MY DEAR FRIENDS AND ACCOMPLICES: Get fired up for the coming week! It’s WPRB's annual membership drive, during which time we put our good foot forward and try to remind you that community radio is worth your financial support. Although PRB is housed on Princeton University’s campus, beyond facilities, they provide ZERO funding for the station. That means it’s on us every time a turntable goes on the fritz, a computer croaks, or our webcasting fees shoot through the roof.
As such, I’ll be dropping all on-air pretense this Wednesday between 11 AM and 1 PM and asking you to help us reach our fundraising goal. And I’ve assembled a pretty badass assortment of analog and digital goodies to tempt your dollars with, including albums by recent show-faves like Herzog, the Numbers Band, U.S. Girls, Dot Wiggin, Marissa Nadler, William Onyeabor, the Entrance Band, Black Hollies, Cheap Dinosaurs, Dexter Johnson, and many others. That’s in addition to all of the station-branded swag (this year including flasks, backpacks, and mugs along with the customary t-shirts and such.)
WPRB occupies a unique middle ground between the realms of college and community radio. The station’s got an enormous cultural footprint that’s most synonymous with the metro-Philly area, but which also extends as far north into Jersey as Newark. We’re staffed and run by a revolving cast of dedicated University undergrads, who offer some airtime to community members with an unflinching jones for good radio. That’s how I came on board the station back in 1992—I was a local townie who was hooked on the crazy sounds of underground music, which WPRB was a critical, local mouthpiece for. The friends and experiences those early years provided for me inadvertently directed the focus of my career, and I’ve been working in community radio (or: “up and down this goddam dial”, as I sometimes like to put it) for the last 15 years.
What does that mean? Well, in addition to hosting the Freeform Pathogen, I also serve as WPRB’s Educational Advisor. I’m not “the boss” by any stretch of the definition, nor do I aim to be the type of crusty old barnacle who’s paid to oversee operations at a lot of other college stations. I never tell my student colleagues to reign in their shows or conform to a strict set of guidelines. More often, I’m encouraging them to stretch out, to experiment, and to put crazy ideas into action because that’s the best way to connect with PRB’s rich legacy and the most exciting traditions of community radio. Some of my earliest radio heroes were student DJs on WPRB: Ken Katkin, Tim Kastelle, Mr. Mike Shmelzer, Matthew Robb, Sean Murphy, Jen Moyse, Corey Magnell, and so on. They spoke confidently, candidly, and passionately about their interests on the air, routinely challenging themselves so as to share that challenge with the listeners. That’s a strategy that meant a lot to me when I was young and I’ve taken a great deal of creative nourishment from it in the 20+ years since PRB first put it on display for me. It’s an idea that I’ve worked to instill in the last three generations of WPRB’s student DJs and which I hope to continue doing for a long time to come. The true pride of my function here is connecting WPRB and its staff to the broader network of independent broadcasters that are out there, all finding their way through the same challenges we face. If you think WPRB’s airwaves should be a place where creativity and spontaneity are the principles that light the way ahead, I hope I’ll be hearing from you this Wednesday. With your help, we can prove how great I believe this radio station can be.
Irwin Chusid likes to take credit for a lot of my most intriguing traits and talents. (My fear of accidentally severing my hand at the wrist with a rusty chainsaw, my ability to play a saxophone while tapdancing on a Newark-bound PATH train perhaps chief among them.)
He doesn't really have anything to do with those details, but I like to humor the guy because, well, Irwin's a friend of many years and he needs his ego greased as often as possible. That said, one thing I do give him full credit for is introducing me to Moondog, the blind composer / multi-instrumentalist who lived and performed on the streets of New York City for decades. This here's a terminal favorite from the catalog. It's short (almost all of Moondog's tunes are two minutes and change), but says plenty.
Yep, I finally got around to buying it. Heavy duty vinyl gatefold re-up on Southern Lord Records. It wasn't cheap, but it was well worth the investment—kinda surprised it wasn't delivered by a private art handling service. Saturday morning skull battery sessions are now upon us! [Click here to listen]
If you wake up tomorrow morning and the first sounds to drift through your head are the opening notes of this song, it's a fair bet that you're going to be involved in a wild car chase and/or kill somebody. Just ask Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, or Jill Ireland, all of whom star in the 1970 Italian crime thriller, Citta Violenta. (Later re-titled The Family for domestic release here in the States. Click here to watch the trailer.)
As usual, Ennio Morricone's soundtrack is something pretty close to godhead, as especially evidenced by "Svolta Definitiva". (Which I have opened many radio shows with—when you get down to it, what better subtexts are there for radio broadcasts than wild car chases and revenge killings?) You can also find the song on the completely excellent (and by now, probably about as scarce as the original Citta Violenta soundtrack) Cherrystones Hidden Charms comp, which also has ace appearances from Dynastie Crisis, the Shadows, Mashmakhan, and Cher. Yes, that Cher.
Web searches for "Pier Platters", the long-shuttered Hoboken record shop that is the object of nostalgic envy for a lot of people who came up in and around NYC, is still the #1 source of traffic on this blog thanks to this post. Seemingly, it's a time and a place that's still firmly lodged in the collective Google-conscience, so I'm wondering why hardly anyone seems to have picked up on this incredible Daniel Johnston live set, recorded live in the shop to a smattering of late 80s scenesters and underground music icons. (Less than 200 views for a clip that's been up since last September? C'mon, internet!)
It's a great document for Johnston fans, but equally appealing for Pier junkies who still pine for those decrepit floor tiles, dusty racks of fanzines, or tripping on the spiral staircase to the stars. Part one of Johnston's set is embedded here, click here for the conclusion.