A dozen or so years ago my favourite times of the week were Saturday and Sunday mornings (and not just because they involved not-working). I had stopped partying on Friday / Saturday nights so no longer spent the following morning in a darkened room moaning ‘never again’ and gagging on stomach-settling Stemetil. Instead, up bright and early (well, ish) I would sprawl about on my lounge room floor…leftover reheated Chinese to my right; diet coke to my left; newspapers strewn about in front; and music videos playing on the television.
Though progressing way-too-rapidly through my early 30s at the time, I liked to watch the Top 20, or 10 (or something in between) countdowns. I occasionally heard a song I wanted to hear again, and smugly liked the fact that I was ‘down’ with what the youngsters were listening to. (Of course the fact that I was watching ‘Video Hits’ or [old] ‘Rage’, rather than listening to ‘Triple J’ said something about how un-hip I actually was, but still there I was – ‘gettin jiggy wit it’).
Sadly I find I can no longer partake in this frivolous pastime and not just because I have hard timber floors in my lounge room – making it difficult and uncomfortable to sprawl on my 40+year old bones…. The bigger problem is that it is all-but-impossible to find any music ‘countdowns’ on Australian free-to-air television stations anymore.
I tend to gravitate to ABC’s ‘Rage’ which offers a mish-mash of popular, edgy and retro music, rather than Channel 10’s ‘Video Hits’ which seems to feature (generally non-charting obscure) artists from whatever music festival happens to be on at the time. I know my lack of appreciation for these artists and the myriad of outdoor music festivals says something about my age and taste, but frankly I need more. I mean, how on earth am I supposed to know what songs to like if I can’t find out what everyone else likes?
So, I wonder, why is there no interest in countdowns from free-to-air television stations? Why no new-release video clips, no highlighting of new music? Such shows exist on pay television (Foxtel etc) and even our radio stations still offer regular countdowns and feature new-releases. In fact it seems that The Buggles were wrong in 1979 and ‘video did not kill the radio star’ after all. But instead perhaps the video shows – as I knew them – are dead. Killed by the World Wide Web.
We no longer have to wait on tenterhooks for Molly (Meldrum) to unveil this week’s number one song on ‘Countdown’. We can just log on to the internet and we have the world at our fingertips. YouTube, iTunes and the like. We don’t need to wait for Saturday morning to roll around to see what new songs are being released. A few flicks of the fingers across a keyboard or keypad and we can find almost any video clip we want to watch, buy and download. Just like that.
It isn’t that I don’t appreciate technology – downloading something from iTunes sure beats holding the cassette player with in-built microphone in front of the TV screen and telling everyone to shush. But, I still miss the anticipation of the countdown; the inane babble of the VJs imparting often-useless tidbits; and being exposed to songs that I wouldn’t normally listen to but, because they happen to fall between No.8 and No.6, enjoy. But most of all I miss those comforting weekend hours spent sprawled in front of a noisy, flickering box!