11 April 2008

Mix Tape Friday: Left of the Dial (Side A)

A Love Song for College Radio: 1980–81

I’ve waxed nostalgically a time or eleven about my college radio days. It was one of the best times of my life. It was all about being young with no responsibilities, discovering new bands, going to a music club nearly every night of the week, dancing the days away, spending my days at the station instead of in class. Many of the records from my time there — 1980–81 — are still among my favorites. I was there at a good time — post-punk and new wave ruled our airwaves. I wish I could put in writing how thrilling it was the first time I dropped the needle on The Pretenders' debut album, or Roxy Music's cover of "In the Midnight Hour" (still my favorite Bryan Ferry song), or the first Psychedelic Furs album (we gave away a hot-pink — a psychedelic — faux fur coat).

Yes, a Side B is coming next Friday. Covering the college radio years of 1984–88, it’s Tenacious S' contest-winning mix tape! And it’s a groovy one, kids. We’ll cover 1982–83 later this spring; some amazing songs came out during those two years.

My college radio station was Georgia State University’s WRAS — 88.5 on your FM dial. Album 88 has long been considered one of the top college stations in the country, and is the only college station broadcasting on 100,000 watts. (Somewhere I have a mix tape that starts with R.E.M.’s Mike Mills’ congratulating WRAS on getting those 100,000 watts.)

Sadly, I never had a shift, never got to play deejay. I spent 1980–81 as the station’s public relations/public affairs director, coordinating giveaways (which means I was on the guest list at the Agora Ballroom and 688 Club every night of the week) and PSAs. I desperately wanted a shift … but I talk way too fast for radio … and when I slow down to a normal speed … well, I sound rather drawly. I did get my FCC license, though.

Today I finally get to be a WRAS jock. The record is paused at the quarter turn, ready to spin. And so I present 44 songs about 88.5.

The Jam :: That’s Entertainment!

The Clash :: The Magnificent Seven

The Pretenders :: Tattooed Love Boys

Talking Heads :: Once in a Lifetime

Graham Parker :: Endless Night

English Beat :: Tears of a Clown

Mission of Burma :: Academy Fight Song

The B-52’s :: Quiche Lorraine

Roxy Music :: In the Midnight Hour

Blondie :: Rapture

XTC :: Generals and Majors

Buzzcocks :: Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

Peter Gabriel :: I Don’t Remember

R.E.M. :: Radio Free Europe (original Hibtone single)

Soft Boys :: Queen of Eyes

Siouxsie & The Banshees :: Spellbound

Gang of Four :: What We All Want

Devo :: Girl U Want

The Replacements :: More Cigarettes

Dead Kennedys :: Holiday in Cambodia

Spizzenergi :: Where’s Captain Kirk?

Swimming Pool Q’s :: Rat Bait

The Specials :: Rat Race

X :: Los Angeles

10,000 Maniacs :: Groove Dub

Altered Images :: I Could Be Happy

Squeeze :: Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)

Rockpile :: Teacher Teacher

The Police :: Spirits in the Material World

Joy Division :: Love Will Tear Us Apart

Patti Smith Group :: Dancing Barefoot

Psychedelic Furs :: Imitation of Christ

Pylon :: Crazy

Wreckless Eric :: Broken Doll

Split Enz :: One Step Ahead

The Stranglers :: Golden Brown

Suicide :: Johnny Dance

Oh-OK :: Whore Boy

Young Marble Giants :: Salad Days

Elvis Costello & The Attractions :: New Amsterdam

Bill Nelson :: Do You Dream in Colour

Method Actors :: Rang-A-Tang

The Basics :: Sexual Object

The Thrills:: Hey! (Not Another Face in the Crowd)

The Ramones:: Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Who has time to right-click forty-four times? Grab the zip file instead. The zip file includes a bonus track: the most requested song from my WRAS days — “Sweet Transvestite.” Yeah, I know it came out in 1975 — but for some reason its popularity never waned with our listeners.

