This is a collection of press clippings and e-mails, starting in October 2002, when Crap From The Past moved to its Friday night time slot.
Quick, which is more uptempo?
“Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2?
Or “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”?
“I Still Haven’t Found” sort of floats, wraith-like, through its four-and-a-half minutes. “Sunday” rocks. But their tempo is essentially the same, just under 101 BPM (beats per minute).
Ron Gerber’s “Between the Songs” is billed as “a step by step guide to creating radio magic,” specifically putting on a specialty show like his syndicated “Crap From the Past,” based at KFAI Minneapolis. It has a lot for music junkies as well. And my eye went immediately to one of the book’s appendices.
That’s where Gerber catalogs hundreds of songs — some enduring hits, many forgotten ones on the order of “Cross My Broken Heart” by the Jets — by their BPM count. The results may not surprise anybody who mixes for a living, but if you don’t happen to know these from memory, it’s a reminder when coding music that energy is much more than tempo. And why there are often such seeming inconsistencies in the coding of music databases.
Are Def Leppard’s loping “Hysteria,” Blondie’s bouncier “Rapture,” and Bell Biv Devoe’s more kinetic “Do Me” really all the same 107 BPM? How then is J.D. Souther’s mournful “You’re Only Lonely” 107 BPM as well? Are Billy Joel’s “Allentown” and Animotion’s “Obsession” really both 117 BPM? Are Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” really the same BPM (118)?
When I first looked at music coding inconsistencies, a number of readers chimed in, including Randy Michaels, who noted that “timbre is subjective. Tempo is not.” Tempo is indeed empirical, but it leads to situations where right is just as wrong as wrong.
When in Rome’s “The Promise” is 118 BPM, but so is Prince’s much hotter sounding “1999.” I would have no problem following the former with “1999” or “Hot Blooded,” even though they’re all likely 4s on a 1-5 scale. Following “The Promise” with a true mid-tempo would feel dreary, unless it was disproportionately high-energy, like Kris Kross’ “Jump,” which is only 102 BPM, but so busy that its opening scratching effect would feel abrupt without a splitter between the two songs.
Beyond timbre, there’s also the less empirical question of bounciness. “Believer” by Imagine Dragons is 62 BPM, one of the slowest songs on any station; it’s no faster than the ethereal R&B hit “Caroline” by Amine. But “Believer” is one of the songs giving CHR/Adult Top 40 radio badly needed energy right now. And it’s not just timbre, because there are a lot of slow-but-densely-produced songs with no bounce on the radio that just sound sludgy now.
To give an idea of the tempo continuum, here’s just a sampling of familiar Classic Hits titles arranged in order of BPM. Some rounding off of Gerber’s numbers takes place here. Also, when there’s a range of tempos, what I’ve used is usually the opening BPM number.
Knowing that “You’re the One That I Want” is the fastest song typically heard on a Classic Hits station raises another issue. Radio stations don’t always do the work to maximize songs on the air. For all its tempo and energy, the rumbly low intro of the “Grease” hit is rarely loud enough on the radio. And that’s why playing the fastest song on the station sometimes feels like slowing down.
Gerber is a longtime friend of the “Ross On Radio” column, having devoted at least two shows to topics covered here. If you’re in Minnneapolis for the Conclave next month, the show airs at 10:30 CT Friday night. Or you can stream an archived show here.
Everyone loves a great mystery, except for the kids who used to peek in the back of their Encyclopedia Brown books. The unsolved mystery of the 1979 Billboard single “Ready ’N’ Steady” may never have garnered the interest of a trench coat-clad Robert Stack (or whatever Nicolas Cage’s name is in those National Treasure movies). Still, its existence—or rather lack thereof—confounded record collectors for over 36 years, but today, consider that mystery solved.
In 1979, “Ready ’N’ Steady” by D.A. was No. 102 with a bullet for four weeks on the Billboard charts. However, it seemed nobody had actually heard this phantom song. Enter Joel Whitburn, a music author who has written numerous books chock full of Billboard chart trivia and has been on the case for years. In 1995, he proposed that it was a punk group from Chicago that was behind the tune, before finally pronouncing that the song must be a fake. (There was in fact an all-girl punk act—using the DA! Moniker— active in the Windy City at the time, but they have stated that they did not record ”Ready ’N’ Steady.”) Even the label Rascal Records appeared to have never existed, with its address leading to one of many abandoned houses in Detroit. “Ready ’N’ Steady” had a Rascal catalog number of 102, implying that there was a 101 release that also could not be tracked down.
With access to the internet and so many people that collect vinyl, surely if this record existed, there would be some information out there about it—even if it was simply one of the singers still trying to pick up girls on Facebook with their tale of being on the Billboard “Bubbling Under The Hot 100” for four weeks. (This writer had a similar experience tracking down the background on the Fabulous Fontaines as featured on the Fright Night soundtrack).
The question remained, why would someone fake the existence of a song? Massive government conspiracy? Did it come from an alternate universe like the other Berenstain Bears? Maybe it was aliens? According to Mix 93.1, the Lost Media Wiki finally had an answer. The artists of the song turned out to be Dennis Armand “D.A.” Lucchesi (1945-2005), a California-based mortgage broker and amateur musician, and Jim Franks. Franks is still alive, and willingly gave Paul Haney (on behalf of Whitburn) a recording of the song. It was played on July 8, 2016, on the Crap From The Past radio show on KFAI in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.
The song was only recorded to tape and never pressed to vinyl, and possibly never even got played on the radio until Haney appeared on Crap From The Past in 2016. According to Haney, “Ready ’N’ Steady,” along with “three or four other songs,” was recorded in 1979 after a major label representative witnessed the band played live. He offered the band studio time and promised that he would help the band get a song on the Billboard charts,” which he did. Adding to the “Raiders Of The Lost Record-ness” of the situation, Rascal Records was named after the publicist’s dog.
So a song that may have never received airplay made its way to the Billboard charts. Ah, the glory days of payola.
To finally hear the song is what it must have felt like for Belloq to open up the Ark Of The Covenant just to find dirt. Obviously not performed by an all-girl punk band, “Ready ’N’ Steady” riffs on a familiar rock ’n’ roll chord progression in the key of D that recalls Ringo Starr’s “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine).” For better or worse, nobody’s face is going to melt after hearing this one.
Shortly before 9 a.m. one day last week, moderators for the nationally syndicated radio program “Democracy Now” were talking to a writer for Rolling Stone magazine about recent events in Syria and the Middle East. Hosts of upcoming local programs were trickling in to set up in one of the studios in KFAI Radio’s warren of small rooms above a coffee shop on the West Bank. Coming up would be a news show about the black community, some punk rock, then an hour of Latin music.
But first, a word from our sponsors, please.
It was membership week at KFAI, which needed a good haul of donations more than ever. The 37-year-old community station is nearly $100,000 in debt and facing some tough decisions in order to survive in a world where global radio stations are just a click away on the Internet.
On any given day, you can punch up KFAI (90.3 in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul) and hear everything from Eritrean community news to “Balkan Jamboree” to “Crap From the Past.” It’s the station that has a little something for everyone, but quite a bit of nothing for others.
That’s the beauty, as well as the problem, for KFAI, which means it’s inevitable that it must change, probably a lot, in order to remain on the air.
KFAI has long lived off the notion that it’s “a different radio station every hour, but that’s not really a good thing in the radio world,” said Ron Thums, interim general manager. “The ‘P’ word — predictable — is considered anathema at KFAI. But it’s a matter of habit that if you find something you love at a certain time on Tuesday, you want to find that again on Thursday.”
Added Thums: “It’s not that radio is dying; it’s not. The magic of radio is still there, and it touches us in a primal way.”
Bill Cottman started out by sitting in during his mother-in-law Patricia Edwards Walton’s “Mostly Jazz” show in 1996 and became host when she died in 2003. He has since shared hosting duties for the Saturday morning show at times with his daughter and granddaughter — it’s that kind of place.
Few listeners are as dedicated as Cottman, but he acknowledges the dizzying array of niche programs is a marketing challenge.
“We’re a station you are not going to like half the time,” Cottman said. “It’s hard to put that on a T-shirt.”
It seems change is inevitable. The station has been a bit of a miracle for many years, running 87 programs per week with the sole determination of more than 400 volunteers.
Patti Walsh, president of the board of directors for KFAI, said those volunteers form the base of her optimism. Walsh started volunteering in 1986 and has “seen it all.”
“The spirit here has always been a little scrappy,” said Walsh. “Our challenge has been to market our diversity.”
Thums said those principles of inclusion, diversity and a healthy skepticism toward mainstream everything “makes room for a cast of characters.”
Some of them think that “to run a deficit is not as problematic” as it really is, and they harbor a sentimentality about running on fumes. Yet Thums marvels at people who will show up to work for free, sometimes for years.
KFAI is searching for a new general manager and a program director, and all of the new ideas that might bring. When they are on board, “the schedule will be reassessed,” Thums said.
“If you want to see conservatives in action, try implementing change at a progressive organization” said Thums. “It is absolutely guaranteed that some people will not be happy. People are always unhappy with change, so it’s hard to imagine that any change coming will not upset people.”
The station has already trimmed the full-time staff from six to four. “We’ve cut as much as we can cut,” said Thums. “We are running right at the ragged edge.”
He said several things have conspired to make the budget more difficult to meet the past year or so. The recent recession made underwriting harder to secure. Competition has increased, and the availability of alternative news sources online has increased.
“The Internet has been a double-edged sword,” said Thums.
The tight times have motivated some listeners, especially from the African communities that value KFAI’s African public-affairs programming, which has become among the station’s most popular.
A couple of weeks ago, hosts for the Oromo and Ethiopian programs led pledge drives that caused some dedicated listeners to drive down to the station with cash. In four hours, they had 60 pledges, Thums said.
Thums and Walsh were uplifted this week as the results of the membership drive were tallied. They made $85,000, and 1,000 new members, despite the gloom and doom rumors.
But more expenses loom: They need new audio equipment, which will run close to $100,000.
