Sure, they might be made-up, but the people and places in oldies songs—the guy searchin' for his lost shaker of salt, the woman demanding R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the spot under the boardwalk—are carried with us our entire lives. People of all ages create unbreakable emotional attachments to the tunes they grow up with—even if some of them were new when their grandparents were young. But oldies are more than just nostalgia trips. This is an exclusive club that has got to be filled with good music, too—nobody nurtures fond memories of mediocrity. When you tune in to oldies, expect to hear songs you love—a cherry-picked selection of muscle-car riffs, surfin’ safaris, and yellow polka dot bikinis—which represent the brightest lights of the era.
In the '50s, that means the rip-'em-up rockabilly of Elvis Presley's Sun sides, the swingin' swagger of Sinatra’s big band, or the street-wise doo-wop of Dion & The Belmonts. In the ‘60s? The Supremes' Motown magic, the sun-kissed bliss of The Beach Boys, and the grit and groove of the original roots rockers, Creedence Clearwater Revival. But as pop music matured (and its audience along with it) the gate gradually opened wider. First, the golden age of '70s AM radio got adopted, adding the sleek glow of Philly soul, the polyester paradise of disco, and the rhinestone-studded regality of Elton John and Neil Diamond. These days, some '80s singles are in the mix too, allowing larger-than-life, mono-moniker titans like Prince, Madonna, and Sting to play alongside the geniuses who influenced them. But the best thing about the oldies universe is having the “Oh, yes I love this song!” moments inspired by the tunes that endure—packing a potent punch for people who experienced them firsthand and new listeners getting hooked for the first time.