Radio

I Am What I Play

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If you enjoy the arcane musical references I occasionally insert into my posts here, listen up: As of today, I am again a part-time DJ at WCBN, the campus radio station at my alma mater, the University of Michigan. With a motto borrowed from a long-dead California freeform station—"it's all country music, it just depends on what country you come from"—I'll be playing a mix of soul, punk, ska, funk, gospel, country, klezmer, jazz, and random snippets of the Zeitgeist from 12 to 3 each Thursday afternoon, eastern time. There will be no political commentary, except when I can't help myself. If you live in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, you can tune in at 88.3 FM; if you live elsewhere, you'll have to listen online.

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  1. Man, I miss college radio… What a party.

    And off topic, but I wonder if “Friday’s Bank” will be Lehman or WaMu?

  2. I’ve never understood why some college radio stations are staffed by people other than students. At least when it comes to on-air talent.

  3. Re no political commentary, at least talk up Sarah Palin, our next VP.

  4. Can you play “Dumb All Over” by Frank Zappa and “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweakers” by Primus?

  5. I used to listen to Seton Hall’s WSOU when I lived in NYC. They introduced me to some seriously cool music. I’d be nice if I could listen to Jesse today, but alas, no dice at my workplace.

  6. I’ve never understood why some college radio stations are staffed by people other than students. At least when it comes to on-air talent.

    A few reasons. The most obvious one is that the station’s radio waves do not magically terminate at the edge of campus, and so the station often services surrounding communities just by virtue of its location.

    Slightly less obvious but no less serious is that running and maintaining an FM station is expensive, between the insurance for the transmission tower and equipment repair and replacement funds (you’d be shocked just how little wear the average CD player can take), and licensing and compliance fees for the FCC. Most college radio stations are not that well capitalized, and so have to do donation drives and so-forth in the surrounding community. Thus that community has to be invested in the station (which is most easily achieved by having members of the community DJ and perform other functions).

    Third, and this may come as a shock, but often a given campus full of students does not have enough people who are both interested in running a program and have the time to do so. Stations try to avoid dead air, so if a college station can’t get a college student to fill a slot, anyone else is preferable to an hour of dead air or taped PSAs.

  7. WFMU is no. 1. They stream all their shows and have a great blog.

  8. Besides what Elemenope just said, I’ll add this: I won’t be so vain as to put myself in this category, but the nonstudents who continue to work at this particular radio station tend to be people who know a lot about music that undergrads haven’t been exposed to, and who can help them expand their horizons & improve their shows.

    On a related note, most of the nonstudents at CBN do specialty shows — programs devoted exclusively to jazz, bluegrass, African music, Turkish music, etc. — and have been doing them for a long time; they’re often the most qualified people in the area to do those programs, which tend to be popular with the townies who listen in.

    Finally, nonstudents provide an institutional memory, which comes in handy when the administration attempts to interfere with the station’s practices. If there were an all-student staff, rebuffed university authorities could just wait four years and try the same stunt all over again. If there are some knowledgeable townies on hand, that’s harder.

  9. Our campus radio station sucks. It’s an NPR repeater all morning and then spends hours playing an alternating mix of indie-rap and bluegrass.

    There is only so much bluegrass the human body can withstand. It’s like going to the dentist and all the cleaning instruments are made of banjos.

  10. Jessee,

    I have been listening to “Here My Dear” a lot lately. You know the Marvin Gaye record he did to pay off his divorce settlement. I had never really listened to it until a few months ago when I bought it on a lark. What a brilliant record. I don’t know there is a better record on loss and divorce. I keep listening to that and Everybody Diggs Bill Evans at work. I need to find something a little more upbeat or I am going to need prosac.

    Good for you on the DJ gig and play some Bill Evans.

  11. “There is only so much bluegrass the human body can withstand. It’s like going to the dentist and all the cleaning instruments are made of banjos.”

