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Long Distance Request and Dedication: Remembering the Original 'American Top 40'

Remember the (original) Casey Kasem era of American Top 40? I definitely remember the radio countdown being a major part of my life during the 80s. It seemed like the countdown went on forever (nearly four hours, actually), making it hard for me to wait to hear the number one tune. Since Metal was so big during the 80s, a lot of our favorites were on Top 40 from time to time. It was always fun to hear bands like Poison go up against the likes of Billy Joel. (In case you're wondering, I listened via Q102 in Cincinnati).

The countdown was often drawn-out with the addition of special features like the "Long distance request and dedication." Kasem would read a fan-submitted letter on the air which was always some sort of sob story about a couple being separated by a thousand miles, broke, sick and desperate. To "heal" the pain, Kasem would play some 80s sap ballad for the people designated in the letter.

There were special Top 40 programs from time to time. According to the all-knowing power that is Wikipedia, there was a special show during the weekend of July 4-5, 1986 entitled Giants of Rock. I don't specifically remember this show - I was only 7 - but it's highly likely I did hear it. I would love to hear it again, but I know that's a long shot. There was also another show called Triathlon of Rock 'n Roll which originally aired during the weekend of July 4-5, 1988. (Clearly, Glam goes well with the Independence Day holiday in America!) Sirius/XM is now rebroadcasting Top 40, but I don't know if that also includes special shows.

I've always carried fond memories of Top 40 since my childhood. Maybe it's because I remember everyone I know being so into the show. My husband says he listened each week on his way home from church. Remember: this was before the Internet and I didn't know a soul with a subscription to Billboard. My friends and my mom (my mom really liked the countdown) would always have to pay attention to learn the number 1 song "in the land." Sometimes I miss the days of actually having to wait for information - and then being excited when I finally learned the news.

Check out Casey Kasem talking about the evolution of the compact disc! (This is from a broadcast in 1983)

Reader Comments (8)

I always listened to Casey too. I remember "Pour some sugar on me" by Def Leppard was number one for weeks on end over acts like Michael Jackson and Madonna and I thought that was so cool. Its a shame Casey isnt doing it anymore and that tool Ryan Seacrest is. Ugh!
October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
They even had that on the radio here in Australia in the early 80s. Before there was rock in it. Our charts were so different, I'd listen to it, but I mostly concluded that Americans listen to crap. In hindsight, it was just that we had different pop crap to you, and the stuff I'd had played to me by the radio non stop, is what I was used to.
October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
I listened to it coming home from church too. I can still HEAR Casey's voice in my head.
October 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkari
I remember laying low with my GE cassette radio, fingers on 'record' and 'play', waiting in anticipation for the next song...
October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCory
Yeah.... I too had the blank tapes in ready to go. I lived in a small country town in Victoria Australia and mostly got shit,and lots of it, on the radio. I looked forward to his radio show on a sunday afternoon while I sanded down my beloved hk monaro that I dreamed of driving when I was old enough to drive.. (Never did get it going though, think my dad gave it to me to keep out of trouble..)
October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWendy
Great topic, Allyson. Really brings back some memories! I used to be glued to American Top 40 in the early 1980's. It was my first introduction to bands like Night Ranger, Ratt, Loverboy, and even Duran Duran - this was even before my family had MTV.

As I got older, I listened less and less, but still celebrated when early glam favorites like Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Poison, and Tesla all had big hits on "the charts".

Has anyone ever heard that R-rated Casy Kasem rant? The Howard Stern show plays it from time to time. Casey absolutely LOSES it over a long-distance dedication about a dog! It is hilarious, with tons of profanity and a furious Casey Kasem. Look for it if you're an AT40 fan.
October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGator
The best was the year-end show, trying to remember how long songs were in the top ten, and what the top songs of the year were going to be. I also had the cassette recorder in front of the am radio, waiting for the good songs so I could make my own mixtape of the year's best.
Found one of my mixtapes!
Mr. Roboto - Styx
Down Under - Men At Work [sup Christian]
Pass The Dutchie - Musical Youth
Hungry Like Wolf - Duran Duran
Stray Cat Strut - Stray Cats
Underground - Men At Work
It Doesn't Matter - Phil Collins
Be Good Johnny - Men At Work
Stand Or Fall - The Fixx
I Know There's Something - Frieda
The Voice - The Moody Blues
Separate Ways - Journey
Tell It To Her - Pat Benatar
Jeopardy - Greg Kihn Band
Beat It - Michael Jackson

Took a lot of patience to wait for songs to come on, to click record or unclick pause at just the right time, and of course a double-cassette boombox to assemble the perfect mix.
October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenternirVrana
Since I'm older than dirt..I remember the top 40 shows from the 70s..and indeed it was such a more innocent time..and thanks for bringin up the show..fond memories for sure
January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGene

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