There is a middle ground between Bohemian poverty chic and becoming too corporate or mainstream, they say.
“It’s not like we have to sell ourselves out,” said Thums, who added: “It’s easier to celebrate the number of years somebody has been on air than it is to ask whether a program has served its purpose or if it’s time to freshen it up. ”
Asked what makes KFAI special, Cottman talked about seeing young people walk in the front door with a CD of music they want to air.
“You might have a 50 percent chance someone will listen to you, and maybe 25 percent chance to get your idea or music on the air,” Cottman said. Yet, “if we don’t make some radical changes, I’m very pessimistic. If we make radical changes, we stand a chance.”
The recent passing of Leigh Kamman served as a poignant reminder of how much a single voice sharing what he singularly loves over the radio can mean to so many. He wasn't the only one.
To be sure, we live in a time of rare airwaves in the Twin Cities, where the abundance of riches on the music dial is regularly augmented by a bevy of independent voices, personalities that can be heard blowing past the predictable talk radio dross and programmed music backwash of the day and toward a real connection with listeners via ye olde standbys of great radio, taste and true personality.
As an avid radio listener/dial puncher, I'm an avowed fan of the deejay as artist; the type of obsessive who creates his or her own playlists — you can just hear it; the kind where it's clear that the set is being guided not by the evil empire but by a lot of care, thought, experience, improvisation, and a vast personal record collection. On this end, it makes for a truly intimate listen (which is why my favorite radio show on the planet is the syndicated UnderCurrents).
For all of us lucky enough to live within earshot of the Twin Cities, it turns out there's good reason to tune into one specialty show or another every day of the week. Here's my totally subjective guide:
THURSDAY - Brad Wrolstad and George "Jojo" Ndege - "African Rhythms" (noon-2 p.m., KFAI) - An erudite melange of reggae, folk, and roots-rock that, on many an afternoon, finds the experts and expat Africans riffing on headlines and music from Nigeria, Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya and more. Always topical and timely, recent shows have included a special on the 40-year-old anniversary of Bob Marley's seminal "Natty Dread" album, the genius of Salif Keita, and a tribute to local Afrobeat hero Tony Allen.
THURSDAY - Jake Rudh - "Transmission" (10-11 p.m., The Current) - Arguably the most versatile deejay in town, Rudh first made his name as the dance-floor dynamo behind the magical Transmission dance night series at Club Jager and First Avenue. He stretches out sweetly in this one-hour slot, peppered as it is with songwriters, indie rockers, and heart-and-soul rarities that make for some of the best night-driving soundtracks I've ever had the pleasure of losing my mind to.
FRIDAY - Mary and Aaron - "Off The Record" (3-6 p.m., Radio K) - I always say there's nothing quite like hearing a friend's band or song on the radio, and to that end, we're in high clover these days. Local music has never enjoyed a bigger presence on the airwaves (or, most prominently, on the web, at the 24-7 wonder that is Local Current). This is one of the original local music shows, originating in part from the Kevin Cole-, Peter Jesperson-, and Roy Freedom-led "Real Rock & Roll Radio" show of the early '80s on KUOM. Like that pioneer, this three-hour tour of all things Gopher State flies by the seat of its pants with interviews, oddities, in-studio performances and loose and lively college radio the-way-it-oughta-be — straight outta Rarig Hall.
FRIDAY - Lolly Obeda - "The Sugar Shop" (4-6 p.m., KFAI) - All hail the queen of the blues. For more than 25 years, Obeda's cheerful, loving, and supremely heartfelt voice has provided a beautiful balm to the end of the working week. How many times have I cooked dinner or run errands to the sounds of Lolly's vintage vinyl picks, encyclopedic blues expertise, and charming guest cameo spots from her daughter, Miss Lily? Not enough, that's how many. Long may she and this under-recognized labor of love run.
FRIDAY - Kevin Barnes - "Bluesville" (9-11 p.m., KBEM) - As close as the twin towns will get to the earthy vibe of Undercurrents or the everyday miracle that is KUMD in Duluth, "Bluesville" finds the amiable Barnes playing what he obviously loves and whatever he wants, from classic R&B and blues to all-but forgotten blues-based indie rock. Worth going fetal to on a Friday night, alone or with someone you love.
FRIDAY - Mary Lucia - "Rock and Roll Radio" (10-11 p.m., The Current) - All hail the queen of the rawk. The wildly beloved Monday-Friday voice of the Current's afternoon airwaves is always inviting, real, sharp, and funny as hell, but this one-hour blast is pure Lucia Unchained. Roaring guitars, screaming dudes, insane energy, glammy hand-claps, and Looch's passion for rock history past and present make the 60 minutes fly by, to the point where, come 11 o'clock, you want to flick your Bic and beg for more. All in all, the perfect soundtrack for gearing up to go out on the city that rocks.
FRIDAY - Ron Gerber - "Crap From The Past" (10:30-midnight, KFAI) - Here it must be said that all the deejays and stations featured in this guide are bravely engaging in what can only be heard as some seriously sly acts of subversion. In an otherwise namby-pamby media environment — where too much local news takes too few chances or expresses any sense of risk-taking or originality — these anti-talking heads up the establishment on a regular basis by filling the airwaves with revolutionary ideas you can sing along to. Gerber's is among the weirdest trips going; I always imagine an R. Crumb character come to life, rifling through his dungeon in the middle of the night in search of something from the archives that speaks to him, only him. And as the night descends late Friday nights, I sometimes wonder if there's a more bizarre show to be found on the radio dial anywhere.
SATURDAY - Jacqui Fuller - "Teenage Kicks" (8–10 a.m., The Current) - Like a shot of spiked espresso or a continuation of her rock and roll soul-sister Mary Lucia's Friday night delights, Fuller rips it up with punk, pop, new wave, and an endless loop of, "Did I really just hear the Jam's 'Town Called Malice' and The Damned's 'Neat Neat Neat' blasting forth amidst the farm and weather reports?" Yes, please. Highly recommended for hung-over sports parents with good earbuds and bad sideline social skills.
SATURDAY - Ken Hippler - "Good 'N' Country" (4-6 p.m., KFAI) - Always an education, this hardcore honky-tonk salute is the ideal shotgun-riding partner for a lazy Saturday afternoon of running errands, record/thrift store shopping, or chores. Warning: The fiddles, crooners, harmonicas, and pedal steel guitars come out of the dashboard like a modern-day reincarnation of Hank Williams' Health & Happiness Show, and Hippler's penchant for playing songs you've never heard before and know you'll never hear again can stop time, along with any well-laid raking plans.
SATURDAY - Paul Metsa - "Wall Of Power" (6-7 p.m., AM 950 KTNF, replay Sunday at noon) - Metsa is a great storyteller and listener, and his experience as one of our most–traveled troubadours lends weight to his interviews and off-the-cuff asides. The last two shows have featured a lengthy chat with Shawn Phillips, and a trip to Rich Mattson's Sparta Sound studios. Good stuff, all fueled by Iron Range native Metsa's seemingly infinite curiosity and boundless love for Minnesota.
SATURDAY - Arne Fogel - "The Bing Shift" (7-8 p.m., KBEM) - Sandwiched between the wonderful "Sinatra & Friends" and "The Big Band Scene," Fogel's weekly tribute to Bing Crosby (or, as he regularly refers to the Binger, "the most popular recording artist in American history") is not to be missed. Stories and songs blend as one, as the mellifluously voiced Fogel, who moonlights as a nightclub torch singer and band leader, creates one of the most romantic date nights-slash-classrooms of the week. (Catch it while you can, as the "Shift" shifts to Sundays next month.)
SATURDAY - David Campbell - "Radio Free Current" (7-10 p.m., The Current) - Speaking of romantic, dude-about-town Campbell's sexy/friendly voice is especially chill during this ever-effervescent dose of freedom rock. (Here it must be noted that I miss Cities 97's Brian Oake's playlists and philosophical musings on his old Sunday night staple, "Freedom Rock," recently shelved due to Oake's move to the morning shift). Campbell is similarly attuned to his hungry club-crawling audience, playing requests and personal faves, and the fun he's having spinning for pals and strangers alike is obvious. When he's in his groove, the show positively crackles and brings the town together.
SATURDAY - Simon Husbands - "True Brit!" (midnight-2:00 a.m., KFAI) - Husbands is a storyteller, songwriter, musician, and native of the UK's Nottingham. Like his hometown's hero Robin Hood, every week he leads his band of merry people by chatting pop and politics with fellow British expats and spinning tunes from the motherland. This summer's pre-World Cup highlight was the debut of "The Footy Song (One For All For England)," a parody of British drinking songs that deserves widespread play across the pond.
SUNDAY - Bill DeVille - "United States Of Americana" (8-10 a.m., The Current) - Church is in session at this ungodly hour of the morning, as the affable DeVille takes to his record collection in what amounts to bringing to life an issue of No Depression or the Oxford American's music issue. Nowhere else around these parts can you hear the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young chewing tobacco with the likes of Erik Koskinen, Uncle Tupelo, Merle Haggard, Lucinda Williams, and other dashboard saviors, and great care is obviously taken in both song choices and segues. DeVille recently attended the influential Americana Music Festival and Conference in Nashville, and to hear the low-burn excitement in his voice as he spun new finds upon his return made for some truly enlightening radio, and undoubtedly inspired a multitude of trips to the record store.
SUNDAY - John Allen and Mara The Death - "Root Of All Evil" (1-6 a.m., KFAI) - Any God-fearing listener stumbling upon this metal mainstay (launched in 1987 by the late, great Earl Root) in the middle of the night might well be convinced that they've tuned into the decline of western civilization and/or hell on earth. The sounds are brutal, the songs Satanic, and the fact that it goes for five uninterrupted hours gives me faith in the cathartic power of guitars turned up to 11 and the dark side of community radio.
