WPRB History -

The Fall / Mark E. Smith / WPRB Mega-Post

As you’ve probably heard by now, Mark E. Smith, the leader of iconic post-punk stalwarts The Fall, passed away last week at the age of 60. His health had been in decline for some time, as evidenced by the band’s last two American tours being abruptly canceled, as well as recent stage entrances being made by wheelchair.

Within the pantheon of WPRB, the Fall are an act of unique prominence. I can’t think of another cult band that’s existed continuously for so many years and which has been adored by so many WPRB DJs spread across four different decades. As such, when the news of Smith’s death broke, I started seeing a lot of Fall-related waxing from current and former PRB folks in my social media feeds. (A trend including content from early 80s alums, as well as folks who graduated from college as recently as two years ago.) This post attempts to gather as many of those images, words, and related gushings as possible into a singular MES/Fall/WPRB content depot.

Before we go any further, let it be stated quite clearly: Mark E. Smith was a hugely problematic character. He was arrested and charged with assaulting bandmate Julia Nagle in 1998, and there are numerous accounts of awful behavior on his part over the years. But as he was the only constant member of the band through countless lineups, any notion or idea of the Fall continuing without him is simply absurd. (As Smith once famously declared “If it’s me and yer granny on bongos, it’s the Fall.“)

As such, think of this post not as a deification of Smith—a man whose inexcusable actions should be neither forgotten nor sugar-coated—but rather, a summary of how his band’s music shaped the lives, experiences, and musical travels of so many WPRB DJs across multiple generations.

To begin, I present the above slideshow which comprises fresh scans of every piece of available Fall vinyl from WPRB’s record library. (Except the ‘Slates’ 10″, which I forgot to grab before hoofing all those records across town to scan them… apologies.) Many of the hastily taped (and re-taped) spines should give you a sense of how heavily WPRB’s airstaff has hit these LPs over the years. Note that you can pause the slideshow by mousing over any of the images.

Below are other various Fall-related pieces of media and writing from or involving a slew of WPRB DJs from the 1980s-now.

RIP Mark E. Smith. And farewell to a criterion WPRB band.


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1969 WPRB Aircheck

I recently received a CD-R containing WPRB airchecks from station alum Peter Charapko. He writes:

“Enclosed are two copies of programs of mine, May 16 1969, and October 4 1969. They include musical selections, news and public affairs announcements, and discourse typical of our progressive rock “animate sound” daytime format. Significant for me, and for many of the students, these two shows bracket the summer before and after [Princeton] University beginning coeducation… That summer, many of us at the station [also] attended Woodstock.”

He goes on to describe various aspects of WPRB during this era, including daily life in the station’s then-home in the basement of Holder Hall:

“Studios and business offices were below the eleventh entry of Holder Hall. At that time we conducted ‘voice tests’ to qualify for a broadcast program; most shows were engineered by the announcer, who also switched to an adjacent studio, for example, to news reporters. Candidates trained several weeks with other announcers before [earning] FCC Third Class Licenses. As Chief Announcer during 1970, I was privileged to be able to phone announcers on the air—usually to compliment, and at times, to offer constructive critique.”

Nearly 50 years later, Peter seems well-suited to this task, as he has the cool and laid back vibe of that era’s most fondly-remembered broadcasters. Embedded below are a few (scoped) samples from Peter’s contribution to the growing WPRB History Archives. Look for more in a future post!


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LISTEN: Soundgarden Interview from 1990

In light of Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell’s tragic passing, we thought we’d fast-track posting of this interview with the band’s drummer (Matt Cameron), recorded at WPRB on March 16th of 1990. Soundgarden was slated to play live at Trenton’s City Gardens later that night (rather hilariously, sandwiched between Faith No More—who played first—and Voivod, who headlined.) Our internal research has not yet confirmed the identity of the student DJ conducting the interview, but it has been suggested that it could be Arthur Fenno or Greg Savage. And so we turn to you, the greater WPRB Hive Mind, and ask: Can YOU identify the DJ interviewing Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron in this recording? If so, please let us know in the comments!



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Lush Interview from 1991


Before WPRB’s Chester Dubov re-purposed the “Totally Wired” show name for his punk broadcasts of the early 2010s, it was a late 80s/early 90s show focused on the British indie scene. The show was hosted by a series of student DJs including Hugh Hynes and Christian Perring, and for a time, made WPRB’s name synonymous with the sounds of bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Adorable, Suede, and the Stone Roses. In 1991, Christian Perring was lucky enough to interview Miki Berenyi of Lush live on the air. Click here to download the recording of that interview, or stream it using the player below.


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Newly-discovered 1970s Jean Shepherd promo

Jean Shepherd Princeton

Former WPRB DJ Douglas Quine ’73 recently submitted a small pile of early 70s WPRB aircheck cassettes for our review. We’re now in the midst of digitizing them, and the audio goodies are practically throwing themselves at us already. Witness: this great promo for the annual WPRB-sponsored Jean Shepherd gig in Princeton.

For the sake of convenience, we’re pairing it with the above image of a Shep gig poster from around the same time, which someone anonymously donated (OK, “abandoned” is actually a better word for it) during the station’s 75th Anniversary banquet last year. Stay tuned for more audio from the WPRB/Quine archives in the coming days!

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LISTEN: WPRB Aircheck from 1982

With huge thanks to Listener Larry in Somerville, here’s a WPRB aircheck from 1982, featuring DJ Bill Candee spinning hits of the day by Roxy Music, The Jam, the Waitresses, Dead Kennedys, Buzzcocks, and more.


Unfortunately, due to Draconian copyright rules, we had to cut all of the music out of the recording presented here, but you still get Bill’s sparking DJ personality, as well as a barrage of great WPRB-produced spots for long-gone (but never forgotten) Princeton businesses like The Music Cellar, Titles Unlimited, and Lavake Jewelers.

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Spring 1984 Air Schedule

[From the collection of Henry Yu.]

Note the presence of the Flipper fish graphic at the bottom of the schedule—an iconic emblem of WPRB’s aesthetic from that era. Click-thru to hear the band’s classic and eternal PRB fave “Sex Bomb” while you review the names of DJs from long ago.

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Interview: Vernon Reid from Living Colour (1988)

“As an environment, New York is like an ugly, horrible, beautiful painting.” -Vernon Reid

Here’s a lengthy interview with Living Colour’s Vernon Reid, discussing the band’s then-new debut LP “Vivid”, just as it was on the cusp of blowing the doors off of college radio and exploding into the mainstream. WPRB’s A. Josh Henig quizzes Reid on the band‘s history, the Black Rock Coalition, their early gigs at CBGBs, comparisons to Jimi Hendrix, and upcoming shows at City Gardens and the Knitting Factory.

[Right-click to download MP3]

(With apologies to Cornell University for re-using their tape.)

Digitized by Joan Hsaio on 9/30/2016.


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