Once I wrested myself away from the glum world of commercial radio in the late-nineties, I wanted to get back to what I loved about broadcasting in the first place. I wanted to discover new music, I wanted to build diverse playlists, I wanted to talk about artists that were worth talking about. My best bet was to find some sort of return to college radio. The opportunity came at Christmas.
As fate would have it, the holidays found me trekking back to the central Wisconsin city where I went to college, and I knew from first-hand experience that there was always the need for some extra help around that time. I called up the Program Director and offered to DJ on Christmas morning, taking the slot that I well recalled was always one of the hardest to fill.
While I was glad to take the shift–our Christmas tradition largely centers on heading out to see a movie, making the morning hours more expendable for me than most–I felt ill-prepared for it, particularly in terms of knowledge of the music residing in Heavy Rotation at the time. I didn’t want to go in and relive my college shifts, playing all the same songs and artists I would have gravitated to years earlier. I wanted to properly honor the mission of the station and play newer material. So I spent an ample amount of time at work–when I, of course, should have been actually, you know, working–digging through reviews at the recently launched Website for CMJ, the trade journal of college radio. I scratched out a list of artists receiving the most laudatory praise, making a point of including titles of specific songs celebrated, especially since CMJ still had a tendency to err towards considerations of radio programming in their reviews.
I don’t remember every song and artist on that list, or even which ones I was able to find and play in the radio station’s stacks, which were equally compromised by volunteers willing to illicitly pull from the station library to build their own CD collection and the fickleness of record labels who sometimes decided Stevens Point was too small a market to both with (and, I suspect, that some recent releases had been pulled from rotation but not moved to the main library yet, a common issue at the busy end of the semester). But I do remember playing Abra Moore’s “Four Leaf Clover” because it was a perfect radio song. It was a sharp and smart and announced itself immediately as such. It had a great hook, and, with a running time of 3:33, didn’t wear out its welcome. Maybe most notably for me at the time, it sounded commercial enough to be a hit song, but just off enough and willfully unpolished enough that commercial radio wouldn’t actually give it a chance.
It was exactly the sort of song I’d been missing. Playing it on that cold morning in that lonely studio proved that I had indeed come home for Christmas.
(Disclaimer: Usually I try to stick with material that’s entirely out of print for this weekly feature, but Abra Moore’s Strangest Places can be picked up as a pricey import. The song’s also available for purchase digitally, but the Quirk Rule says that probably doesn’t get any money to the artist anyway. So this is presented with the idea that it’s not especially easy to come by, at least in a way that will properly compensate the right people. That minifesto offered, I’ll note that should someone with due authority to do so ask me to remove it, I will gladly comply.)