SUNDAY - David Campbell - "The Local Show" (6-8 p.m., The Current) - Campbell picks up where former host and show founder Chris Roberts left off a few years ago, and this two-hour party remains the town's most essential radio resource for anyone interested in staying up to date on the vast and wiggly homegrown music scene. Campbell's love for his homies comes through in interviews and theme shows, and provides a symbiotic lead-up to Jason Nagel's kindred-spirited "MN Music" show later the same night (9-10 p.m., KTWIN).
MONDAY - Pete Lee - "Bop Street" (4-6:30 p.m., KFAI) - Lee possesses one of the most upbeat voices in radio, and his deep knowledge and love for songwriters, big bands, R&B, blues, and whatever else tickles his fancy on any given Monday afternoon is positively infectious. So much so that even former Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten once wrote that Lee's show "may be the most innovative show in Minnesota." Praise the Lord, I hope she's still listening.
TUESDAY - DJ Izzy and Liberty Finch - "The Pop Shop" (midnight-2 a.m., KFAI) - Two hours of wholly unironic love for '60s and '70s bubblegum, glam, funk, rock, psychedelia, and whitebread singer/songwriters make up this reliably entertaining slice of massive cheesy fun. Whenever these two pop culture vultures dive into their 45s from the Beatles, Monkees, Kinks, Archies, Cowsills and obscure would-be AM radio hits, you'd swear you were just Time-Tunneled back to one of Elvis's clambakes or an Austin Powers movie set on the West Bank.
TUESDAY - Cyn Collins - "Spin With Cyn" (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., KFAI) - Another true flame-keeper of the Twin Cities scene, Collins rocks hard with mostly local playlists, and her passion for oral history and radio documentary-making (check out her early Minneapolis rock doc here) informs each show. As a genuinely interested journalist and music fan, she asks good questions and shines a light on the little-heards and up-and-comers of the underground punk, rock, blues, and folk scenes.
TUESDAY - Ellen Stanley - "Womenfolk" (2-4 p.m., KFAI) - The title says it all. Musician/songwriter/publicist Stanley's show is one of my weekly won't-miss staples, focusing as it does on acoustic/folk music by female singer/songwriters. I always hear something new, old, and inspiring, from the likes of Jillian Rae, Eliza Gilkyson, Iris DeMent, Lucy Michelle, Rosanne Cash, the Roches, Danille Ate The Sandwich, and many more. Stanley — aka Mother Banjo if you're nasty — knows her stuff, is well-connected to the various folk scenes, labels, and women's music festivals around the country, and she's passionate about sharing her knowledge, a gift that is taken for granted at our peril.
WEDNESDAY - Jackson Buck - "Freewheelin'" (2-4 p.m., KFAI) - One of the biggest champions of homegrown music around, Buck's easygoing nature flows out of the speakers and into the heart of the local music community. His show, dedicated to roots music of all stripes, from Americana to blues to zydeco, is a treasure, a gem, a midweek shot of midday love, and a tireless public service announcement that often highlights the best of the week's live music docket.
WEDNESDAY - Grandpa Joe - "Basement Vinyls" (8-10 p.m., Radio K) - Speaking of a vast personal record collection, this warm and wacky 120 minutes is like hanging out with a favorite record hound who holds court and plays whatever timeless, true, or kitschy blast from the past he likes. The uncompressed sound of needle on vinyl is particularly transporting, though — as any vinyl junkie can attest — a two-hour set barely scratches the surface of what can be had during a good record-bin bender, so "Basement Vinyls" can work as a delicious appetizer to your own all-night feast.
There are about 4 million songs on Spotify - 20 percent of the app's entire catalogue of music - with zero listens. No one has ever clicked "Play" on them, even once. Forgotify will pick one of them and play it for you, turning you into a very special unique snowflake of musical knowledge.
Although you're going to find a lot of pretty rough tracks this way, there's a certain appeal in clicking play on something that, in Spotify's world, was before neglected. And as Techcrunch notes, it will almost certainly never be played again once Forgotify finds it and sends it your way. A brief tour through a sampling of Forgotify's finds picked up movements of Beethoven, Stravinsky and Purcell; a track off of a best-of-album from Indian pop and jazz singer Usha Uthup; multiple vacation-themed albums that were not by Jimmy Buffett; a bongo drum instruction book; and a sound effects track for a sea lion. Clicking through brings you to the entire album, meaning that Forgotify users can either stay awhile with their new find, or move on to an entirely new thing.
This will not appeal to everyone. But Forgotify shares a resonance with the strange finds available for years on WFMU's Beware of the Blog, (like this year-in-review from Kellogg's, 1971), from Crap From the Past, or the random collection of strange songs on April Winchell's site. Forgotify's collection is a little more limited than some of these finds - Spotify's collection contains music that, after all, was digitized by someone on purpose, presumably because they believed someone would want to hear it.
Hacker News seems to be an early Forgotify adopter, so much so that the site apparently briefly overloaded with demand.. Users there note that among the strange finds are a few less exciting tracks, like the 100 songs per day uploaded by Matt Farley, who floods the zone on the theory that he gets a little bit of money each time someone clicks play on one of them. ("On the Media's" TLDR recently profiled him here).
Forgotify is kind of the anti-Pandora. Instead of trying to guess what you'll like, Forgotify gives you something you probably won't. And that's exactly what makes it interesting.
"We should say hello to all the people in the future." -- Ryan Smith of power pop band the Melismatics, upon learning that his appearance on KFAI Minneapolis' "Crap From The Past" was being archived.
J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers, "Last Kiss"
Because it's been multiply remade and reissued, several readers cited different versions. [KMXZ Tucson, Ariz., PD/morning man Bobby] Rich named both the original and the Pearl Jam remake. KFAI Minneapolis "Crap From The Past" host Ron Gerber cites the whole mid-'70s boom in morbid novelties and/or story songs, which included Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' "Billy Don't Be A Hero," Henry Gross' "Shannon," and a cover of "Last Kiss" by Wednesday. That Canadian act also covered the similarly-themed "Teen Angel," leading Gerber to comment, "one can only wonder what their live shows were like." And Melinda Newman skips past even the Pearl Jam version of "Last Kiss" to go for "Better Man" (which seemed kinda perky after "Daughter," "Jeremy," and "Black," actually).
"Crap From The Past" 20th Anniversary Show -- KFAI Minneapolis Friday night host Ron Gerber gets a lot of shout-outs here. He gets one more this week for celebrating the show's anniversary with 131 vintage spots from 1982-92 as heard on "American Top 40" and kicking off with the Budweiser and "Snickers satisfies" ads that sounded like Huey Lewis.
The long-standing KFAI-FM radio show Crap From the Past marks its 20th anniversary tonight from 10:30 p.m. to midnight.
If you're wondering, what's Crap From the Past? It's a weekly musical exhibition curated by Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber. He dubs it "a graduate level course in pop."
Since 1992, Crap From the Past (CFTP) has enlightened rock PhD's with deep cuts, demos, obscurities, and just plain weird stuff from the '70s and '80s. Occasional dips into the first two and last two decades of pop. Some bands and artists are complete unknowns, some are legends identified by one or more hits, but the hits aren't what you're going to hear -- at least, not the versions you know.
The original demo of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" without the cowbell? Ron's played it. The wretched 1982 version of Whitesnake's 1987 hit "Here I Go Again" without Tawny Kitaen? Check. The first release of Huey Lewis and the News' "Heart and Soul" without Huey Lewis and the News? Check, please.
Exile's original "Heart and Soul" was part of a CFTP episode entitled "Gosh! I didn't know that was a remake!" This is one of many themes that Gerber, whose giddy on-air persona evokes the animated sitcom audio clips he weaves between songs. Others include "Not The Beatles," "Woefully Inappropriate Love Songs," and "Badly mixed sister from outer space is simply gonna step on you again." To find out what these and other titles mean, you can stream every episode from the past 20 years on the archive page of the CFTP website.
The show's title should not be a mystery even to those tuning in for the first time, because this meister happily spins everything from the brilliant to the bilious. Gerber says: "The criterion I use on whether I like something or not is, am I gonna want to listen to this record in five years? 80 percent of pop music is garbage, 10 percent is wonderful and 10 percent is so bad I have to use it!"
Though many of Ron's godawful selections -- including "The Godawful Medley of the Week," one of several semi-regular features of the show -- have been challenging, none has surpassed the horror of "Dear Mr Jesus" by Christian band PowerSource. Says Ron: "It's so repulsive in that it takes the point of view of an abused child singing to Jesus asking to save our children. Funny thing is, when it came in 1986, it got a ton of airplay around Christmas!"
As for this Friday's unofficial holiday, Gerber is not revealing what he has spent over 120 hours editing -- except that "if you were listening to pop radio from '82 to '92, this will be near and dear to you." Rest assured it will be a staggering display of the sublime and the sickening. Let's just hope he doesn't give us another taste of "Dear Mr. Jesus."
Tune in tonight to KFAI-FM 90.3 Minneapolis/106.7 St. Paul at 10:30 pm.
Kylie Minogue, "Love At First Sight"
It managed some brief chart success at the time on the coattails of "Can't Get You Out Of My Head." "Crap From The Past" host Ron Gerber writes, "If it had come out today, it would have fit right it with the current turbo-pop sound. On the other hand, it wouldn't have stood out at all." Gerber's list also includes the Stabilizers' 1987 "One Simple Thing," (which had some life as a secret weapon record into the early '90s), the Primitives' "Crash" (which was reissued and part of the "Dumb And Dumber" soundtrack, but still couldn't break through), Shuggie Otis' original version of "Strawberry Letter 23," and the Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" (see "Dancing With Myself").
John Hall Band, "You Sure Fooled Me"
It started when a listener to Ron Gerber's "Crap From The Past" on KFAI Minneapolis sent a clip from an aircheck of WLOL Minneapolis mislabeled as 1981, trying to figure out what this song was. It was actually from a year later and it took five aircheck/music junkies about 18 hours before regular ROR contributor Chris Granozio finally sorted it out. The former Orleans leader and two term New York congressman was a favorite of WLOL consultant Paul Christy, who played other obscurities of his on sister WABX Detroit as well. Think of Orleans' "Dance With Me," "Still The One," and "Love Takes Time," then check out this one from that early '80s period where even soft rock guys were listening to the Cars (and "Bette Davis Eyes") on their own time.
