New Year's Rockin' Eve

I admit it -- I like Christmas music. I will listen to it on the radio, and I don't mind the fact two Salt Lake City stations start playing holiday tunes the first weekend of November. Usually, the week before Christmas, all I'm listening to is holiday music. But sometime on Christmas day (usually around noon), I turn off the holiday music for good and swtich to countdowns.

My first year-end countdown wasn't on the radio, but on TV in 1979 when "Solid Gold" premiered. Before it was a series, "Solid Gold '79" was a one-time syndicated special that aired on WGN in Chicago and starred Dionne Warwick and Glenn Campbell. A couple weeks later, I listened to the Big 89 of 1979 on WLS. My parents had gone out for New Year's Eve, and I listened to the whole countdown on the radio while a babysitter watched us.

Thus began an annual tradition of listening to the Big 89 every New Year's Eve. The next year, I camped out in my room with a Hardy Boys book and an old electric radio with fake wood paneling and with a penchant to buzz loud static on the AM dial. My parents eventually went out and left us with a sitter, and though I came out of my room, I kept listening the rest of the night until the new year, then listened to the WLS Time Warp -- a 20-minute montage of songs throughout WLS' history as a rock station.

Over the years, what we did on New Year's Eve changed, and I didn't always listen to the whole countdown, but the Big 89 was always part of my Dec. 31. But WLS was chainging, its FM station spun off and became more of a top 40 station I (and began doing it's own countdown during the day), and, well, as I got older, there were other things to do on New Year's Eve.

A couple decades later, the WLS end-of-year surveys made it to the Internet. I still had the Time Warp on tape and have converted it to mp3. I own a lot of '80s music (and a fair amount of '70s top 40 as well) and an iPod. All this translates to re-creating those countdowns as playlists on my iPod. I have assembled the countdowns from 1979 to 1986 (the last year WLS did a Big 89). I think of doing some earlier years, but it doesn't feel right to create a playlist of a countdown that I didn't actually hear the first time.

So the week after Christmas, I listen to these countdowns again. I'm going to culminate countdown week with 1980, 30 years after I tried to dial away the static while reading a Hardy Boys book. I remember the first song of that countdown: "Whip It" by Devo. Whip it good.


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