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LJI Week 10: Streaming

I always say I miss the music, but I think what I really miss is the power.

You're mine for two hours, maybe three.  Maybe it's background noise while you study.  Maybe you do it to annoy your roommate.  Maybe it is because you've heard something that was a revelation, or a remembrance, or something you can't quite define that's put pinpricks in your soul.

I am the DJ.  I am what I play.  And if you listen to it long enough, you will be, too.

When I first started at WEHC, roughly one third of the rooms on campus could even get the station...and most people considered that a bit of a blessing.  There was no format, no rhyme or reason, and no real rules aside from no cussing on air (which we all called Carlin's Law) and you had to run a PSA every 15 minutes.

I managed to (mostly) adhere to rule one, thanks to a cheap buzzer I bought from Spencer's Gifts.  Yes, I would bleep myself.  Sometimes I'd do it just for the fun of it, to confuse all three of my devoted listeners as to what I could have possibly said in that context.

The PSAs were a different story.  The mass communications students always recorded a few each year on carts, neatly labelled with such scintillating titles as "Alcohol Kills," "Volunteering is Cool," and my personal favorite:  "Littering is Bad."  In theory, you could plug one of those bad boys in and MAYBE run up the three flights to the bathroom and back without too much dead air.

I was all about the whole PSA thing, but I found them a little dull.  So I created my own, improvising at the mic...and counting down the minutes until the phone rang with an apoplectic station manager on the other end of the line.

"Did you really just advocate underage drinking because freshmen can't have cars!?!?!?"

"I just said that letting the upperclassmen drink was a stupider idea because some of them can drive drunk.  We just wander around campus and take stupid pics doing obscene acts with the statues of the founders.."

"This is a dry campus!  And...just...stop, please."

Surprisingly, I found myself assistant station manager for the following three years.

My sophomore year, we went up to 100 watts.  Holding my FCC card in my hands came in third after getting my first library card and my voter registration card in order of importance, in knowing this was a key to something big.

The first was the music.  Suddenly, we were awash in demos and first albums.  We would hold staff meetings (an official way to describe 4 bottles of Boones Farm, a bag of Doritos, a cd player and endless manilla envelopes to be opened.  Usually held on the floor of someone's dorm room) to vet each cd.

We learned quickly.  Despite our commitment to listening to each album, bands with names like Sheep on Drugs or Insane Clown Possee usually lasted under a minute and got thrown into the "give away to someone who likes it" pile.  A little album called "August and Everything After" went into heavy rotation and I am not ashamed to admit that I slipped that in my bag when I did my final show.

I miss those days.  We were grungy.  We were experimental, as much as you can be at a Methodist college nine miles from the nearest town.  I think all of us felt a little like we were Christian Slater in 'Pump Up the Volume,' carving out our little space for our music, the songs that saved us, saying things behind the mic that we wouldn't in class or possibly even around our corner table in the cafeteria.

I went to Homecoming, eager to show my love the place where I had spent so many hours.  I wanted to show him the rickety building, the sound booth, the ancient turntables and the album collection where you could find a copy of "The Rainbow Connection" and play it late at night if you were lonely and sad and felt no one could hear but you and the flask of cheap whiskey you'd snuck in.

It was gone.

WEHC is now almost 1000 watts.  It broadcasts from a room slightly larger than two broomclosets shoved together.  There are no stairs to run to the bathroom.  There are no carts, no cassette tapes, no albums, no cds.

No random.  No chaos.

And it streams live.  When I get homesick, sometimes I'll fire up the computer and listen.  There is still good stuff there.

But I doubt I'll ever hear someone say "Littering is bad.  Did anyone really need to tell you that?  If they did, you're a *buzzzz* and that hateful goose at the duckpond is going to haunt you in your sleep.  So pick up your trash, you lazy *buzzz*  Now, up next we have our new favorite band and my new favorite song, "Anna Begins"..."

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
adoptedwriter
Feb. 19th, 2016 09:38 pm (UTC)
"Carlin's Law" That's a good one!


