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The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio Paperback – December 1, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A reminder of how good radio used to be, and a heck of a good read." -- Seattle Times, December 6, 1998

"Ben Fong-Torres, of Rolling Stone magazine and Gavin Report fame, has managed to capture the essence of the golden age of Top 40 radio, a phenomenon that, as Ben points out, 'has gone through 45 revolutions per minute for 45 years.' It's a fast-paced book, just like the format, rich in historical detail and anecdotes about how the Top 40 format has managed to 'stay forever young.'...You feel like you're in direct contact with the way many of Top 40's philosophical roots were formed (and why they've spilled over into other formats today.)" -- Programmer's Digest, December 1998

"Perfect for those interested in radio, rock 'n' roll, and good times." -- The Citizens' Voice, December 12, 1998

"Tops the charts as one of the most user-friendly and colorful accounts....Recommended for anyone interested in the history of radio, this is certainly an excellent supplementary volume for courses focusing on broadcast programming and its role in culture." -- Communication Booknotes Quarterly, Spring 1999

"You'll listen to radio with new ears and new appreciation when you're done with this one." --"Cosmik Debris" webzine, February 1999

About the Author

Ben Fong-Torres, perhaps best-known as a former award-winning reporter and editor at Rolling Stone, was a DJ on the acclaimed rock station KSAN for nine years. He also wrote and narrated a syndicated radio special, "San Francisco: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been," which won a Billboard Award for Broadcast Excellence. Former managing editor of Gavin - the first publication to chart Top 40 hits for radio - Fong-Torres has written for dozens of magazines including Esquire and GQ.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Backbeat Books (October 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879306645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879306649
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Todd Hawley on June 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ben Fong Torres' love and admiration for the early days of Top 40 radio shows through in this book. He has crafted a wonderful history of how Top 40 began, features on numerous radio personalities (among them Tom Donahue, B Mitch Reed, Robert W Morgan, The Real Don Steele, Alan Freed, Dick Biondi, the list goes on and on). And the CD included with the book featuring airchecks of some of these amazing personalities is wild. Hearing DJ's like Gary Owens, B Mitch Reed, Casey Kasem or Tom Donahue in their early days is a hoot.
If the book has a West Coast slant on personalities, perhaps that's only because Torres grew up in the Bay Area. However, he does not give short shrift to anyone. He also goes into great detail about the people who helped create this format: Chuck Blore of "Color Radio" fame, Bill Drake and Ron Jacobs of "Boss Radio" fame, Gordon McLendon and Tod Storz, among others. It's ironic in a way that Torres' claim to fame came later as first a journalist for Rolling Stone and as a DJ on KSAN in San Francisco (one of those "underground" FM stations that loved to poke fun at the Top 40 stations).
The book traces the beginnings, development, and "growing pains" of this format. How at one time it was hip, then became "square" when the underground FM stations hit the airwaves, and how it now seems to have emerged again. And funny how the underground stations developed as a kind of "antidote" to very restrictive Top 40 formats, just as the Top 40 stations developed as something different to the standard fare of that time.
Amazing stories abound in this book, and being an ex DJ myself I could relate to them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I agree with another reviewer that this book is must reading for any past or present DJ, or any student of the media.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an alumnus of a McLendon station, KELP, El Paso, Ben's book brought back the memories of decades past. Seriously researched and accurate, this is THE book of what TOP 40 was, who invented it, why it was a huge success and what happened to the stations and people who were involved. A "must read" for anyone who ever worked in radio or has an interest in the media. Also, it's great fun!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ok, so I'm the party pooper here, but I'm not enjoying this book (still reading). What bother me about it is it's tunnel-vision focus on DJs (names, dates, station IDs etc.) while zilch on the music (how tunes were selected, politics, label preferences, payola, etc.). I'm personally curious why Top 40 has changed from period to period and how decisions were made behind the scenes out of hearing range of the listening audience. Telling us things like "Bill Balance, who had been at KFWB for three years when Blore blasted in to install the Top 40 format in late 1957" doesn't even pretend to discuss the kind of details I'm interested in. The publishers would have been more truthful if they'd named the book something like "The People Who Played the Hits." Also disappointing to me because I've read many Fong-Torres articles over the years that I've thoroughly enjoyed. If I change my mind as I read on, I'll revise or append this review.
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Format: Hardcover
A great look back at the roots of contemporary radio. Well written and very authentic. Fun reading for anyone who loved 50's and 60's radio. Unlike alot of radio books that whine about commerciality or become absorbed in technical data, this book never travels far from the magic of Top 40. I think Ben Fong-Torres under stated a few stations, but that's a characteristic of Top 40.....whatever YOU listened to was the best.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As seems to be true of some other reviewers who were less than thrilled with this book, I too have trouble elaborating on the problems, but here are my primary issues with it:
Ben Fong-Torres has his favorite DJ's and almost all of them are from the late '50's and involved with promoting R&B. While that's definitely a substantial basis for the eventual wild success of Top 40 playlists. Frankly, while many many singers and groups were black, I lived through that era in the south, picking up WABC or WLS and the songs were NOT R&B as would be heard on R&B stations, almost never in quantity and quality.
However, Ben drones on and on and on about this, perhaps for PC reasons. Even when he doesn't, most of his readers wanted to hear about the DJ's and power-house stations from 1964 to the beginning of the 1980's, NOT occult DJ's who moved between owners featured as innovators.
This book is a good effort, just too dry and factual in it's interests on station management and the "crazy" DJ's of the mid fifties.
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Format: Hardcover
Chances are, if you grew up in the '60s and '70s you spent alot of time listening to the radio. In every major city across the USA and in most towns with any sort of population, Top 40 radio was bringing us the best that Rock N Roll had to offer. Fong-Torres' book provides a deep, rich insight into not only who those magic momement makers were...but how the radio industry as a whole came to Top 40 dominated. This book is rich in historical detail, without boring the reader. Just scanning the through index at the back of the book is enough to bring back a flood of a thousand moments spent tuned in to your favorite transistor or table radio. The Hits Keep On Coming is easily one of the best contemporary books written about modern radio and the people who made listening so magical. It's well written, filled with tremendously interesting sidebar material and comes complete with a year-by-year listing of top hits through the decades. If there were one thing I wish the book had more of...it would be more photographs of the music makers (djs) and their radio studios. Perhaps this is a possibility for a "new and expanded edition in the future). If you're a radio fan, American history buff, Rock N Roll collector, this is one book you should definately make sure you own. Opening up the pages of "The Hits Keep On Coming" should instantly bring back to your mind a million memories and the hits that were the soundtrack of our lives.
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