Rebecca Black, "Friday" into Simple Minds, "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
KFAI Minneapolis' Ron Gerber does a special beat-matched edition of his "Crap from the Past" and somehow the two songs fit perfectly together. "Future Hit.DNA" author Jay Frank had pointed out at the height of Black's recent infamy that "Friday," whatever one thought of it, still had the timbre and structure of a hit song - including a "walking beat" that set it apart from today's more frenetic hits. But who knew that the hole "Friday" was filling was for a record that sounded like "Don't You (Forget About Me)"? The same show, incidentally, also included L'Trimm's "Cars With The Boom" segued into Rainbow's "Since You've Been Gone."
"Whether old or new, still one of the most gracious, informative and simply useful talk that any music station personality is hired to perform [is identifying music]. For any radio station to lose this basic element, we surrender one of our purposes and most valuable services. Old school? Yes! The truth is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow." - Henry Nelson, PD, Urban AC WRBO (Soul Classics 103.5) Memphis
"During my radio promotion career in the '80s and '90s, I was constantly being told by pop programmers, 'This could be a hit if only you could get to the hook faster.' I made a cottage industry at Warner Bros. out of editing intros, instrumental breaks, and even lengthy first verses. [Perhaps] the current trend toward cold intros is a further extension of that." - Barney Kilpatrick, Rockit Artist Management
"The record industry has started to notice the demands of an attention-deficit generation. I can't imagine too many 18-24-year-olds sitting through a song on their iPod that gives them nothing to vibe to within the first :05-:08 seconds." - Chris "C.J." Malone, PD, Urban AC WQOX Memphis
"Thankfully, the intro is still alive and well in Triple-A and indie pop/rock. Of the songs I added this week, the shortest intro was :10. Foo Fighters' 'Rope' has an exceptional :30 intro and Radiohead's 'Lotus Flower' comes in at :23. As local content starts to become more important to stations competing with expanding alternatives, I think the intro will start to matter again." - Frank Mueller, OM, KUNV/KUNV-HD-2 Las Vegas
"When I was a DJ at WOKW (OK100) [Ithaca, N.Y.], back in the late '80s, I recall a couple of weeks when all our hot rotation songs were nearly impossible to talk up due to short or non-existent intros-'Red Red Wine,' 'Kokomo,' [Terence Trent D'Arby's] 'Dance Little Sister,' [Eddie Money's] 'Walk On Water,' and [Europe's] 'Superstitious.' Even Bobby McFerrin wasn't a comfortable talk over record. Just a few months later, there was a bevy of super-long intros, each of which one of my ambitious colleagues was determined to post, the most ridiculous being 'Downtown' by One 2 Many. He would do weather, concert calendars, and even promo reads just to hit the 1:04 post. He managed the same, to a lesser degree, over Guns N' Roses' 'Patience' and Metallica's 'One.' - Chris Granozio, who worked at one of Top 40's unique '80s stations, as evidenced by their choice of powers.
"The reason I got into radio was to talk up song intros. I couldn't sing or play a musical instrument, but I could still be part of the listener's radio experience. My favorites were the songs with multiple posts, like 'All Right Now,' [Soundgarden's] 'Spoonman,' or Jane Child's 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love.' The songs where you could start a conversation with the quick drops in the intro were even better: 'Undercover Angel,' 'The Hustle,' 'Polk Salad Annie,' 'It Only Takes A Minute.' When I scheduled music, [I would try to arrange it] so that a jock break was never before a song with :03 or less, while weather and PSAs (remember those?) were before a song with :15 or longer. I'm very curious on how PDs handle this today." - Don Beno
"Think about 'Welcome To The Jungle,' 'Free Ride,' 'Centerfold,' [Saga's] 'On The Loose,' 'Love In An Elevator,' 'Walking On Sunshine,' or even 'I Want A New Drug' and the field day that programmers had with those intros. I doubt that many of those songs would endure if they hadn't sparked such an enthusiastic and creative response from the programmers themselves, which carries loud and clear over the intros." - Ron Gerber, "Crap From The Past," KFAI Minneapolis
"Sounds like my Country DJ days in the '70s when every record on the playlist had an :06 intro and ended cold. Ironically, WABC New York used to regularly edit song intros because they were either too long or not uptempo enough. A few that come immediately to mind are 'Let's Hang On' and 'Save It For Me' by the Four Seasons, 'The Love I Lost' by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, 'My Boyfriend's Back' by the Angels, and 'Enough Is Enough' by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. The solution might be to go back to the 'ramp' jingles that have fallen in and out of fashion over the years." - Donald Blesse, WTAM Cleveland
"I feel music should be sent with and without intros to let the stations decide. If I were an artist, I'd want a chance for an air personality to tout my latest masterpiece." - Dr. Bruce Nelson Stratton, KFTX Corpus Christi, Texas
There's no surprise in hearing it on the radio today. But "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins, a perennial at AC and Classic Rock, certainly startled listeners when it was brand new. Remember how different and moody it sounded in spring 1981? How surprising it was that Phil Collins had actually rocked out? How everybody liked his first solo single, "I Missed Again," just fine, and then this came out and it was ten times better?
On Thursday, we asked readers for the songs that made the greatest impression on them from their first spin. And it's interesting to note how many of those memories are of songs that became radio warhorses. While we know that almost 30 years of airplay has done little to diminish a civilian's passion for "In The Air Tonight," it's interesting and encouraging that even oft-jaded industry types can conjure up their initial excitement as well, which is always the key to still being able to channel that excitement back to listeners. Here are readers' most memorable first listens:
"In 1976, a song from this new band called Boston arrived in the mail at WAMU [Washington, D.C.], American University's student-run AM carrier current station. 'More Than a Feeling' was mesmerizing: it was hard rock, yet melodic, and loud, yet pristine-sounding. (Yes, radio people back then actually cared about audio quality!) It was, as they say, a one-listen record and was soon blaring from dorm rooms all over campus." - Frank Bell, 13 Management
"I heard the Rolling Stones' 'Start Me Up' while driving to a last appointment at five p.m. on Friday and it was electric. The outside world simply froze. The opening chord, then the crackling tension created by the suspenseful two-beat silence, the awkward drum pattern as it tries to align to the chord structure like a 737 meandering into a crosswind landing, and then, touchdown! Away we go, locked into the remorseless groove and Mick wailing. I was in a trance. I dropped my intended destination, searched in vain at three record stores for it, then went home and taped the station, Fox FM [Melbourne], until it finally came up again, well after Midnight." - Mark Newstead, MediaMARK Australia
"Growing up I was a DXer, listening to out-of-town AM stations from suburban Philly. My favorite was Joey Reynolds on WKBW Buffalo, N.Y. As 1965 began, I was listening as Joey did the New Years' Eve show and stayed on until 3 a.m. About 2 a.m., the Four Seasons dropped by the studio live with their brand new release, "Bye Bye Baby." After Joey went off, I called my favorite Philly station, WIBG, and requested the song. The overnight guy, Alan Dean, said he'd never heard of the song and he was sure I was mistaken. By January 5, it was the WIBG Sure Shot. If you come across an original Phillips Record 45 with the Black Label it will say 'released 1/1/65.' And I know that happened at 2 a.m. in Buffalo and I was listening! Later as I went into radio, Frankie Valli became a friend, as did Joey Reynolds who worked for me at WFIL (and I did the liner notes on his 1985 comedy album)." - Jay Meyers
"Scott Borchetta, then national promotions for MCA, called to ask for an out-of-the-box add on Trisha Yearwood's 'She's In Love With The Boy' as WWVA/WOVK Wheeling, W.Va., were quite influential in those days. He tried to sell me with the Garth connection . . . but I replied that MCA had botched the launch of another promising female, Marcia Thornton. Why would Trisha Yearwood be any different? So I greeted the disc's arrival with apprehension, until hearing the hook. Instant. Classic. The only other time I almost fell out of my chair [besides 'Friends In Low Places'] auditioning a new record. After my PD heard it in our weekly music meeting, we became the first R&R reporter to add it." - Charlie Mitchell, now on-air at WDSY (Y108) Pittsburgh
"Recent [first listen] stories for me include 'Stay' by Sugarland and 'Need You Now' by Lady Antebellum, this year's multi-Grammy award winner. The latter is especially interesting since there is a mash-up of 'Need You Now' and 'Eye In The Sky' by Alan Parsons Project, which has a similar melody structure, circulating on the Internet. Yet only one of those recordings has that [certain] combination of lyrics, melody and performance that makes the hair stand up on your neck and sends you running to make the song your ringtone!" - Steve Clem, Perfect Mix Music Logs
"Not surprisingly, my first listen to Kelly Clarkson's 'Since U Been Gone' was late December 2004. I was just going through a breakup, and when they said [it was] Kelly Clarkson, I couldn't believe it. I loved her first album and already loved 'Breakaway', but to hear such a strong, confident, pop-rock Kelly was pretty amazing. I'm hoping her next album has the same type of songs." - Nicole Beniamini, Edison Research
"Paul Davis' '65 Love Affair' had that instant hit feel to me. I guess being an oldies guy those doo-wop chants in the chorus really sold me. I played Wham's 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' so much in the music library that I cue-burned it. I remember telling [my PD at the time] 'this is going to be a killer.' He didn't buy it, although when he came back from the NAB that year, he said Scott Shannon was really talking up that Wham record. And you've gotta admit, both songs still sound awesome out of a shotgun jingle." - Dennis Falcone
"At the very end of summer 1989, I was driving around my hometown listening to WSPK (K104) Poughkeepsie, N.Y., wondering what on earth that trippy ode to 'I Am The Walrus' was. Apparently, the jock on duty was just as floored as I was, because he began his backsell with, 'I'm not supposed to say this, but I just love this new track by Tears For Fears' . . . I still love the song, and I've still never heard another Top 40 jock rave about the new track he just played." - Ron Gerber, "Crap From The Past," KFAI Minneapolis
"I was with a friend on a weekend trip to Connecticut. We were 15 and an older friend, 18, was on the Turnpike at 80 MPH playing the brand new Def Leppard CD, 'Hysteria.' He insists we hear this song, 'Pour Some Sugar On Me.' We were stunned at how good it was. We then played it five more times in a row at maximum volume. Later that summer I saw Def Leppard and Europe at Orange County Speedway in Middletown, N.Y. Pouring rain; throwing sugar packets on stage. Still one of the best shows I've ever attended, and I can no longer recall how many shows I've seen." - Adam Jacobson
Olivia Newton-John, "Landslide" on KFAI Minneapolis Friday night host Ron Gerber's "Crap From The Past." ONJ's late 1981 "Physical" was a long-running No. 1 hit, but makes rare appearances on the radio. The follow-up, "Make A Move On Me," was huge at the time, but is almost completely lost. And this third single from the "Physical" album wasn't on the radio much even in 1982, and probably not since.
