countdown and reading comics or books while drinking coffee.

david_b said...

Certainly CK had his own syndicated show with each week's new videos..!! I first saw the Stones doing 'She's So Cold' and that there cemented my life-long white Blues devotion, and my periodic Keith shrines over in my small quarters in Kuwait when I was there.

As for CK's voice, I really liked it as Robin's voice. His voice had that wonderful mature, yet energetic teen quality that could be speeded up slightly to make it sound even younger. Pretty essential for doing VO's for commercials, teen voices, etc..

I know his health of late is diminishing, but I'll always thank him for greatly expanding my enjoyment of pop music....

Steve Does Comics said...

Like Colin, I used to watch Kasem's TV chart show on ITV on Saturday mornings. He always seemed way too old and square to be doing a music show but he was the voice of Shaggy so I was happy to cut him slack. Not only that but he was in a very cheap horror movie called The Spawn of Slithis, which meant I could forgive him anything.

As for the current state of the charts; personally I feel there's plenty of good music around at the moment, it just doesn't always make the singles chart.

Doug said...

I always looked forward to the "Long-Distance Dedications". Sure, they could be pretty sappy, but Casey always treated them sensitively. I guess I'd say that to an extent it was a lesson in empathy for this youngster.

Doug

Fred W. Hill said...

From 1976 through about 1981 I typically started Sunday morning listening to Casey Kasem's Top 40 countdown -- and ended Sunday night with Dr. Demento's Funny Five countdown! What's perhaps a bit odd is that although I started buying albums during that period, I never bought any singles and most of the albums I bought were hits collections or classic studio lps from the '60s & early '70s. The station I listened to in those years did play a good mix of both current and past hit songs -- basically nearly any Top 40 hit from the beginning of the British Invasion of 1964 to the present. By 1981, tho', I began listening to more album-oriented rock stations, which would play lots of great tracks that were never released as singles and another six years after that I began listening to "modern rock" stations, which played an eclectic mix of '60s garage rock & the occasional psychedelia, punk rock, new wave, college rock and whatever else the DJs happened to like.

J.A. Morris said...

I listened to AT40 religiously for about a year, every Sunday in the early 80s. I was a big fan of Men At Work, the Police and Eddy Grant, all of them popped in the countdown. Then I discovered Hardcore & punk and wouldn't be caught dead listening to a "Top 40" station, let alone a 4-hour countdown. But Kasem kept it entertaining, took me years to realize he was Robin & Shaggy (not to mention Peter Cottontail)!
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0249577/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

WardHill Terry said...

I distinctly remember how excited my sisters and I were to discover we could hear AT40 while on vacation up in Maine! Casey was an important part in my pop music education. I appreciate the stories he told of the writing, recording, or production of certain records. Richard, I also associate comics and pop songs. I started collecting comics in '76, and I associate so many songs from '76-'80 with specific comics. Might make a good topic for a future BAB, eh? When I hear those tunes now, I consider them my "comic book songs." Fleetwood Mac and the SNF soundtrack were so pervasive, I was sure to hear something from them on the radio as I was reading that week's stash.

I was also pleasantly surprised, and impressed, when I learned that Casey was the voice of Robin. That stuff was important!

Anonymous said...

Loved it as a kid and still today. The syndicated '70s show runs every Sunday on a local oldies station here. Great topic.

Tom

Karen said...

Wow. I feel like I must be the only person alive who didn't follow America's Top 40. I had no idea it was so popular.

I did however have a CD full of celebrities flubbing lines or making "blue" remarks and Casey Kasem's rant that Edo posted was among them. That's about pretty much my main source of familiarity with Mr. Kasem. His was actually pretty tame compared to some of the others -Buddy Rich's was absolutely cringe inducing.

Fred W. Hill said...

Oh, btw, among other celebrities of Arab/Lebanese Christian descent are Danny Thomas and, naturally, his daughter, Marlo Thomas -- yep, That Girl!

Anonymous said...

Jim Backus did play an Arabic character once. Well, sort of. He was the voice of the genie in the 1948 Bugs Bunny cartoon "A Lad in His Lamp."

Graham said...

I always listened to AT40 when I was growing, so Casey Kasem was a big part of my love for music. They still replay some of his old countdowns on our local oldie station on weekends and, yes, I still listen.

One of the coolest things I ever heard him do was during one of the Long Distance Dedications in the early 80's. A young guy had requested that Kasem play Kenny Loggins' "Heartlight," but he had misunderstood the title to be "Hard Life." His letter talked about how he was growing up helping his folks farm and the long hours his family put in, so he was dedicating the song to his family.

Everyone here knows that if this happened today, nearly everybody who is on the radio would be really sarcastic and poke fun at this young guy for his mistake, but Kasem never blinked an eye and read his letter as serious as could be and played the song for him. I thought that was really classy of him to do.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, I can't take credit for the good works of others: Osvaldo posted the link to the Kasem outburst.

(Not related to anything: the Captcha word for my comment was Edoliqua - is Blogger's sending me coded messages?)

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to remember his as the voice of Shaggy and Robin, but what about Mark from Battle of the Planets? :-)

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