    Everything in moderation. There is some good bluegrass out there. But like any music there is a lot of bad and mediocre bluegrass too. Regardless, only a nut would want to listen to it all the time. Campus radio stations have a bad habbit of taking a particular genre, indie rap and blue grass being too typical examples, and just playing them into the ground on the assumption that since it is not top 40 and it is (insert genre here) it must be cool. No really it doesn’t have to be cool.

  12. When I attended VCU in Richmond, we had a campus radio station with virtually no signal that completely sucked. The awesome edgy “You never know what you are going to hear” station belonged to the Univ. of Richmond which had a lot more money and so had a stronger signal. The Univ. Of Richmond was an extremely conservative school for the rich kids, but the few counter-culture types who went there had the run of the radio. The faculty obviously didn’t have the slightest interest in what those students were up to. That made for some great radio.

  13. From what I have heard from friends, a very similar circumstance existed here in DC in the late 70’s when the best radio station in the area belonged to Georgetown Univ. If you wanted to hear stuff by Pere Ubu, Devo, The Residents and similar,that was where you would hear it. Eventually the church figured out what was going on and shut them down.

  14. I suppose I should mention that both the Georgetown station and WFMU are discussed in my radio book.

    WFMU was a college station so good that when the school it was affiliated with went belly-up, the staff managed to raise enough money to take over the station license and stay on the air. It supports itself without running any commercials and without getting any grants from the government.

    The Georgetown outlet, WGTB, was … quite a place. Once a newscaster there fabricated a story claiming that the United States had bombed Libya. The reporter’s defense: “If Nixon could have had his way, he would have done it.”

  15. Ypsi shout out!

    Alas, I’m in class at the big M from 1-3 on Thursdays, but I can still enjoy Jesse during the AATA ride in to A2.

    Looking forward to it!

  16. I spent a horrifyingly incompetent couple months DJ’ing at my school’s station (WRUB, which didn’t even reach all the dorms, let alone the outside world) in 1990. I’m talkin’ scratching records, huge chunks of dead air, the works. And there were two of us. Neither of us had a clue what the hell we were doing but the music was great.

  17. So Reason readers get priority on requests, right?

  18. Jesse,

    Michigan (-2) vs. Notre Dame (home) this weekend.

    Who ya got?*

    *If, in the words of Bill Simmons, gambling were legal.

  19. Michigan is going to crush them. That is not because Michigan is any good. They aren’t. It is because Notre Dame and Charlie Weiss are that bad. They open at home against a non-BCS team that was the only 1A team to lose to a 1AA team during week one and Notre Dame needs a 4th quarter comeback to win. That is not exactly shaking out the echoes or whatever the song says.

  20. Jesse, you aren’t actually physically doing the show from Michigan, are you?

  21. hotsauce: I’ll root root root for the visiting team. Beyond that, no comment.

    Russ: No, I’m here in Ann Arbor, and will be for the next nine months or so.

  22. No, I’m here in Ann Arbor, and will be for the next nine months or so.

    Enjoy the sangria at Dominick’s.

  23. OK, Jesse, then Muswell Hillbillies every day in case I happen to be in the area.

  24. No idea you were a Wolverine, Jesse. Go Blue!

  25. Russ: I promise at least one Kinks song every time I do the show. This week it was “Introduction to a Solution” from Preservation Act Two.

  26. I live in Plymouth, I think I’ll be able to tune in. Excellent.

  27. I’ll be playing a mix of soul, punk, ska, funk, gospel, country, klezmer, jazz, and random snippets of the Zeitgeist from 12 to 3 each Thursday afternoon, eastern time.

    Thanks for the explicit warning. I’ll be sure not to listen.

    I have rarely seen such a miserable list of attempts at musicality. I’m a little surprised that jazz got in there with all that absolute garbage, but I suppose if you have no taste at all, quality vectors can arrive just as easily as those of no merit whatsoever.

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