To keep today's tape at 44 for 88.5, I had to cut some great songs from my college radio era: Joe Jackson and The dB's ... Joan Armatrading's "Me Myself I" (the first free album I got at the station, with English Beat's I Just Can't Stop It!) ... Georgia's The Brains and The Producers ... maybe there's a part two that must be mixed.

Putting together this mix tape brought back some great concert memories: The B-52’s at the Agora Ballroom, Fred walking one of those invisible dog leashes during “Quiche Lorraine” … Talking Heads at Agora for their Remain in Light tour (and I could have partied with them until dawn, had I left my friends on the floor and gone to the VIP section as invited) … R.E.M. at 688, opening for Gang of Four … local bands like The Basics and Swimming Pool Q’s and The Method Actors. It was a fun time to be in Atlanta.

We had some great in-studio moments and interviews. My favorite? Split Enz performing in the studio. (Remember their groovy laser-etched vinyl for True Colors?) Is it worth bragging that The Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward held my hand the entire time he was in the studio promoting his solo album? Or is that as lame as my Eddie Money moment?

You know, it may be worth it to register for some classes and finally get that shift.

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At 4/11/2008 12:28:00 AM, Anonymous paul said...

I dig the English Beat. "Sooner or Later" is a great song I don't hear often enough.

At 4/11/2008 07:19:00 AM, Blogger Tenacious S said...

I had the feeling I'd see the Soft Boys on that list. Can't remember his name anymore, but I met a really cool guy from WRAS at the CMJ convention in NY and we wrote back and forth for a long time. But really, it was all about the fresh vinyl, the free shows and the friends. The tagline on my blog pretty much sums it up.

At 4/11/2008 10:18:00 AM, Blogger Grant Miller said...

This might be my favorite list.

At 4/11/2008 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Sean Wraight said...

Wow Beth this one really hits on all the cylinders! Very, very impressive. (You never cease to amaze...)

1981 seems like it was just yesterday. I remember seeing a band, in April of that year opening for the English Beat at the University... Hmmmm, what were they called? R.E.M. or something like that. (You may have heard of them.)

Thanks for the reminders Beth. You deserve a medal!

At 4/11/2008 11:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Justin Hayward held my hand, I'd certainly think it was something to brag about! :-)

At 4/11/2008 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

PAULIE: "Save It for Later" is brilliant, isn't it? I picked "Tears of a Clown" for this mix tape because it was the favorite song of my WRAS-era beau, so that song always transports me back to that time.

TENACIOUS S: I picked that particular Soft Boys song — and put it after the original "Radio Free Europe" because the guitar sound is so Peter Buck-ish. He's always been a Robyn Hitchcock fan (and now bandmate), and that song tells me why. I miss all the free records, I must admit.

GRANT MILLER: I work hard every week to impress you, so glad I did — and without a Malkmus tune!

SEAN WRAIGHT: You flatter me so! Aren't you glad we were around in those days? Such an exciting time for music.

SHY MOODY BLUES FAN: I was thrilled about it. Still am.

At 4/11/2008 01:17:00 PM, Blogger Allison said...

Downloading the zip as I type. I'm in for a weekend at uni and this list looks as though my ears will be happy as I attempt to learn. Cheers!

At 4/11/2008 04:57:00 PM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

As a child of the 80s I thank and salute you. Oh, and leaving one's friends to join the VIP room is always appropriate, at least where David Byrne is involved.

At 4/11/2008 06:15:00 PM, Blogger Barbara Bruederlin said...

Beautiful list - you are singing my life here, Beth.

And you absolutely must register for an Intro Sociology course or something, get down to that station, and show those kids how it's done.

At 4/11/2008 08:00:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Beth, you are truly one of the cool kids.

At 4/11/2008 09:00:00 PM, Anonymous filegod1 said...

