Before I started my 7 to 10:30 pm airshift one Saturday night in early ’65, my program director, the guy who’d hired me told me to play “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey at a specific time that evening. This was a surprise because he was the same guy who’d already schooled me that successful radio stations played the hits and “Goldfinger” was not a hit. It peaked at #21 and was on the Billboard cart for just nine weeks. Still, I was to spin it at the given time because it was approximately ten minutes after the James Bond movie ended at the local drive-in movie. He wanted people to hear it on their way home, to get another little taste of the hit movie. Buzz Bennett was a great explainer. He’d have said something like, “It’s a hit movie and the song reminds people of the movie so maybe some of those people will make a mental association that this radio station is in the groove with whatever it is they like.”
I took that to heart. Throughout my career, I’ve paid attention to the music being used on TV and in the movies, and when appropriate, I’d juiced my playlist with songs that echo the visuals from other media. When the hit show “Northern Exposure” had a Patsy Cline oldie playing on the jukebox in one long scene, I put it into a heavy rotation for the next week. This past week, the hit show “The Americans” had the two lead actors dancing together to Alabama’s “Old Flame”, a huge hit in ’81 that hasn’t been much heard on Country radio stations over the past 15 years. Popping that into a hot rotation for the next week or ten days now still makes sense to me.
This is a small thing really, barely perceptible. But I think it is elemental. A successful music radio station resonates and associates with other media.