Saturday, September 1, 2007

WWSU, 4-Play (7" vinyl, 1987)

One word of warning about today's download: it's the first vinyl offering on this blog, and my turntable blows. There'll be a noticeable difference in the overall presence of the sound as compared to the cassette stuff you might've downloaded (like, compared to the cassette stuff, the vinyl will sound like it's coming through a one-speaker AM radio). [UPDATE 2-12-2013: ignore this.  I have a better turntable now.  This rip is much better.]  I'm planning on getting a new turntable some time in December. When that happens, I'll likely re-rip and re-up the vinyl links with better sounding files. But for now, the sound of vinyl will just have to suck. Anyway...

WWSU is Wright State's campus radio station. I worked there from early 1988 to late 1990. At that time it was (at least as far as I know) the only place in Dayton to hear anything approaching decent music on the radio (WOXY's signal didn't reach too far north of Beavercreek, and although WYSO had Jim Carter's "Around the Fringe" show, that station didn't play music consistently), which was probably the reason that so many people who were involved in local music worked there at one time or another. And why not? For people who ate, slept, and drank music in one way or another, it was Candyland. Here's why:

In addition to the main broadcast studio, they had a secondary studio for recording in-house PSAs, station IDs, news (real and fake), station IDs, whatever. It wasn't incredibly sophisticated, but it had a quarter-inch reel-to-reel, 8-channel mixer, a couple of turntables, microphones (beautiful old microphones that any sound engineer would give their right arm for today), etc. I used that studio to record tons of mix-tapes (two turntables made it easy to get that perfect, radio-style segue between cuts) and a few strange audio collages. But probably the most creative thing to come out of that studio was "Das Boot," which was Darryl Brandt and Matt DeWald just ranting over a generic industrial beat (I can't really describe it, but if I ever dig up a copy, I'll post it). They put it on a cart (that's short for "cartridge," which was a plastic box about the size of an 8-track tape with about 5-10 minutes of tape on a loop inside--you could set a cue-tone right at the beginning of whatever you had recorded so that when the DJ played it, he or she could get a precision start upon pushing the play button), and DJs would play it on their shows. It became a bit of a campus hit.

WWSU had an incredible library that included thousands of records, tapes, and CDs from obscure indie rock artists and most of the better major label releases (i.e. "alternative" when that term meant something). They had KILKENNY CATS, MASTERS OF REALITY, THE DAYLIGHTS, FOURWAYCROSS, and hundreds of other great bands I've never heard of anywhere else (not even on the web). They had original pressings of SCREECHING WEASEL's first two albums that included songs that were left off later versions. They had a HUSKER DU 12" single from Zen Arcade with that Husker symbol etched in the b-side, which I've never seen anywhere else. They had promotional singles with outtakes, live cuts, remixes. They had racks and racks of cassette-only releases. They had picture discs and colored vinyl. All together, that music library would probably fetch somewhere in the six-figures on ebay today.

New records came in the mail every fucking day! Just about everybody who worked there was pretty good about not stealing anything if it was the only copy. And although plenty of us copped duplicates and promo pieces (I got my share), it always seemed there was plenty to go around.

The artists and labels who sent music to college radio stations would take any kind of promotion they could get. This was true even for bands on major labels. So if you wanted to see a free show and meet the band afterward, all you had to do was call the artist's management and identify the radio station you were working for. I got into dozens of shows that way, including SOUNDGARDEN, CONCRETE BLONDE, VOIVOD, MISSION OF BURMA, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, THE DEAD MILKMEN, DINOSAUR JR., BOB MOULD, PETER MURPHY, D.I., THE REPLACEMENTS, SONIC YOUTH, LOVE AND ROCKETS, THE PIXIES, BILLY BRAGG, NINE INCH NAILS, and I almost always got to meet the band afterward (one notable exception being PETER MURPHY, who wouldn't even let us backstage -- asshole...).