AW
kickthehobbit
Feb. 19th, 2016 09:44 pm (UTC)
This is a great take on the topic, and a wonderful story. Love it! :)
michikatinski
Feb. 19th, 2016 10:18 pm (UTC)
No chaos = no fun. I would have loved to hear you as a DJ. :)
a2zmom
Feb. 20th, 2016 12:02 am (UTC)
Great story. It really reminds me of the golden days of FM radio, when you never knew what you were going to hear, but you knew it was going to be great (and maybe change your life).
man_of_snows
Feb. 20th, 2016 01:58 am (UTC)
We would hold staff meetings (an official way to describe 4 bottles of Boones Farm, a bag of Doritos, a cd player and endless manilla envelopes to be opened.

Oh to have meetings like this again! Well, sans the bones
qwentoozla
Feb. 20th, 2016 08:58 am (UTC)
Ah, that sounds like fun times! Great story. :)
eternal_ot
Feb. 20th, 2016 12:35 pm (UTC)
Ah! The good old days.. reading this made me nostalgic. A nice read..:)
alycewilson
Feb. 20th, 2016 01:44 pm (UTC)
This brought back memories for me. I also worked at our campus radio station, which was a bit more organized than yours. In fact, we had an actual adult, paid by the university, as our station manager. He scornfully referred to most college stations as an "electronic sandbox." But my station aired in the wee hours of Friday night, and we had the station all to ourselves. One of our favorite tricks was to stand in the newsroom and do weird things to try to make the DJ laugh. Some people were also known to literally go out on the third-floor ledge and try to walk around the building. Those were the days!

And for the record (see what I did there?) I get that "I am the DJ reference."
rayaso
Feb. 20th, 2016 07:00 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this very much, especially "I am what I play. And if you listen to it long enough, you will be, too" in a kind of creepy mind control way. Playing all that music must have been fun, especially with no format so you could play what you wanted. Good use of the prompt.
porn_this_way
Feb. 21st, 2016 11:16 am (UTC)
"I just said that letting the upperclassmen drink was a stupider idea because some of them can drive drunk. We just wander around campus and take stupid pics doing obscene acts with the statues of the founders.."


LMAO. This logic is beautiful and perfect.
dmousey
Feb. 21st, 2016 03:01 pm (UTC)
Oh goodness- Boone's Farm, I laughed hard at that, and Carlin's law. Yep, good ole George tied them in knots. This was quite enjoyable! Thanks for writing! Peace~~~D
halfshellvenus
Feb. 22nd, 2016 02:57 am (UTC)
I miss my radio days too, though mine went on after college. I do remember the after-hours shifts (most of mine), where the bathroom was at least at the end of the hall... but you had to be careful not to lock yourself out of the station.

All streaming sounds like satellite service from some soulless place that has no purpose in live radio. :(
whipchick
Feb. 22nd, 2016 01:28 pm (UTC)
This is such a neat window into your past! I'm getting into podcasting, and there's a lot of it that still has that Wild West feeling. So cool to read this!
murielle
Feb. 22nd, 2016 06:44 pm (UTC)
This brings back a lot of memories! Though, my brief DJ experience was with LP's, 45's, and the occasional 78 (?).

A lovely walk down memory lane.
ellison
Feb. 22nd, 2016 07:00 pm (UTC)
I've never worked in a radio station, so this was extra cool to have a behind-the-scenes look into that. :) This reads like a novel, too, one I'd be happy to keep reading!! I love the flow of it all.
prog_schlock
Feb. 22nd, 2016 10:01 pm (UTC)
Ah, I was a college DJ at two different stations - a W station as an undergraduate and a K station as a graduate student. I loved being a dj so much - if I could have made a career of it, I would have. Alas, the career DJs don't have a whole lot of say in the music they play and I don't think I would have been able to stand playing Limp Bizkit even once. So much for that career.

Once, at my undergraduate station (slightly before my time) a DJ who was also studying science hooked up the station to the power lines and, for a few hours, it broadcast out over 500 miles. That's the greatest thing ever.

And, yeah, I still have my license somewhere. I miss those days!

This song was the Replacement's anthem about where you were most likely to hear their songs, but it was also sort of about us, too:

dee_aar2
Feb. 23rd, 2016 12:35 am (UTC)
DJ is replaced by RJ ( Radio Jockey ) here these days and I must say they provide a great relief while driving and battling city traffic. Loved this perspective ... Lovely read ... and yes welcome back :)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )