"Strolling down the gallery of memory" ~ Vanity Fair

I’ve been avoiding LA.  Not because of traffic, not because of distance, not because of a lack of things I want to see, not because of some weird OC is better than LA bullshit but rather because of road construction.  

It takes an extra 30 minutes to get home any time I go to LA at night thanks to the 405 being closed and me having to navigate the shitty detour signs.  I called Siri a bitch twice tonight on the way home.  Doesn’t she know the 405 is closed?  Stop sending me back there!

Anyway.

I’ve been missing my favorite Tuesday night jam at Canters, seeing friends and what-not but tonight The Ocean Blue were playing the Troubadour and I had to go.  

I used to dj in college.  Not a lot but enough that I can say “I was a dj in college”.  And I think my time in college radio was at the end of college radio still being “important”.  One could argue that it’s still important but in sleepy little towns like Henniker, NH - college radio was like Johnny Carson.  

Henniker wasn’t unlike a lot of other colleges, it was very insulated from the outside world.  If you had a tv set you only got 1 channel.  We’d crash out in the afternoons watching “Tailspin”, wake up with “Hard Copy”, go eat dinner and at night we’d get “GOOD EVENING” from Al Kaprielian giving us the weather.   Radio was even worse.  The Contoocook River did something to prevent radio and television waves from penetrating the town.

But we had WNEC and everyone on campus tuned in.  

We didn’t have cell phones or iPod’s.  Sure we had walkman’s and cd players - it wasn’t the 70’s, it was 1991.  Shit, the internet wasn't even invented yet!  When we invaded Iraq (the first time) everyone freaked out thinking we were going to get drafted.  There was a lack of credible information and hearsay was king.  Hearsay enough that my first roommate was told that he could get high from smoking toothpaste on unfiltered cigarettes and he tried it.  

What I’m saying is we were on the cusp of the technological revolution, we had a foot in the past and one in the future.  I spent all of my money on the new Replacements cd because it cost $20 and I had to order it from the cd/headshop in the center of town and when I got it, it said “Promotional Use Only, Not For Sale.”  WNEC was converting from records to cds.  We wouldn’t have to one-headphone sync up the next record and do fancy crossfades - now we could just press a button.  We had a computer lab that had Apple II’s and floppy discs.  My roommate Matt had a gigantic computer and tower (no mouse) and all it was was a word processor and when you finished writing you would run a program called "spell check".  

I made some new friends at the station, there was Bird (or Lara) and an older girl named Alexis that I would have deep, very serious, very important discussions about Elvis Costello and The Blake Babies.  We’d dance to the Trashcan Sinatras, The Sundays, Jesus Jones, School of Fish, Material Issue, The Buddy System, Happy Mondays, EMF and The Ocean Blue.  Sometimes we'd do call in shows, there was a Friday night request show and one time we played all of Jim Morrison's "An American Prayer" and I was convinced the FCC would be there first thing in the morning to revoke our broadcasting license.  But no, the Contoocook kept our radio signals safely nestled in the shadow of Pat's Peak.

One morning I turnrf on the radio and heard Alexis say “This one is going out to someone special in memory of late night talks and pillow fights” and then “The Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes” would come on and I knew that song was for me.  

And everyone else on campus heard the same thing.  We all listened to the same station.  

It was Johnny Carson.  If you weren’t listening to WNEC, then you weren’t listening to anything.  That’s the way it was.  

The Samples played our campus.  We interviewed them on the radio.  After the interview they asked me if I could get them some weed.  I told them I was the wrong guy to ask and directed them to the “right” guy.  One of them put his hand on my shoulder and said “See? You were the right guy to ask.”   `

My buddy Dennis went to college in Ames, Iowa.  A big city compared to Henniker and they regularly got great bands playing their town, bands like Scruffy the Cat!  Damn.  The only band that came to Henniker was the Samples and it was a fucking EVENT!  

I left Henniker after my freshman year.  It was a great time but I felt it was too expensive for my folks so I figured I could continue on at a state school like UMass Lowell.  After I transferred to Lowell I went to their college radio station but couldn’t even get a meeting with the program director, I could intern and put records away but no air time was available.  I can clearly remember seeing Nirvana’s “Nevermind” LP on the desk of new releases that September with the program directors notes on what songs could and could not be played along with the following: “More polished than ‘Bleach’ but that’s what a major label does.  Teen Spirit should be the hit the Pixies never had.”  

No one at UMass Lowell listened to the college station.  Most listened to the metal on WAAF or the classic WBOS or WBCN.  How could one crappy antennae compete with The Big Mattress and Charles Laquidara?  

In my mind college radio had a brief but amazingly powerful run from September 1990 to May 1991.  

So tonight I went and saw The Ocean Blue.

It wasn’t much but it was all you had
The records, they were all scratched
You know I really miss U2
And maybe The Ocean Blue

~The Fallen Stars “Massachusetts”

Yeah I quoted myself right there, I don’t care.  Tonight took me back and it was glorious and as I danced to the song “Vanity Fair” I looked over next to me and there was a guy wearing a Trashcan Sinatras t-shirt.  

No shit.  I bet he remembers 1991 fondly as well.

1 comment

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