WWSU used to sponsor "Alternative Tuesday" in the Rathskellar, which was a shitty campus eatery just down the hall in the old student union. The Imminent zine article I posted a couple weeks ago has a pretty fair description of the place: "[It] was so lame, it made the Rhine Room look like CBGB’s.... I looked about the place waiting for Marcia Brady to appear." But you could get Black Label there, so I guess it wasn't all bad (and I remember a four or five week period when Kattie Dougherty was addicted to their calzones). Every Tuesday night, some WWSU staff members (I remember Darryl Brandt and Matt DeWald DJing a lot, but there were many others) would clear the tables to make a big dance floor and haul some turntables and a PA down there. Before 1470-West (local gay bar) started doing a similar thing on Thursdays, this was the only place in the Miami Valley you could get alternative dance pop and industrial music in a club atmosphere. Sometimes they'd book a band instead of having a DJ. I saw DEMENTIA PRECOX, DANSE POSITIVE, and RED MATH there. Alternative Tuesday was also the site of the Alternative Fashion Show fiasco of 1988 (which I've been putting off blogging on in hopes of scrounging up some pictures, but if none turn up soon, I'll post the story without). Finally, I'm pretty sure Alternative Tuesday is where I first met Gail. It was just this great big party where you always knew someone interesting would show up -- in the middle of the week.

WWSU was incredibly supportive of local artists. Unlike all the commercial stations in town, who limited local artists to some lame-ass specialty show that lasted for thirty minutes once a month (and even then they usually played the forgettable variety of hard rock bands or top-40 wannabes -- believe it or not, commercial radio in the '80s was even more clueless than it is today), WWSU included locals in regular rotation. WWSU is where I first heard THE OBVIOUS, THE HIGHWAYMEN, and DEMENTIA PRECOX, and it's where I made a point of playing every local release I could get my hands on.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. At college stations, student management usually changes every academic year, and weak managers are subject to the will of whatever idiot staff "advisor" the college sees fit to place. About a year before I quit, Wright State hired just such an advisor. I don't remember her name, but she talked a lot about "paradigms" and "new models" and "the business of media" -- which pretty much translated to, "WWSU should have exactly the same programming that commercial stations have." Some time in the mid-'90s, they sold all the vinyl for about a tenth of what it was worth then (which is about a hundredth of what it would be worth today). Dave Graeter told me that Laura Pop-Tart bought every HUSKER DU record for a quarter each. Worst part is, I missed that sale, so I didn't get shit! Motherfucker...

Of course, some of the things that made the point of working at a college station have been made irrelevant today by consumer technology. Local bands can get better exposure on the web than any radio station could offer. Any decent rave or club plays the same music (or its present-day counterpart) and has fewer restrictions than Alternative Tuesday. No record collection anywhere at any time can match what's available through audio blogs, file sharing, and legitimate music download sites on the web. And any PC or Mac will give you production power that's as good as the average studio (even bands are recording entire albums on PC). But at the time, college radio stations like WWSU were a vital place for the music-obsessed.

This entry is only the first of two or three I'm planning on WWSU. Today I just wanted to talk about the station and why people who were dissatisfied with what the mainstream music industry was offering would congregate there. In subsequent posts, I'll be talking about some of the personalities that made WWSU such a great place to be. But enough words--let's get to the music.

For your downloading pleasure, I Remember Dayton presents Side One of a WWSU-produced 7" EP of local artists released in 1987. I'm only giving you Side One because that's the "modern rock" side. Until Spring Quarter of 1988, WWSU used to split its schedule into jazz during the day and modern rock at night (I think the switchover was 3 p.m.). Side Two is a couple of local jazz artists, and because this blog is called "I Remember Dayton PUNK and INDIE ROCK" (and because I just don't like jazz), I'm not going to the trouble of ripping that side.  UPDATE 2-4-2013: That's really kind of a stupid reason not to rip the whole thing, so when I did this re-rip, I got both sides.

Track List:

1. That Hope, "Space Boys in Love"
2. Pleasures Pale, "Lovely, Lovely"
3. Chain Link Fence, "A Sound Alternative"
4. The Blues Doctor, "No Midlife Crisis Blues"
5. Ocean, "East Coast Cruise"

Download it! (24 MB) (link re-upped on 2-4-2013)

UPDATE 2-4-2013:  In addition to the second side, this new package also contains scans of of the test pressing of this record.  It was also recorded on much better equipment than the old rip, so even if you have that package, consider downloading this one.

I know nothing about THAT HOPE, except that they hailed from Bloomington, Illinois.

