Below I’ve excerpted my remarks to the International Association of Media and History conference in Bloomington, Indiana in June 2015. The presentation was on the history of Oldies on American radio. The paper is excerpted below, and available to Promotion & Tenure Committee Members with the password via THIS link.
Today, I’d like to talk about one area of the creation and circulation of Fifties nostalgia in the Reagan Era, and that’s in the realm of popular music. The rise of Oldies(***)–as a radio format, musical genre, and cultural category—participated in the production of multiple and competing meanings of the Fifties in the Reagan Era. In the first section of this talk I’ll discuss the emergence of Oldies as a category of commercial radio broadcasting that took on certain cultural markets of “Fifties-ness”, as it was variously and contentiously defined in the context of the 1970s and 1980s.
Then I will move on to discuss how Oldies were mobilized in Re-Generation teen films and their soundtracks, to illustrate one of the book’s major claims—that “Fifties nostalgia” did not have, and indeed still does not have, any singular political or cultural function, but rather is an affective mode that is channeled toward multiple and competing political and cultural ends. These films and their soundtracks albums revised the cultural understanding of Fifties pop, R&B, and rock and roll, recontextualized in the form of “Golden Oldies.” After—and because—oldies became pop- nostalgia texts of a particularly potent cultural status, they were mobilized in Re-Generation film soundtracks to multiple and sometimes contradictory effects.