I went from hanging out in the great rock clubs in Atlanta and Athens from 78 to 83, watching loads of live music, to living in a small town with no music scene, staying home nights raising a child and listening to Disney soundtracks. This music from my early 20's was lost to me for a long time. Thank you so much for re-introducing me to the music of my misspent youth. Now at 48 I find myself feeling the need to pogo and stay up late listening to the music of skinny boys with skinny ties. Well played Ms. Rampway 1981

At 4/11/2008 09:58:00 PM, Blogger Jay Schultz said...

You managed a remarkable transport back in time- great mix of popular and obscure (just like college radio!).
THANKS for the wayback machine!

At 4/11/2008 10:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I met David Byrne a couple of summers ago. Briefly. Backstage after a show up at our zoo ampitheater. I had given half of his backup string quartet a tour of the glass factory I represent and dropped them off just in time for their sound check. He's nice! A bit shy. I said some inane thing about thanks for playing my favorite Talking Heads song (without saying which one) and I totally spaced telling him about the Italian professor I had in college who had us translate Talking Heads lyrics on his quizzes. I think he might have liked that one!

At 4/11/2008 10:23:00 PM, Anonymous Glassmeow said...

Whoops - that was me!

At 4/12/2008 06:42:00 AM, Blogger lulu said...

ahhhh, the sounds of my misspent youth. Thank you!

At 4/12/2008 10:02:00 AM, Blogger wapentake said...

Stirring some great memories with these songs, Beth. "Original Hibtone single" - a mantra for R.E.M. fans?

Altered Images - Couple of weeks ago, I made our eldest watch "Gregory's Girl" - he loved it! Clare Grogan's finest acting hour.

Were The Specials on the maybe list?

At 4/12/2008 10:21:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Best tape ever.

At 4/12/2008 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Bubs said...

I think that, more than any other list you've done, this one hits the spot better for me. This is a near-perfect soundtrack for a certain time in my life. Brilliant.

Hey, did you hear the interview with REM on Fresh Air the other day?

At 4/12/2008 01:01:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

You're already an awesome dj here so there's no reason you wouldn't be excellent anywhere Beth. I'm looking forward to the Tenacious S mix too!

At 4/12/2008 02:48:00 PM, Blogger Erik Donald France said...

Man, this so rocks -- and brings back Atlanta visits in a flash -- my sister worked as archaeologist on MARTA projects -- got to check out 688 and Agorra Ballroom, really dug 688 in early 80s . . . Awesome!

At 4/12/2008 06:19:00 PM, Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

All prestige and the glory
Another human interest story
And you...are that

Wooo, I had my CDs of "One" and "Two" getting my through the rains of February.

I didn't know that the Furs existed before '82.

At 4/12/2008 11:09:00 PM, Blogger Moxie said...

Now that I've read Love is a Mix Tape I experience your Mix Tape Fridays as not just fun and informational but also worshipful and reverent...not sure if those are the right words, but they'll do for now. Gotta set up a new rotation for the MP3 player this weekend so a number of these tunes will make the playlist.

At 4/13/2008 12:27:00 AM, Blogger Artful Dodger said...

I hear by make the motion that we start you a internet radio site. It would be the best station in the world. You can have some of us as guest DJ's if you wanted too.

At 4/14/2008 02:08:00 PM, Blogger pistols at dawn said...

Very well done, miss. It brought back memories of my college rock days, which were decidedly less stellar. Here's to a time actually worth the nostalgia.

At 4/14/2008 04:55:00 PM, Blogger Mathdude said...

I think for the years 1980 and '81, all I listened to was Pink Floyd's The Wall. I'm not kidding - nothing else. In retrospect, I suppose I may have missed out on some good stuff.

At 4/15/2008 10:32:00 AM, Blogger Gifted Typist said...

Exquisite as usual. Your description of college radio dayz brings back memories of my college newspaper dayz. I had a Brian Adams moment!

At 4/15/2008 11:11:00 PM, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Funny how music can stir such memories. Another great list.


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