This coming weekend, I’ll participate in The World’s Largest Trivia ContestTM. As per tradition, this week is filled with idle reminiscing about memorable answers in past years. This time around, I’m going to focus on one of the recurring question topics that’s become a passion for certain members of my team: album art.
The trivia contest hosted by student-run radio station WWSP-90FM is celebrating its fiftieth year this weekend, so it has weathered a complete transformation in how participants hunt for answers. Questions are often less a test of knowledge than research skills, and Google and similar online tools have made researching markedly more easy. In adjustment, the writers of the contest have increasingly turned away from more straightforward questions — like naming an album and asking about some odd little detail on its cover — in favor of intricate, occasionally convoluted descriptions of sleeve art followed by the directive to identify the music release in question.
Like other teams, we’ve made adjustments in our prep and resources to accommodate this shift. Even so, there are plenty of times when it’s a requirement to draw upon deeply embedded memories. A few years ago, a 1985 album was described, noting the front cover featured the band members in the cockpit and turret of a fighter plane, and the back cover pictured them standing next to the tarmac. Participants in the contest were asked to provide the title of the album. We clicked and scrolled fruitlessly for the length of the first or two songs teams are afforded before time runs out on the question. The question is repeated in between the two songs, and some indefinable thing about hearing the description anew stirred up a notion in me. We confirmed my theory was sound and called in the answer “Seven Wishes.” It netted us a sizable amount of points.
I’ve never owned Night Ranger’s Seven Wishes. It’s not an album I encounter with any regularity, in used bins or elsewhere. It’s quite possible I hadn’t thought of that album in conscious way in the twenty years or so preceding the question. And yet somehow there it was, part of the scattered detritus in my brain, presumably clogging the pathway that should give me quick access to things like passwords and important dates on the calendar. When this junk drawer of information I possess happens to help yield a momentary uptick in the standings for my team, the problematic trade-off seems fully worth it.
More info about 90FM’s Trivia can be found at its official website or at the radio station’s online home. There’s also a feature documentary about the contest, but it’s fairly hard to come by these days. To see how my team is faring over the weekend, Twitter is probably the best bet.