Sometimes I marvel at all the different ways my college radio station introduced me to new music. There are the obvious ones, of course: combing through the walls of records, chatting with fellow deejays about their more obscure favorites, just plainly listening to station as much as I could. There was another method that I’m confident is fairly prevalent at college radio station to this day. I learned about music from the posters on the wall.
Our station was flooded with promotional materials from the various labels and distribution agencies and just about anything that could get tacked up on a wall or taped to a door endured that exact fate. I practically lived in that station for five years and have periodically haunted it ever since, and there are still walls that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen their actual surfaces. That was part of the decor, but it also served as a vertical and necessarily incomplete encyclopedia of the music of the moment. Since it was organized by little more than the aesthetic whims of the Music Director when it came time for them to clear their desk of the accumulated detritus of national marketing efforts, the subsequent discovery process as a deejay was near-random and weirdly fun. There are records I’m sure I would have never played had there not been a colorful poster somewhere in my line of vision while traveling through the station.
I probably should have known Ranking Roger by the time I got to the station, but I didn’t. By then the former vocalist for the The English Beat (that’s what we call them, blokes), he had recently come out with his first solo album, and a poster the color of wilted tobacco leaves hung prominently in the station. It wasn’t all that striking or otherwise notable, I suppose. Still, it promised entry into a territory of music I didn’t know, but was clearly cool enough for someone display its existence to all who passed through our doors. The proper ending to this story is to report that the Ranking Roger album became one of my favorites. That’s not quite the truth, though. I played it a few times and then moved on to fresh discoveries. There was always something new in those heady days. “So Excited,” which was a single off of the album, still sounds to me like my first adventurous days at the station.
It also sounds like something that was genetically engineered for the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie. It’s gotta be somewhere in Career Opportunities, right? Don’t fact-check that. It’s better to simply believe it’s true.
Listen or download –> Ranking Roger, “So Excited”
(Disclaimer: I looked into it, and I think the Ranking Roger stuff is out of print, at least as physical objects that can procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store. That makes it fair game for sharing here, as far as I’m concerned. Realistically, the concept of fair use…aw, forget it. Here’s the real point: I share this with no intent to cause fiscal harm to the artist or any of the creative personnel associated with the music. It is a celebration and a promotion, not a churlish circumvention of the gears of music commerce. That typed, I will gladly remove the track from my little corner of the interweb if asked to do so by any entity — individual or organization — with due authority to make such a request.)