Musings on research

In 1977 I was obsessed with Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown, keeping religious track of the songs as they moved up and down the chart.  I made lists of the songs.  I kept track of their movement week to week.

Imagine my surprise when a song was skipped.  The first week I thought it was a mistake, and so the following week I listened very closely, keeping close track as the songs made their way down the countdown, only to find that, once again, a song was skipped.  If memory serves it moved from #37 to #35, with no mention of song #36.

It didn’t make sense.   It was making my OCD mind crazy and I couldn’t figure out how to find out what had happened.  This was pre-Internet, and there was no easy way to look up the information.  Finally, somehow, I discovered that the top 40/Hot 100 was recorded in the pages of Billboard and I eagerly found a copy of said magazine, only to discover that the song in question was “Only The Good Die Young” by Billy Joel.  Sure enough, when I listened to the Top 40 the following week, once again that particular song at that particular spot was skipped, and no mention of the omission.  I discovered later on that Casey Kasem was very religious, so perhaps the song offended him.

It was an early foray into research for me, piecing together the puzzle until I found the cohesive whole.   There was no Wikipedia back then (full disclosure:  before I wrote this, I used said resource to verify the year of release of the song, which turned out to be good, because I thought it was earlier), no easy way to pull up the facts to verify my data.  Regardless, there were resources, as I discovered.  Before the Internet writers must have made liberal use of encyclopedias, magazines and books, just as I did.

Now, of course, it’s easy.  Now you don’t need to be an expert on anything to speak intelligently on it (even briefly), all you have to do is do a search.   I’ve been researching natural disasters for the sequel to my ebook novella “Beginning Time” and there are a wealth of resources.  I needed a list of disasters, and I found a list, in chronological order, courtesy of Google, as well as other interesting disasters that took me in different directions.  There is no more wondering why a song was skipped, one quick search online and the answer to that question, and more, is at your fingertips.

Regardless, I will always remember that puzzle of the missing song, and my quest to find the answer. Information can come from anywhere, even the most unlikely sources, just as inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time.  My early Top 40 research ultimately helped me with a quartet of books I am revising, four linked contemporary romances with a musical spin.   Who knew that the Casey Kasem’s American Top 40’s refusal to play one song would help facilitate that?


  1. John Taloni on August 20, 2014 at 12:46 am

    And speaking of “Only The Good Die Young,” Casey Kasem lived to 82. *cough*

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