Anybody who has ever worked with an Oldies/Greatest Hits station will tell you that having the "right" versions of songs is an ongoing challenge. The version of a song on the CD reissue is sometimes neither the single nor the album version that was heard in the vinyl era. Singles edits often disappear from circulation. Even the version on the library disc you order from a syndicator might not be the single.
I recently came across a Canadian library disc with the nearly five minute version of "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In" by the Fifth Dimension. But any Canadian Oldies programmer will tell you that they're playing that song only as Canadian content (the music was written by a Canadian) and would rather get it over with as quickly as possible. "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf, which programmers on both sides of the border are happy to play, is still a minute longer and a different take from the hit single as heard on most stations. And as frequent contributor Rich Appel notes, almost every Beatles single from 1964 is now represented by the British mix now available on CD, not the American single.
That said, you also get used to hearing songs a certain way after a decade or so, something that became clear when Ron Gerber, host of the Friday night "Crap From The Past" on Non-comm KFAI Minneapolis recently began playing some long-unheard singles mixes, including Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and Eddie Money's "Two Tickets to Paradise." I was expecting them to be hotter - they were singles mixes, after all - and they did have some additional guitar overdubs. "Two Tickets" is shorter with an alternate vocal and even some lyric changes. But the overall feel of both songs is actually cleaner, and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" verges on feeling watered-down.
Even when a single edit doesn't soften a song, there are still times when the right version sounds wrong now. The 3-1/2 minute version of "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees sounds like it ends abruptly now; most AC and Greatest Hits stations let it go for nearly five minutes. Should a Greatest Hits station play nearly six minutes of Supertramp's "Goodbye Stranger"? You can still find the single version, but you definitely notice the edits now.
There's some irony here in knowing that the album version of Benatar is the one that now plays on practically every Mainstream and Soft AC in America (except those who have already culled it out for being too old). It's the edgier version, but after nearly 30 years, it is, of course, not so edgy anymore. And it's being heard by an audience that might have grown up with the single edit on Top 40, but equally likely heard the original on Rock radio, or on a Top 40 that prided itself on playing the album version of a hit.
In other words, it's hard to serve as a caretaker for a format. Without descending too far into Oldies geekery at a time when radio has plenty of other issues, one still doesn't want the on-air product to be "wrong" because somebody grabbed a random box out of the label archives 23 years ago. This is a topic that I expect to ignite plenty of passion in certain types of radio people (myself obviously included).
Casey Kasem's last newly recorded countdown is set to air this weekend, 39 years after the debut of the original Kasem-hosted/created "American Top 40." And a lot of broadcasters are probably having a similar reaction to Ron Gerber, host of non-commercial KFAI Minneapolis' Friday night oldies show, lovingly titled "Crap From The Past."
In a message posted in several places this week, Gerber, who discovered AT40 in 1979 on WXLO (99X) New York, credits Kasem with his love of record collecting. "In the years before I could afford Billboard, I used to tune in to AT40 and write down the positions of the songs in a three-ring binder . . . You'd be surprised at how many DJs I've run into that did the very same thing as kids, and all of us still have those three-ring binders tucked away with our most prized possessions."
Okay, right about now, about 60% of the readers of this column are congratulating themselves on never being that obsessive about radio or music, but the other 40% are nodding furtively. (That also includes some who might not have written down Casey's chart numbers, but made up their own Top 40 lists. Unless this is the first time you have ever read anything I've written, you know where I stand.) As a jock/board op in 1987, I once screwed up a half-hour of AT40 that arrived, atypically, on reel-to-reel that week and ended up having to read the songs I missed to multiple distraught listeners.
But even for those who never took their AT40 fandom that far, the show served a valuable purpose. It was the first sense that many future programmers got that the hits nationwide were any different from what they were hearing in their market. If you grew up in the Northeast in the '70s, it was your only indication that somewhere far, far away, people were actually hearing, say, "Rub It In" by Billy "Crash" Craddock (a middling Country crossover of that time) on the radio. Running it in the late '80s in a rhythmic-leaning Southern California market, it was the only confirmation I had that "Carrie" by Europe was still as important somewhere as "Lost In Emotion" by Lisa-Lisa & Cult Jam.
Developing an interest in the Billboard Hot 100 was the gateway to discovering and reading Billboard, which was, for some of us, the gateway to discovering Radio & Records. In other words, it gave many of us our first understanding of radio programming.
Because vintage AT40 shows are still in syndication and on Sirius XM, it's not hard to conjure what they sound like. But you do have to imagine hearing them in a different context. AT40 was, of course, one of the few sources of information on songs and bands in the pre-MTV era - particularly the mainstream pop that wasn't cool enough to get written about in the rock press. And while Kasem is generally acknowledged as a pioneer in terms of his storytelling about artists and songs, he does come from an era in which all Top 40 jocks had a lot of "content" of some sort. Few jocks had the same act, but everybody had some sort of act nevertheless. And in 2009, with all jock content under new post-PPM scrutiny, entertainment news is one of the few that endures.
At the tender age of eleven, Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber began laboriously copying the chart positions of every single on the American Top 40 into a binder, genuflecting before the divine word of Casey Kasem. At the same time, he began regularly purchasing 45s of every top single he didn't already own. His enthusiasm for pop music has, in the ensuing three decades, evolved into Crap from the Past, where he's been behind the mic passing the love on to us for sixteen years now.
Gerber currently broadcasts out of KFAI in Minneapolis, with syndication in England and New Zealand. If he were simply slapping a hodgepodge of pop tunes onto the turntables every week, his program would be no worse - and, let's admit it, probably better - than most of that which spews forth from community radio. But Crap from the Past is so much more; the Boogiemonster bills it as, in effect, "a graduate-level course in pop music," but it's even better than that, because he rarely if ever resorts to critical post-structuralist gender theory.
See, when Ron Gerber lays down a show on Tears for Fears, he doesn't spin "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and call it a night. He spins "Everybody Wants to Run the World", which the band re-recorded from scratch as a charity single for some kind of benefit run, changing only one word. He spins "Victims of Fact", a single recorded by Neon, an early group comprising the members of what would become Tears for Fears and the members of what would become Naked Eyes. He spins a cut recorded for The Karate Kid Part II by Mancrab, a one-off outfit helmed by Tears for Fears' lead singer. And he digs out his 1980s issues of Billboard to read out the original reviews of these songs.
Similarly, a New-Kids-on-the-Block-themed program features Biscuit, the boy band's bodyguard-turned-rapper, the Perfect Gentlemen, an even younger boy band created by the New Kids' producer Maurice Starr, and the James Brown records off of which Starr bit to formulate that irresistible New Kids sound. Interwoven are interview excerpts from a New Kids concert VHS tape. (Imagine how full this guy's house is, and of what else.)
Gerber also conducts the occasional interview of his own: electronic pop pioneer Thomas Dolby, forgotten - and much Boogiemonster-championed - power-popper D.L. Byron and mayor of Funkytown Stephen Greenberg, to name only three.
Though Gerber introduces certain songs as, say, "atrocities," don't take the Crap in Crap from the Past too literally: the show's not some sort of kitschfest, but if it's necessary to play some kitsch, the Boogiemonster won't back down. (He may, however, talk over said kitsch or yank it off early.) As a man unashamed of his pop habits, I adore Crap from the Past. If you don't deign to enjoy pop yourself, prepare to be converted. It's a bit of a cliche to put it this way, but were you to give his show a listen, you'd almost certainly be infected with his near-obsessive - okay, obsessive - passion for well-crafted pop and all information relating to it.
[Direct all correspondence to colinjmarshall at gmail.]
You can argue that MP3 players and podcasts and on-demand streaming audio have supplanted the radio as an all-day/every-day form of entertainment. But it's kind of a moot point as far as Minnesota's most adventurous station is concerned. The best reason to tune in to KFAI isn't to catch something you've been waiting to hear (though there's plenty of that); it's to find something you didn't know you'd want to hear until that very moment. You might leave the dial at a specialty show you've made a habit of following—say, the irreverent Friday-night Top 40 tribute Crap from the Past—and when you wake up the next morning you'll find bluegrass or Afrobeat or spoken-word poetry running across their airwaves. It's the same unpredictable story at all hours of the day: Worldbeat turns into Americana, Latin music into blues, and, most impishly, Earl Root's metal show Root of All Evil into Ernestine Gates's Sunday morning gospel program. Throw in a significant number of special-interest news shows, and KFAI stands as the only station in town that actually has something for everyone.
10. RADIO MINNESOTA
When it comes to cabin fever, music is the best short-term cure. And when it comes to music, the Twin Cities are a radio paradise. MPR's acclaimed and much-publicized offshoot, The Current [89.3 FM], the U of M's Radio K [770 AM] and the community radio station KFAI [90.3 FM] provide an endlessly fascinating parade of great music and local weirdness.
Metro Tip: Check out local music and live bands with Radio K's Off the Record, The Current's Mary Lucia and KFAI's retro radio program Crap from the Past.
