This coming weekend, I will take to the airwaves of WWSP-90FM, my college radio alma mater, as part of their annual reunion weekends. It will be my first time presiding over a radio program in nine years and my first time on 90FM in over fifteen years. I commemoration, I’m devoting this week to slightly displaced “One for Friday” posts, touching on each of my five years as a student broadcaster. To borrow a line from Robyn Hitchcock, “I didn’t write these songs; they wrote me.”
My inaugural year at WWSP-90FM was a whirlwind. I was atypically forthright in inserting myself into the station culture, holding down at least two regular weekly shifts during my in my first semester and landing a spot on the executive staff during my second, becoming the rare freshmen to achieve a place with the leadership team. Maybe best of all, that executive staff position was Assistant Program Director, which at the time entailed extensive work with the the new music coming into the station. Right when I was at my most voracious in learning about the college rock that had me completely enthralled, I was officially charged with listening to just about every new record — and they were largely still records then — that came into the station.
Though I didn’t officially have the job yet, I think of the true starting point to that portion of my 90FM experience as the winter break of the 1988-89 academic year. I knew the station would be shorthanded during the break, so I came back to pitch in. When we finally got into the communication department mailroom, there was a tower of boxes waiting, largely comprised of the releases labels were prepared to push when semesters got underway coast to coast. I don’t remember every last gift we unwrapped that day, but I know 3, the fourth full-length album from Violent Femmes, was among the treasures.
An absolutely fantastic album, 3 was certain to be played a lot on 90FM, but it got a further boost when, shortly after the spring semester got underway, our college programming board announced that the Femmes would headline a big spring concert in Berg Gym, officially coming to humble, little Stevens Point to kick off their first tour in several years. This was an entirely unexpected choice for the University Activities Board, which had previously favored the likes of Quiet Riot and Paul Young for live music. With the excitement around the concert — and a certain obligation to support a selection we appreciated with as strong of a promotional push as we could muster — 3 handily became the station’s biggest album of the spring, which was no small feat considering those early months of 1989 were full to bursting with exceptional new music.
Of course, spring in Central Wisconsin is a more a measure of the climate than the temperature. On the day of the concert, a massive blizzard hit. We spent most of the day worried that the band was going to cancel. But then, they’re Wisconsinites, too. We should have know a little snow wasn’t going to stop them. By late afternoon, I was standing on the stage as cables were run and amps were placed, chatting with Victor DeLorenzo as he showed off his Tranceaphone, the washtub topped drum that provided the distinctive rhythm sound of the band. It felt, wonderfully so, a whole lifetime away from where I was one year earlier, the promise of a transformative college experience already fulfilled. WWSP-90FM wasn’t the reason I chose the college I attended, but it was the reason that choice was one of the best I ever made.
Listen or download –> Violent Femmes, “Fool in the Full Moon”
(Disclaimer: Usually, I do my best to make sure the songs I share are unavailable for physical purchase. For this week, I’m scrapping that rule. Instead, I actively urge anyone who enjoys the shared track to treat it as a tantalizing sample and to go out and buy the full-length album on which it resides, preferably from your favorite local, independently-owned record store. I’m thrilled to be going to my favorite this Sunday. I will gladly and promptly remove the file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)