First, there’s two A4 papers. Nothing special, the printer paper variety, unlined, blank. Then, there’s the nearest pen. It has to be working, because it has to last you the whole duration. The color is not significant. What’s important that you can write clearly with it- and in case it goes missing, it can be replaced easily. For consistency purposes.
Then there’s the radio. It must be set to the exact frequency, not a digit less nor a digit more. This is to ensure maximum quality and listening enjoyment. Of course, the station is already pre-programmed but just to make sure, the radio is turned on at least half an hour ahead. What if someone pressed a wrong button while cleaning? Best to make sure that everything is okay. After all, not a single moment of the show should be missed!
As I wait for it to start, I grab the pen and start writing down numbers, starting with 100, counting down until I have written down the number 1. The closer we get to number 1, the larger the handwriting becomes.
Right on cue it seems, the intro music comes on and the host begins, “Hello and welcome to the Radio One Top 100 of the year!” I turn the volume up, and everyone around me knows that for the next two days, I am not to be bothered.
It’s a commonly known fact around my family and friends that for two days at the beginning of January, I can only eat, sleep, think, and breathe the Radio One Top 100 chart. Nothing interests me more than the annual tradition of trying to figure out what songs have gotten the country’s collective attention for the past year and which one came on top.
It’s a tradition of mine that started in 2003, that I would also write down every song, counting down along with the show’s hosts. So 12 years later, I have 12 perfectly preserved lists, that not only document that changes in music tastes, but also my handwriting and personality and preferences.
The format is too familiar to me at this point: the first day, normally a Friday, they’ll count down numbers 100 to 51 for about four hours, while the second day, Saturday, they’ll take about five hours to count down from 50 to 1. They also include tidbits about the artists or the songs featured and they give listeners a chance to win valuable prizes for predicting the song of the year.
As a music fan, this show is not to be missed. The music in itself is nothing special, just the standard pop hits heard all around the world, featuring the usual selection of artists you’d hear anywhere. But somehow, when they’re presented in this format, it becomes way more than just songs by Rihanna, Beyonce, Maroon 5, and all their other counterparts.
In the earlier years, it used to be a easy to listen to the countdown. I’d come home from school and just turn on my stereo and completely avoid doing anything else. But it’s only gotten increasingly difficult from that point. I look at this show from the point of view that if I skip ONE single song, it’s as if the show has been cancelled! Yes, it’s that bad!
So I’ve gotten creative. Technology has helped, bringing the radio station to my phone, helping me carry it around wherever I have to go. So even if I have obligations or I’m at work, I could still be listening to the chart.
Nothing exemplifies this more than the one year where they were broadcasting it on the same day I was travelling back to the Netherlands. I was so scared of missing the show because of a train delay, that I kept glancing at my watch, completely anxious. I remember rushing to my apartment, connecting to the online radio station, only to discover that I was actually an hour early! I was relieved, but also kept laughing at myself the whole time.
Sometimes, I find myself going back to that file, re-reading those lists, and it just reminds me of times gone by and the great memories some songs will forever be associated with.
Should that chart be cancelled for some reason (but I know I won’t let them, I’d organize a one-woman protest and try to get them back on the air), I’d feel that a part of my memory creating process has been disrupted, like tradition has been changed. What else would I have to fall back on?