Very cool - I've been listening to some of your shows, and I LOVED the "I didn't know that was a remake" episode. You'll find a parallel universe, as well, with my "Originalville" episodes.
Ron, mutual admiration here. It's shows like yours that I listened to as a kid that always made me want to be a DJ. You're someone who is influencing a whole new generation of DJs who care about the music (not about heavy rotation), and since I can't go back and thank those DJs I listened to as a kid, I thank you for what you're doing.
The Cover Song Podcast
One of the fans found your site and the show you did with Nik Kershaw songs. Can I say well informed. There were a few singles you left out but there again they didn't go anywhere bless him, they were Elisabeth's Eyes, James Cagney, Somebody Loves You, What do you think of it so far?, Wounded. I think that was it, if you want a full discography then go to www.nikkershaw.net. You will need to go and log into the forum and if you search for discographies you will find lists of them with all the info you need. You will also find on the forum what he is up to now.
You have made some fans very happy over here!
Bracknell, Berks, England
I just came across your 'Crap From The Past' webpage while googling for D.L. Byron - I was wondering if "This Day and Age" was available on CD, and thanks to you I now know where to write to try and get it re-issued.
At the time that album was released, there were a lot of scathing reviews about his similarity to "The Boss". I don't own any Springsteen albums, but still play D.L. Byron... thanks for passing on the word to potential new fans.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I recently found myself on your website while looking for information on the Pepsi Dance Party (a Boston area radio show from the early sixties) and I was amazed you had such a long and high-quality track (number 020114c from a 2002 show).
I sincerely want to thank you for airing it, my grandfather is Ken Carter, host of the Pepsi Dance Party (not just "some guy who at the station in the seventies"), a show which became the largest dance show in New England and was eventually televised on WMUR in New Hampshire (a network visible all over New England) from about 1962 until 1964. Ken Carter later became the owner and operator of Carter Broadcasting, which at one point owned eight radio stations and several television stations. Carter Broadcastings current flagship is 50,000 watt WCRN in Worcester, Massachusetts and my grandfather, now 74, still heads Carter Broadcasting.
We were all absolutely thrilled that we heard the Pepsi Dance Party broadcasted once more and I thank you greatly for playing it. What we're all wondering if you know if you have any more tapes of the Dance Party and if you would be so kind as to share them with us. A recording of the Pepsi Dance Party that old and in such prime condition is quite rare, I doubt even my grandfather has one from the early days of the Dance Party.
Thanks once again for such a wonderful recording,
I am truly horrified, offended and daunted by your inclusion of Giggles' "Love Letter" as listed as Crap From The Past. As a DJ for W.O.R.K. FM in Buffalo, NY, Giggles is one of our most requested artists from callers who want dance jams from back in the day. Aside from "Love Letter," Giggles' 1993 dance club hit "What Goes Around Comes Around," "Hot Spot" (charted at #48 in 1988 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Disco Charts) and "He Said, She Said" are all extremely fun, shoulder-shakin' songs. Then again, "Love Letter" being voted 'Worst Song Ever Recorded' by some two-bit station shouldn't be taken seriously since on the same list, New Kids On The Block are also signalled out for criticism - lest we forget how many #1 hits they have had? Not to mention successful solo careers for both Joey McIntyre and Jordan Knight? Shame, shame, shame on you!
W.O.R.K. FM, Buffalo, NY
It's only a matter of time before he lands on an airwave near you.
Jack, aka JACK-FM is the much-ballyhooed radio format that mixes '70s, '80s and '90s hits with current tunes.
It's been popular in Canada since 2002 and industry watchers are predicting the format will be found in at least 100 U.S. markets by the end of this year.
Many music followers whose interests lie deeper than, say Britney Spears, Rob Thomas or the faux-punk music of Avril Lavigne will no doubt roll their eyes at what they see as another attempt by mainstream radio to remain relevant.
Who can blame them? While satellite radio and iPods certainly can't replace local radio's community spirit, technology is opening up new musical vistas for listeners who don't need to be reminded they know every word to some tired Eddie Money song.
JACK-FM's method is painfully obvious. It wants to meet your party-shuffling needs by juxtaposing several musical genres and eras so you'll be inclined to keep tuning in.
That's quite a task. Even though JACK's playlist is huge -- 1,200 songs at last count -- it still will need to appeal to the lowest common denominator to sell itself to advertisers.
"I've heard it said that JACK-FM is adventurous radio for people who aren't very adventurous," Minneapolis-based disc jockey Ron Gerber said.
Unquestionably, Gerber is biased. And his estimated million listeners are glad he is.
Now in his 30s, Gerber has collected records he heard on pop radio stations while growing up. And for 13 years, he has played many of them on his syndicated "Crap From the Past" radio show, which has been growing in popularity with more public and college radio stations picking up his show almost every month.
Most people find his show accidentally, "usually because they are online, searching the name of an obscure pop song," he said.
That search usually leads to the crapfromthepast.com Web site, where they can hear several years' worth of archived shows.
"I think I'm the only show where I actually say something is bad," Gerber said.
He said what he's doing isn't that far off from how radio remained relevant in the '50s and '60s, "back when you had James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles and even Frank Sinatra played on the same station," he said. "It was pop and it aged well."
Locally, Brevard radio veteran Dean Mionske is trying to win listeners by mixing a daring playlist with a little attitude during his retro show, which airs from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday nights on WMEL-AM.
But he hesitates to call it an oldies show.
"It's not all the light rock stuff you usually get from stations that play older songs," he said, admitting he's followed obscure Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin tracks with KC & the Sunshine Band disco tunes. "All I know is the stuff I'm playing I haven't heard on radio for awhile."
He figures his audience will come from folks who want to expect the unexpected from their playlists.
"There's a little shock there," he said. "That's how I like it and hopefully, the listeners will, too."
I've been sitting here all day working on my web page, and I just typed my name into Yahoo to see what it would bring up. As I scrolled down, I was intrigued by the radio link and went to your site. I am dying to know where you got a copy of my old record "If I Were Only A Dental Hygienist"! It was the only 45 I ever put out and I have never recorded the song since... I never even perform it. What a hoot!
Did you live in LA, and have we met? I'm cutting a new CD. I've got a song on it called "Dumped By A Dweeb" that might be a good one for your show, also a song on my last record called "I Don't Need A Man, I Just Want One" which you can hear on my web page if you're interested.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Web Page: www.claudianygaard.com
Dear Mr. Boogiemonster,
I was recently doing a Web search for the above title, and was delighted to stumble upon the playlist and RealAudio stream for your broadcast of March 7, 2003. Why, you might ask, was I looking for information about this recording? Well, I played on it!
Tom Perry was a high school friend of mine, and we had played together in a couple of bands. He recorded this song on a four-track tape machine in his bedroom, and asked me to play bass on it. I think he played pretty much everything else, and did all the vocals.
Trust me - the master tape sounded much better than the disc that ended up in "The Disco Handbook." I remember being pretty disappointed when I finally heard the finished product! For one thing, as you can certainly hear, the "center" hole was actually puched a bit off-center, making for a distinctive wavering in pitch. I have no idea what happened to my copy; I might have thrown it away in disgust, but I really can't remember for certain.
Musically, let's just say that this wasn't the best thing Tom ever did, by a long shot. I'd say it was probably not crafted with originality in mind. I remember thinking that it was obviously influenced by the Bee Gees' output of that period, with a nod to Leo Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing." Tom had some definite ideas about what he wanted me to play on bass, but in one spot I incorporated an idea from "YMCA" by the Village People. The whole thing was pretty much a hodge-podge of disco cliches.
Tom was actually a talented singer and songwriter, who did some composing for films. Around the same time we recorded "Pick Up Your Feet," I also played in the pit band for a musical revue that he had written with Nick Petron, with whom he also collaborated on "PUYF." We also made a recording of all the music in this revue, with the intention of producing an album. However, the finished discs ended up disappearing under some sort of mysterious circumstances; I think the story I heard was that they were stolen out of the back of a car, or some such.
Anyway, I recently happened to be thinking again about "The Disco Handbook" and "Pick Up Your Feet," and wondering if perhaps I could obtain a copy via eBay or some other online venue. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to hear the music again on your site. You've also saved me some money, as I was reminded of why I probably disposed of this record in the first place! Anyway, I also looked around your site a bit, and found it quite interesting. Thanks for bringing back some memories for me!
Joe - Holy cow! How terrific to hear from you!
Like I explained during the show you heard, I got The Disco Handbook when I was 11, and I was always intrigued by the awful-sounding flexi-disc that came with it. Over the years, I'd poke around on eBay and Google, trying to find any other references to the song or to Tom and Nick - nothing. If you want, I can burn the A and B-sides to a CD-R for you.
How old were you guys at the time? Were you commissioned by the publisher to put together a disco song, or did you record it first, then shop it around? Just curious.
Is it OK if I post your letter on my website? I do get quite a few artists who stumble across their songs on my playlists, like you did. Do you have a website to plug? Or Tom & Nick?
Great to hear from you, and let me know if you'd like a CD with the songs - that'd be no problem at all. (Oh, and let me know if I can post your letter, minus the e-mail address.)
Thanks for your prompt reply. Actually, yes, I would like to take you up on your kind offer of a CD-R containing both sides of the disc. The two sides were not different mixes of the same track, as you speculated on your program, but were actually separate recordings. I haven't heard side two since its release, but I seem to remember that my bass playing was a tad more aggressive and adventurous then on side one!
You may certainly publish my e-mail message on your site. I'm also in the process of trying to contact Tom, who might be able to give you more information. I think he might be tickled to know his humble creation was remembered after all these years and played on the radio! I've lost touch with him for the most part, but a few years ago a mutual friend wrote and told me that Tom had just gotten married. I sent Tom a brief e-mail, to which he replied - but I've misplaced his e-mail address and am attempting to track it down again.
Here's a link to Tom's page on AMCTV's site. Not much information here, unfortunately. I don't know if Tom would like to be known primarily for writing the music for "The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood," but the movie is certainly notable, if for nothing else than for starring Adam West of "Batman" fame!
