Kopp: 'Beat Goes On' - even after 1,500 episodes

By Steve Kopp
October 02, 2013

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CHRWPaul Mayne, Western News

In celebration of 1,500 episodes of the CHRW program The History of Us, Western Statistics and Actuarial Sciences lecturer Steve Kopp, who joined the station on Sept. 17, 1980, sat down to reflect on three decades of the iconic program. What follows is an edited version of that essay. Read the whole essay at the station's website.

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It was 6 p.m. It was a Saturday. And it was Sept. 17, 1983. At that moment, a brand new weekly show made its debut on CHRW. The show was called The Beat Goes On

Now, 1,500 episodes later, on this most recent Tuesday, Sept. 17, we celebrated the exact 30-year anniversary of the show. The show has changed time slots over the years and has changed the day of the week it was on. Heck, even the name of the show changed from The Beat Goes On to what it is called today, The History of Us. But now we have reached episode 1,500 and the 30th anniversary and that is a good enough reason to celebrate. 

But first, some musings from 30 years.

So, how did things get started? It was a long time ago, so my memory may not be all that clear. But I seem to remember a show that CHRW used to air in 1982 once a week. It came from McMaster University and it was called The History of British Pop (or something like that).

In September 1982, we received the last episode of the show on reel-to-reel tape. It was at that moment I came up with a grand idea. I convinced the station manager (David Freeman) to let me do a four-part show on the Beatles. These four shows would be considered the last four episodes of The History of British Pop.

In preparing my script and music for these four shows, I had to go through my oldest sister’s Beatles record collection. While looking for albums, I happened to come across the first four albums by the Monkees. I was also going out with a girl at the time whose older sister happened to own the fifth Monkees ablum (The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees). I thought, “Wow, I now have the first five albums by the Monkees. I could do a whole radio shift on the history and music of the Monkees.” An idea was born.

I started going through the rest of my sister’s collection. I found all sorts of music from the 1960s and it turned out that I remembered quite a bit of it. My girlfriend at the time also bought me a book as a Christmas present on the British Invasion. Inside, were one page stories about the formation and history of many British bands of the 1960s. That is when I really felt that I could do a weekly specialty show playing the music of the 1960s. I quickly decided that it would cover July 1955 to the end of 1970.

The show was set to make its debut in September 1983.

Why not earlier than that? I was spending the summer of 1983 working in Toronto. But working in Toronto also meant trips to Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum to look for more ‘oldies’ music. And it allowed me to see, firsthand, the nostalgia boom taking place for all things musical from the 1960s. Classic rock radio was just starting to take hold of the radio airwaves. That summer, I had the opportunity to see, live in concert, 1960s groups such as the Temptations, Simon and Garfunkel and the Hollies. The time seemed right to have a show that played music from 1955-70. 

The show was called The Beat Goes On (after the Sonny and Cher tune). Episode 1 started off with the song Surf City by Jan and Dean. That first show covered the Sounds of Summer. I had recently bought a book that was called the West Coast Story which talked about the music of California. That book provided the basis for the first few episodes: Sounds of Summer, The Byrds, Mamas and Papas and the Doors.

That first year ended with an advertisement in the Gazette student newspaper asking for people to vote for their favourite song from the 1960s. The winner, with seven votes, was White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. The Top 40 songs in our poll were counted down in order on the first anniversary of the show.

In the second year of the show (1984-85), I handed over the reins to another person. I can’t remember his name, but the show ran for the next eight months by committee. There were four of us and each one of us would do one show every four weeks.

I resumed my role of sole host in May 1985, and have never looked back.

Over the 527 shows, I did many a spotlight. From the Animals to CCR, Supremes to Dave Clark 5, Gene Pitney to The Zombies. And there were more than a few spotlights on the Beatles. But as 1993 was coming to an end, so was my enthusiasm for playing music from the 1955-74. (I finally allowed some early 70’s music into the fray.)

I decided to end the show and replace it with another.

On Saturday, Jan. 8, 1994, the 527th and final episode of The Beat Goes On was aired. The very next week, a new weekly show took its place. It was called The History of Us (named after an Indigo Girls song).

The original format of The History of Us was to choose a month from 1980 -90, get out the CHRW Top 30 alternative album charts from that month and play it. I did not have access to the charts from every single month in that time frame. Actually, I had the charts only for 104 of the 132 months that make up the period. That meant the show would last 104 weeks, or two years, and that would be that.

The show would end in January 1996.

At least, that was the plan.

Now, here we are nearly 18 years later and every week another show gets aired. Since May 13, 2008, we have been on every Tuesday from 3:30-6 p.m. I estimate we have played over 37,500 songs over those years.

As we used to say in our ads for The Beat Goes On: tune in, turn on and listen to CHRW.


8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(holidays excluded)


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