In the 1990 Christian Slater vehicle, Pump Up the Volume, a wise urban kid moves to a podunk town and sets up his own pirate radio with which he educates and terrorizes the town about music from the Beastie Boys and the Pixies to Leonard Cohen and Ice-T. IN this suburban Phoenix no-town, no threat has been greater since Kevin Bacon stopped dancing than this: the youth’s access to the edgy, alt-music scene that has been eating away at the edifice of corporate cock-rock for several years.
Today is College Radio Day, a day to celebrate and recognize the achievements and contributions of College Radio. While the threat posed by Christian Slater doesn’t really mean that much any more (who’s going to worry about FM Radio when the internet can bring you child-porn and bomb-making instructions?), College Radio is still providing essential and rare service in an increasingly homogeneous and confused radio world. (If not for Public Radio and College Radio, Clear Channel might have ruined everything already).
I owe several measures of gratitude to the world of College Radio. First, my high school band got to play on our local college radio station after winning a battle of the bands way back in the mid-90s. The memory of playing in the cramped studio space and then going home afterward and knowing that many of my friends and even strangers had heard us play on the radio is one of my most cherished. In college, our school’s station had us play early on and it was a total blast: we weren’t as good, but we had much more fun. Here in my sweaty but dry new state, apart from the local jazz station, a college radio station is the only one worth listening to.
So, if you have some extra money, send it to a College Radio station. If you don’t tune your radio dial, or internet browser, to one today and be prepared to discover new music (old, recycled, good, bad and frightening) programmed by eager amateurs and semi-professionals who love nothing more than cherishing and sharing the singular gift that is an interesting song. In honor of them and this rarest of institutions, here’s a list of songs I remember hearing on College radio stations in Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.
Red House Painters, “Dragonfly”
Driving with an older friend in a mercury boat of a car, listening to the local College Station for the first time. I love the sound of the band, but the name is so much cooler. We were smoking Swisher Sweets…
The Pixies, “Monkey Gone to Heaven“
You know I love this band. WMPG played this song once when I was listening and my head exploded. I recently heard it on a local station here. Tears in my eyes. Corporate alt-rock stations never play the Pixies. What the effin eff?
Fossil, “Josephine Baker“
I heard this song near USM in Gorham Maine. I didn’t know who Josephine Baker was. I went to the library and opened up an Encyclopedia. Yeah, I lived in the 1950s.
Caribou, “Every Time She turns Around its Her Birthday“
Local station, late night and brave. This song goes on for a while. But every time it ends I want more. Is this what life is all about?
They Might Be Giants, “Cowtown”
I owned Flood and Apollo 18 before the band’s first release. I heard this late night and had to have the album immediately That meant that I had to beg a ride to a record store the next day. Oh, iTunes, how you have spoiled me.
The Besties, “Zombie Song”
A song about being in love with Zombies, long before it was cool. Thank you NYC, thank you.
Vampire Weekend, “A Punk”
I heard this driving on I-35. I downloaded the album when I got home. I have no regrets.
Rogue Wave, “Everyday”
I love Rogue Wave. I have never heard this band on the radio. Well, into just last Friday when the College Radio Station made my morning.
Tegan and Sara, “Closer”
I also love Tegan and Sara, a duo you will not be hearing on Jack FM. College Radio has love for these Canadian Sisters.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, “Kill Your Television”
Take me back in time far enough and television will be dead. What happens tomorrow?