I graduated from high school in 1976, and Tom a year earlier; I can't remember for certain whether "Pick Up Your Feet" was recorded in '78 or '79, but it was one of those two, which would mean that Tom and I were in our late teens or early twenties at the time. Unfortunately, I don't really know anything about how Tom and Nick came to hook up with Bruce Pollack and to get the commission to produce the music for "The Disco Handbook."
By the way, the reason I happened to be thinking about this book again recently is that I took a book out of the library called "Working Musicians," also by Bruce Pollack (as an editor rather than writer). It contains a list of his other books, including "The Disco Handbook." I had previously almost forgotten about it! Frankly, I didn't even remember that there was an author credited at all. Anyway, seeing the title in print inspired me to look on the Web and try to see if anyone had ever posted anything about it. As I'm sure you well know, you never know what you'll find on the Internet.
Anyway, thanks for your offer, but I have nothing to plug! I was a free-lance musician for a long time, and intended to make a career of it, but I've been gradually developing a more pragmatic attitude over the past several years, and have now given up playing music altogether. I don't know what Tom is doing now, but he might well appreciate your offer to help promote whatever he might be up to. As for Nick, I have no idea, as I barely knew him. He was an instructor at Adelphi University in Garden City, Long Island, at the time that Tom and I made this record, so he was a bit older than we were.
Thanks in advance for the CD. Take care, and keep up the good work!
There's pop music, and then there's "pop in the poppiest pop pop sense of the word," to quote Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber from KFAI-FM's Crap From the Past (90.3/106.7). That's how he described Fountains of Wayne on the air a few Fridays ago, as I headed out of town on a hot highway into the night. And I knew what he meant as soon as he threw on "Stacy's Mom," the band's brash attempt to outdo Mrs. Robinson and Stifler's mom in one era-collapsing swoop. Fountains of Wayne's PR juggernaut is such that it took local community radio to alert me to the new album, issued on a boutique label owned by the A&R rep who signed them to Atlantic before the major dumped them. (Their two acclaimed albums on Atlantic sold poorly.) But the band's FM-radio appeal is so obvious that they made I-94 and surrounding Hudson seem suddenly epic and full of late-night possibilities. Pudge's Bar, here I come! Hello, Wisconsin!
The creative fountains of Fountains, singer-songwriters Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger, have always seemed capable of making the stuff summers are made of. They've digested so many nostalgic influences that references are useless--try the Cars, drive-up fast food, and England for starters. But they also subsume their personalities in craft and homage, an effect that makes them seem a little arch, like a British invasion Urge Overkill. I found it admirable that they were able to provide the important title song of 1996's That Thing You Do!, a movie about a one-hit-wonder everyband from Pennsylvania in 1964 (called the Oneders, for emphasis, and modeled after countless garage bands from co-star Steve Zahn's own Minnesota). Yet Fountains of Wayne really are a kind of everyband, the musical equivalent of the cutting-edge suburban Everywheresville that is New Jersey--a state they can't stop singing about.
Good thing the band's character studies lend themselves to chameleonic rock and playacting: FOW make lush acoustic funk for the hippie parody "Peace and Love" ("Riding around in a Volkswagen van/Thinking 'bout the people upside-down in Japan"). "Valley Winter Song" is the Hang Ups on a good day; "All Kinds of Time" is Semisonic on a better one. And in a perfect pop scheme where every line must rhyme, the boys muster such lyrics as "I used to fly for United Airlines/Then I got fired for reading High Times." That's their career in a nutshell.
From: Marty Rhone
Sent: Sunday, May 18, 2003 7:08 AM
While surfing the web late this Sunday night I came across something that surprised and amused me. I was delighted to come across your website and delighted I should make one of your programs with my 1977 hit in Australia, "A Mean Pair of Jeans". I was also surprised to discover that a copy had made its way to you and the twin cities. After getting over the initial shock of being part of a program called 'crap from the past' I chuckled my way through some of your program titles and saw that I was amongst some esteemed company which softened the blow somewhat. The program was your Hasselhoff one of July 1999 and up till now I presumed the only other country that would have heard Mean Jeans would have been Germany which I undrstood to be the only other country where the song was released.
A bit of trivia. A Mean Pair of Jeans was the first 12" 45rpm record to be released to discos in this country. I think that was instrumental in the record's success in this country. If you would like to learn a bit more about myself and maybe discover some more 'crap' you can go to www.martyrhone.com
All the best
Marty - So great to hear from you! And I'm glad you're not offended by the show title!
I came across your song on an Australian compilation called "The No. 1 Seventies Album". (2-CD, Polygram, 1998) The collection had a handful of songs that were completely unfamiliar to me, like "A Mean Pair Of Jeans", as well as "All My Friends Are Getting Married" by the Skyhooks, "I Wanna Make You My Lady" by Mark Holden, and "April Sun In Cuba" by Dragon. I routinely play '70s and '80s hits from other countries, and your song fit the bill nicely even though I'd never heard of it before.
Glad to see that you're still making music down under, and I'd like to post your letter on my website, if you'll let me.
Thanks so much for writing!
hi, my fiance was the lead singer for looking glass which did the song tongue twister that you featured on your august 5,2002 show... it would be SOOOOOOOOOOOO great if we could get a copy of it, in any format... is there anyway you could get make me a copy????? I will be happy to pay any cost it would take, and I would so deeply appreciate it... please let me know. THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Toms River, NJ
Lisa - No problem. I can burn you a CD with both sides of the 45 that I have.
I featured the song as a weekly featured called the Random 45, which is exactly what it sounds like - I drop the needle on something I've never heard before and we all hear it together for the first time. I originally found the single in a store in Minneapolis, and I bought it thinking that it was by the same Looking Glass that did "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" in 1972. Obviously, it wasn't the same group. Could you fill in some more details about them? Like when it was recorded and all that?
Thanks for asking!
Hey Ron, I was in the Looking Glass in the late 60's, I was 19 years old at the time, I am now 53 years old and I am still in the music business, although I am only doing covers in a band called YBNORMAL in Ocean County, NJ...it is totally unbelievable that anyone has a copy of Tongue Twisters. I started the band "The Looking Glass" in Toms River, NJ in the sixties. We recorded "Tongue Twisters" and performed it on the Kirby Scott Show in Baltimore, where the song went to the Top Ten. I was partially involved in Brandy, but because of contractual problems, the original band quit, and were replaced by the band you know as "Looking Glass"...
I appreciate whatever interest you may have in us, its great to know that all of our hard work lives on...if even in a dusty record shop.
Keep up the Great Work preserving music of all kinds and popularity!!!!!!!!!!!
Looking Glass lead vocals and guitar
Hey Ron, You just made my year. It was certainly good of you to send me a copy of my record, but to have sent me the actual record, is unbelievable. I am sending you a check for $20 [to be donated to KFAI], I wish I could send more, as the record means a lot to me, but at the age of 53 I am still a struggling musician, a price I choose to pay for music being such a great passion for me. Thanks again.
Subject: Tim Bedore from Quake contacts lawyer
Date: Monday, April 07, 2003 6:28 PM
Big Rick Stuart sent me your site's address. Tried to listen to my last day at the Quake but didn't hear it. Is that a glitch or am I just impatient? I'd probably cringe with embarrassment anyway. Last day on Quake was weird and somewhat disappointing in that I didn't get to do my show as I wanted but played host to others and their music choices (Howie Klein, Ben Fong Torres) but it looked good on paper when the PD drew it up. My wife is from Minneapolis. Have spent much time there. Will probably move back one day in the not too distant. Keep up the pop work. Ever play the Kings' "This Beat Goes On/Switchin To Glide"?
The kind of guy who always liked Tito and Marlon better than Michael and Janet: 'Crap' DJ Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber (Image by DARIN BACK)
The condom isn't quite long enough for Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber--or rather, the condom song isn't. "Wait a minute!" he exclaims, eyes widening to comic proportions. It's the Valentine's Day edition of Crap from the Past, Gerber's weekly Friday-night radio show, and he's just realized that the track going out over the air--a single by an obscure Canadian band about a long-unused rubber--is nearly over and he doesn't have anything cued up to follow it.
Gerber leaps out of his chair in front of the mixing console in KFAI-FM's nicely appointed Studio 4, whips around the long desk, and flips hurriedly through a blue nylon CD binder. He finds his quarry, a homemade compilation titled Crapulation #48, spins back around, slips the CD into the player, and cues it with time to spare. Within a few seconds, he's seated and composed enough to colorfully back-announce the song he's just played, "Circular Impression" by the Extras. Gerber even tells the story of his 12-year search for the record, which he wound up acquiring from Dr. Demento himself in trade for a copy of Trip Shakespeare's Lulu.
"He's a great guy," Gerber notes of Demento. "Very friendly. And he's got an encyclopedic knowledge of music."
As does Gerber, although you'd never guess it just by looking at him. With his close-cropped hair and navy denim button-down tucked neatly into black jeans, the buff 34-year-old seems the antithesis of the stereotypically slovenly pop-music obsessive. By the same token, only his exhaustively catalogued CD collection betrays the faintest hint of the fact that this jovial schlockmeister is a scientist by trade, with a Ph.D. in optics, nine patents under his belt, and a resume that includes stints with IBM, 3M, and Kodak.
He's hardly a newcomer to broadcasting, either. Gerber got his college-radio start in 1986, during his undergrad days in Rochester, New York, where he also worked part-time as a board operator at a commercial station. When Gerber left for graduate school in Tucson, Crap from the Past, which he had premiered in Rochester, moved with him. (The name was suggested by a friend.) Gerber's Tucson days also provided another opportunity to work in commercial radio, this time as an intern and call-in character on a morning show co-hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (of Jimmy Kimmel Live fame).
