August 30, 2021

You’re Listening to the 12th Annual Marathon of Hits

K-POI One Three Eight O, Hon-O-lu-luuu

By Leonard Chan

Excuse me for indulging myself with this article, but please bear with me and read on.

I’ve been listening to a portion these recordings for nearly 50 years and this Labor Day Weekend is the 50th anniversary of its taping by my brother who was stationed in Hawaii at that time. He made this recording of a pop AM radio station’s countdown of listener’s favorite songs in 1971.

I’ve been debating the merits of doing this article. It’s not exactly Asian or Pacific Islander American. It doesn’t have anything to do with books or literature and I’m not exactly sure of its educational value.

I’ve also been debating if I would be breaking any copyright laws by posting the audio online, but I think this comes under the copyright fair use clause. I’ll explain further in this article and hope you all get a chance to hear these fascinating and enjoyable recordings.

Okay, if you’re still reading, here’s my justification for doing this article.

Has anyone ever given you a mixed tape, CD, or MP3 list? That’s what this is. I never really thought if it that way until I recently watched a movie where the main character kept making mixed CDs for his ex-girlfriend, but that’s what this recording is. My eldest brother made some mixed tapes and shared it with me and my siblings.

I didn’t have a problem with it at the time. I was a young kid that was willing to listen to anything my brothers and sisters introduced to me. I was like a sponge. My siblings say, that even before I learned to walk, I would plop myself in front of our TV and watch the Ed Sullivan Show and other programs. For those of you that don’t know about variety shows like the Ed Sullivan Show, they were programs that would have all sorts of performances, including lots of music.

If you’re one of those that don’t appreciate people sharing their favorite songs with you, I can relate to that. We all grew up with our own preferences and even I sometimes get annoyed with people’s choices of music when they play it loud on their car speakers, home stereos, and other devices (why don’t they have better taste in music :). But maybe we should give it a listen some time – like I’m hoping you’ll give these KPOI recordings a try.

The Sixties and further back were different. People didn’t really have that many choices in music. We pretty much listened to the same stuff. There may have been a jazz, Big Band, or Classical music broadcast station, but younger people pretty much listened to pop AM radio stations. FM was a relatively new thing and many inexpensive portable radios didn’t even get FM yet. Tape recorders, that the general public used, were relatively new too. You had to be an audiophile to have a stereo and a nice tape deck like my brother had.

So everyone pretty much got their music from the radio and on vinyl records. It was a shared experience whether we liked it or not. In some ways, I think we were more open to a variety of music styles because we couldn’t just tune out things. If there was a song that we didn’t like, we kept listening because there was sure to be a favorite soon afterwards. I learned to like a good Sinatra song as well as the Rolling Stones. And that’s what pop radio stations would play. That’s what these KPOI tapes contain. You can’t really appreciate the wide variety of music that we were listening to unless you heard it. Today, we can create playlist of our favorite songs, but what are we missing by staying in our own bubbles?

So what made the music on these KPOI tapes different from any other pop radio station from its time period? There was a great deal of variety depending on where you lived. My brother who had traveled to many places during his time in the military could appreciate that. He knew that what was being played on KPOI was unique and interesting.

The majority of the artists that had songs on the countdown were familiar names to anyone that listened to pop music in America back then – Simon and Garfunkel, Santana, The Rascals, Neil Diamond, Chicago, Three Dog Night, The Carpenters, The Everly Brothers, The Association, Sly and the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Classics IV, James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Monkees, Jackie Wilson, The Doors, The Beach Boys, The Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, to name just a few.

But what made the countdown unique was also some lesser known artists that are largely forgotten today. Take for example The Ones, Orpheus, The New Colony Six, Love, Spirit, Love Society, Blades of Grass, The Duprees, The Cascades, Lee Purcell, Mercy, The Casinos, Paul Peterson, Lenny Welch, The Sandals, The Society of Seven, Liz Dameon's Orient Express, and Don Ho – have you heard of them? The last three and the group “The Association” are Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) or had APIA members.

Here’s another Asian Pacific Islander American connection – over 58% of Hawaii was APIA back in 1970 (source: the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Native Hawaiian Data Book). So even though the majority of the music was created by non-APIA artists, a majority of the listening audience to KPOI were probably APIAs.

These KPOI recordings are a time capsule containing a snapshot of what people in Hawaii listened to in 1971. Although it’s far from being as important as the folk songs that Alan Lomax recorded as part of his work in the field of ethnomusicology, these KPOI tapes are raw data that could possibly be of used to researchers in this field for further study.

The individual songs in this countdown are most likely preserved in numerous collections – in record producers’ vaults, in musicians’ private collections, in libraries, on the Internet, and in households around the world. But taken as a whole, this list of songs and the recordings could possibly reveal something about the people that listened to this music and even the radio station that played them.

Sadly, I did not digitize the complete set of tapes and now I find that some of the tapes are in poor condition and my brother’s old reel to reel tape deck is not functioning well. Fortunately, the best preserved portion of the countdown is of the hundred songs leading up to number one.

Note that my brother only had surviving recordings of the top two hundred of the three hundred songs from the countdown. I believe he said he accidentally recorded over the first 100.

So under the fair use copyright doctrine, our nonprofit posting of the audio online may be considered alright. The recordings are educational since they could be used as primary source research materials by historians, researchers, and ethnomusicologist.

The recordings are of a lesser quality than the actual copyrighted songs and would not harm the existing or future market for the copyright owner’s original work. In fact I’m hoping that if you enjoy their works from these recordings, you’ll support the copyright owners by purchasing the songs from legitimate sources.

I’ll try to post what I can from the countdown on YouTube, but there is a review process that may not allow me to post it in time for this article. If you see a YouTube link that follows this sentence, then check it out.

Here’s a link to a spreadsheet (last updated 8/31/21 - 7:35pm) with as many songs as I could figure out from the tapes and my brother’s notes.

If we don’t get the approval in time, here are some links to the audio streamed from our website.

Try to listen to the music before checking out the list to duplicate the feel of hearing the count down for the first time. See if you can guess what's number one before you hear it :).

Number 116 to 96

(last updated 8/31/21 - 3pm)

Number 95 to 80

(last updated 8/31/21 - 3pm)

Number 79 to 61

(last updated 8/31/21 - 3pm, song 76 missing)

Number 60 to 39

(last updated 8/30/21 - 1:04am)

Number 38 to 19

(last udated 8/30/21 - 12:42am)

Number 18 to 1

(last updated 8/29/21 - 9:25pm)