Of PLEASURES PALE, for now I'll tell you that Luis Lerma played bass and that they were gigging around Dayton in 1987. I'll be posting their album some time in the next couple of weeks.

CHAIN LINK FENCE is from Boston. The cut is a brief promotional spot for the station (whose catch-phrase at the time was "WWSU, A Sound Alternative") recorded in the secondary studio.

I'm not wild about the design of the sticker (left) included with this record. To me it just screams "AM RADIO, 1974!" I much prefer the "alternative" logo the station adopted in '88 (right).

There's no date anywhere on the packaging, but this was out before I started working there. My impression is that this record came out early in 1987, though it might have been a year earlier.

The cover picture (by Ty Greenlees, who went on to a distinguished career with the Dayton Daily News) shows the WWSU main broadcast studio in 1987. Try to ignore the tacky wood panelling. Instead, check out the reel-to-reel on the left, the tube driven board and cart rack in the middle, and the dual turntable setup on the right. Go, analog technology! And what's missing? Look ma, no CD players! WWSU didn't get one until 1988.

From what I can tell, WWSU today is playing indie rock and other styles--everything from country to speed metal. It just depends on what DJ is on the air. Most of the time, it's pretty good stuff. I usually catch a good mix of indie rock contemporaries and classics. But occasionally, I'm wondering if the DJ is taking any prescription medication (like the other day when I heard the DOOBIE BROTHERS, followed by some speed metal act--what the fuck?). When there's no DJ, they're apparently automated, and it seems that the automation plays mostly contemporary indie rock. But this is all guesswork based on the few times I've tuned in over the past few months and from reading the WWSU Wikipedia entry (the pathetic WWSU web site is a marvel of brevity, containing no information about the station's programming or personnel -- and the listening link was broken last time I checked).

I like to think that WWSU is just as fun and interesting a place to work now as it was then. But honestly for music listening, I'm an XM satellite radio man now. Between Fungus 53 (punk channel) and XMU (newer indie rock channel), I hear far better music programming than any terrestrial radio station I know of. And if I'm feeling nostalgic for the old days, XM's channel Fred plays a mix that I would swear was ripped right from WWSU playlists circa 1989.

take care



Miss_K said...

GREAT post! Makes me all nostalgic for those halcyon days. :)

G said...

Noticed I posted this under the Toxic Reasons...damn sleep depravation.

I'd have to say the 7" was from 85 or 86 since I picked it up while I was still in high school. Amazingly I could get WWSU at my parents house and had started listening to it every chance I could.

I recall going to campus and asking for a copy at the studio and them looking at me like I was n idiot. I have a feeling I was the only non student who purchased a copy.

Ahhh, WWSU brings back great memories of my misspent youth.


Miss_K said...

Yes, we put out the single in the 85-86 school year ( I think it was winter quarter) because I went to Japan as a WSU exchange student during summer quarter '86 and took a bunch of the singles as gifts for my host families and friends.

Anonymous said...

The media advisor WSU placed around that time was named Karyn Campbell. Her office was in the school's newspaper, The Guardian, which was next door to WWSU. Karyn and I rarely saw eye to eye.

As for the big record sale they had back then, I do remember picking up an Elvis Hitler record just for "Green Haze." Probably paid a quarter for it.

Anonymous said...

Just to fill in one of the blanks...

I remember seeing That Hope at Canal Street tavern... bought their album at the show. "Eight Dollar Hat" (Karen Records, 1985) doesn't have "Space Boys in Love" on it. Their lineup was:
Dean Carlson: vocals
Scott Lucas: drums
George Ludwig: basses
Edwin Pierce: guitars

"Eight Dollar Hat" is somewhat Adrian Belewesque rock or, more locally, similar in sound to what The Visionaries used to do at the Night Owl.

JR said...

Do you still have this to post again?

jones said...

I re-upped this link today. It should work now.


jonnieb said...

If I remember correctly (and this may be a stretch, because I don't have a lot of brain cells left due to this) wasn't WWSU just down the hall from the Rathskeller? I spent way too much time in there during the school day.

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Anonymous said...

Nice recollections. I did record reviewing and DJing at WWSU during the late '80s and a summer DJ slot (under the name "Buck Naked") from midnight to 3 AM when there were probably literally zero listeners. Good to see Mike Taylor is still in the business.