By the time Gerber launched the well-seasoned Crap on KFAI (90.3, 106.7) in 1999, he'd been in town long enough to befriend kindred spirits Joel Stitzel and Chuck Tomlinson, the hosts of Radio K's Cosmic Slop. Out of deference to the fact that "they were here first," as Gerber says, he yielded turf rights to whole decades of pop's lesser pantheon. "They tend to play more '60s and '70s stuff," he observes, "so I concentrate on the '80s and '90s. I'm playing songs now that didn't even exist when Crap from the Past started."
When some kind of overlap is all but unavoidable, as with the recent death of Maurice Gibb, Gerber treads carefully. His tribute to the deceased Bee Gee consisted entirely of cover versions of "Stayin' Alive," a move he correctly guessed the Slopsters would not be making.
Philosophically, though, the two shows are, as Gerber sound-bite source Lisa Simpson might say, craptacularly similar. Both offer largely forgotten pop music that is relevant, first and foremost, to the hosts--dusty gems and sonic coprolites alike. Both include plenty of between-set discussion, mostly pertaining to the music. And, as with Stitzel and Tomlinson, the imp of the perverse is Gerber's copilot. "I like a good pop song," he observes. "But there's something about the bad ones that does it to me every time."
Back in the late '70s, I played bass in the Deputy Dawg Band. I was bored at work yesterday so just for fun I did a web search on "Deputy Dawg Band" and voila, I got a hit on your site. And sure enough, there was "Disco Wretch" streaming out of my pc speakers(!)
Last night I ran into Gregg "Del" Plagge who wrote and sang "Disco Wretch" and now lives out here in Portland, OR. We had a good chuckle about all this, but now we're both curious... Where in the world did you get a copy of that record??? "Disco Wretch" was the first single we released and we only pressed a few hundred copies. We never had any distribution to speak of on that release -- we mostly sold copies at our gigs. Were you -- or someone you know -- a Dawg Band fan back then? Just curious. Anyway, good luck with "Crap from the Past" and thanks for keeping those old memories alive.
John "Doc" Reynolds
John - Great to hear from you! It's always a thrill to hear from any of the artists I play!
I have a regular feature on the show called "The Random 45", which involves playing interesting-looking 45s without really previewing them at all. So I'm always buying 45s with the word "disco" in the title, as well as anything from the '70s and '80s that might sound interesting to pop music fans.
And truth be told, I'd never heard of the Deputy Dawg Band when I found the 45. It could have turned up in one of a few places - a thrift store in the Minneapolis area, at a record show in Minneapolis (belonging to a midwest vendor), or even at a record store in Nyack, New York, where I bought their entire 45 section for $10. I have a few hundred of these random 45s that I pick from every week, and I found most of them out here in Minnesota. And how could I pass up a song called "Disco Wretch"?
My posted playlists have been terrific for a few of the lesser-known artists that I've played over the years, and I've heard from members of the Dynomiters ("Rock And Roll President", 1976, Epic Records) and the Extras ("Circular Impression", 1981, Ready Records in Canada). I'm glad that you got in touch with me, and I'm glad that I could give your 45 some exposure on the show.
Good luck to you and Gregg in Portland; I hear it's beautiful out there.
In the on-air studio at KFAI-FM, Trinidad native Tony Paul sorts through some of the African-music CDs he has played on the community station for 23 of its 25 years.
In another studio, Indian activist Chris Spotted Eagle is learning the ropes for a new show, "Indian Uprising," which will start next month on the station (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, 106.7 FM around St. Paul).
Although they came to KFAI decades apart and worlds away from each other, Paul and Spotted Eagle unknowingly tell similar stories about what attracted them to the station, which has the most diverse format on Twin Cities radio.
"No other stations offer this kind of mix of education and entertainment," said Paul, who started when the station was just a 10-watt outlet housed in a south Minneapolis church.
"It's a great place to learn and listen," said Spotted Eagle, who describes KFAI's current third-story offices in the West Bank area of Minneapolis as "somewhere where the doors are always open."
Diversity is at the core of KFAI, which will celebrate its 25th year of so-called "Fresh Air" broadcasts with an eclectic concert tonight at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
In 2 1/2 decades, KFAI has grown in size, power and, especially, relevance. Its antennas on top of the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis and in West St. Paul have 125 to 175 watts each (still minuscule compared with 100,000-watters such as KQRS and KDWB). Its budget -- which mostly comes from listener-support drives, plus some state money, foundation grants and company sponsorships -- is at an all-time high of about $689,000 this year, compared with $380,000 five years ago.
The biggest changes, though, have been in the demographic makeup of its shows and volunteers.
The station's programming has mirrored population trends in the Twin Cities. Older shows that cater to Hispanic, Hmong and gay and lesbian listeners now share time with programs geared toward Filipino, Eritrean, Ethiopian and Khmer immigrants.
Executive director Janis Lane-Ewart said she is hoping to add even more diversity to the station, which is run by five full-time staff members and 300-plus volunteers.
"We've had requests for shows from Tibetan immigrants, East Indian, Brazilian and Portuguese," she said.
That she and the rest of KFAI's operators solicit the public for programming ideas underlines the station's uniqueness.
Other stations have been narrowing their formats in the past 25 years. Many FM outlets in town are now owned by two giant out-of-state companies, Clear Channel and Disney, which sometimes distinguish their stations by the type of Sheryl Crow song they play.
KFAI program director Dan Richmond, a musician in the country-folk band the Ashtray Hearts, said there is no pressure from the staff for volunteers to play local and independent music.
"It just happens," he said. "The people who volunteer here are all passionate, diehard music fans."
Some of the KFAI shows with local music include Friday night's "Local Sound Department," Saturday night's hip-hop-oriented "2 The Break a Dawn" and midweek afternoon blues programs such as "Rollin' and Tumblin' " and "The Jackson Buck Show."
Late nights also offer adventurous music programming with shows such as "Fresh Ears," "Radio Rumpus Room" and "Crap From the Past." Mornings offer gospel, R&B, jazz and lots more.
KFAI's wild mix of music and ethnic programming has made it a popular destination on the Web in the past two years. A sampling in November found that the station's Internet link got hits from 97 countries in one month.
Blues musician Joel Johnson has noticed how far-reaching KFAI's Web broadcasts have been with his long-standing blues program, "The Lazy Bill Lucas Show," which airs Thursday afternoons locally -- and around pub-closing time in England.
"I keep getting calls from these guys in Bristol who apparently love the show," he said. "The problem is their accents are so cockney and they're always so drunk, I don't know what they're saying."
While music shows are great for entertainment, Johnson is also a firm believer in KFAI's more serious social programming.
"I've seen it where there were two shows back-to-back involving countries that were at war with each other, and the shows of course went off without a hitch," he said. "Where else on the radio or in the entire [Twin Cities] would something like that happen?"
Noncomm AMPERS affiliate KFAI/Twin Cities (90.3 Minneapolis and 106.7 St. Paul) recently moved Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber's weekly '80s music show Crap From The Past to Friday nights, 10:30pm to 12Midnight. Now, the show (which has been on the air in various cities for nearly 11 years) has a weekly affiliate in New Zealand! The show now also airs at 7pm Saturday nights on GoldRush Radio, 91.1 FM and 1440 AM, in Lawrence, Otago, New Zealand. "Crap From The Past" is an in-depth journey through forgotten gems, dance mixes, hits, rarities, and thematic programming. Recent shows have featured long-form interviews with songwriter Holly Knight, a tribute to two-hit wonders, exclusively Australia and New Zealand-based artists, and a show entirely in Spanish (including the talk breaks and all songs) to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Learn more and listen to archived shows at www.crapfromthepast.com.
Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber's "Crap From The Past" show on noncomm KFAI/Twin Cities (90.3 FM/Minneapolis, 106.7/St. Paul) has moved to Friday nights, 10:30pm to Midnight. Previously heard Sunday nights from Midnight to 2.a.m., this "forgotten hits/retro music" pop show replaces the "Friday Night Poker Party" which retires after 7 years. An interesting fact about "Crap From The Past" is that Ron has taken the show with him across the country as he has moved over the past ten years. C.F.T.P. has been heard on WRUR-FM/Rochester, NY, KAMP Student Radio and KXCI-FM/Tucson, AZ, and KFAI since 1999. For more details, visit Ron's extensive website (which proves he has nothing better to do with his time), at www.crapfromthepast.com.
With a name like "Crap From the Past," it has to be good, right? Host Ron Gerber dumpster-dives into the pop archives for themed programs that have included "Two-Hit Wonders," a Tears for Fears night and a collection of Jimmy Jam-Terry Lewis productions. This weekend, the Fresh Air Radio show moves from Sunday's graveyard shift to prime time on Friday night. (10:30 p.m.-midnight today, KFAI, 90.3 & 106.7 FM.)
Subject: The definition of crap...
Date: Monday, September 30, 2002 7:26 AM
Congratulations! You are hereby annointed as being officially brain dead and tone deaf. Do a scientific study based on popularity and you'll find that most music turned into crap after the late 80s to early 90s. Save your subjective opinion and do your homework. Billboard history shows that the widest range and scope of chart music and hits was in the 70s and mid 80s. Today, music is dying a Gen-X suicide.
Today you have black gangsta and white grunge music, latin, some Manson type bohemian skanks...and then nothing. Zero, zilch. No ear candy. Audio insanity. Bjork sounds like an escapee from a mental ward. If music today is good, then why is the record industry hurting? It's because sounds today are so bad that people would rather download oldie retro stuff off the web than pay $20 to listen to some wild animal yell about violence and call it musical art.
Mr. 30 Something
Subject: Re: The definition of crap...
Date: Monday, September 30, 2002 6:57 PM
Most bad stuff you list from the past is too obscure and therefore irrevelevant [sic]. You can't say that the top hits of today are better then the 70s and 80s. There's just no way. We're talking ear candy as opposed to audio poison. The difference between the music of love and life and the sounds of violence and death.
It [sic] like a [sic] saying the sky is orange and not blue. This way [sic] is beyond taste and boarders [sic] on psychosis. Is Eminem better than the Eagles? Today us [sic] 30 somethings make up the majority in America. If they took a poll, your opinion would be in the rule in nut houses but not among the majority. Even if you're a moron. LOL!