The year is 1979. My sister and I listen almost exclusively to a radio station that goes by the call letters WPLJ*. It’s AOR, with some great DJs including Carol Miller and Pat St. John (both can still be heard on Sirius). This is before WAPP started up, and their only competition is WNEW (where rock lives). What sets WPLJ apart are the station ID montages that are spliced together by Pat St. John. Each is built around a theme such as New York City or the gas crisis, and each is brilliant. Over the course of a year, Pat spliced them all together into 22 minutes of montage genius. And my sister caught it on tape.
For years, I ask my sister to make me a copy.
For years, neither of us get around to it.
In September of 2000, some old and decomposing wiring in the front porch light fixture of my sister’s house shorts out, causing a fire that takes the house, and its contents, to the ground. Everything that my sister and my brother-in-law own is lost. Their cars, their wedding photos, my sister’s pageant awards, even their beloved cat. And, I slowly realize as the tragedy settles in, the WPLJ tape. Yes, it weighs that heavily in our lives.
Clothes are easy to replace, but everything else takes work. I contact their all-inclusive wedding chapel to see if I can have their photos reprinted, but the cost is too steep. I can’t find a duplicate of the tiara that my sister won as Ms. Petite New Jersey, but for her 40th birthday, I buy her the biggest pageant tiara I can afford. The WPLJ tape, we occasionally think of with a glassy, distant look in our eyes. I even play some of the cuts in my head from time to time. Oh, well.
Last week, listening to a friend’s iTunes playlist, I heard one of the songs that Pat St. John had used a snippet of. A song that I had never actually heard the full version of. And it got me to thinking.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I present to you The Big Montage.
(Be sure to listen all the way to the end, so you can hear the first half of a radio ad for the “upcoming” film American Gigolo, which is how I know this montage is, at the absolute earliest, from 1979 and NOT 1978 as the link would indicate.)
*The station took its name from a 1956 song called WPLJ, by The Four Deuces, about a drink concoction made from white port and lemon juice. The song was later covered by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Both versions are in the montage.