June 2015 - WPRB History
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June 2015

Friday WPRB DJ Pinup: Evie Ward!

Years on air: 1978-1984 (took time off to pursue radio career before graduation.)

Favorite bands: Bauhaus, Killing Joke, Wire, Flipper, Pere Ubu, Joy Division, P.I.L., Throbbing Gristle.

Memorable on-air moment: When the AP wire sounded OMG alert to announce John Lennon’s death …and walking home and hearing “Imagine’ from every dorm window…

Advice for current WPRB DJs: Have fun, use the experience to learn how to speak without ever saying “um” or “er” , and don’t be like me and turn the ‘PRB hobby into a career as a DJ.

Strange Beauty in the Radio Graveyard

 

By Alex Wood ’02, WPRB Station Manager ’01

After completing DJ training the fall of my freshman year, I was eager to get on the air. While most new trainees were relegated to graveyard shifts for their first shows, my first show was at something like 5pm the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. As a “townie”, I was one of the few DJs who did not have to travel that evening. What a thrill it was to be on-air when there might actually be some listeners! I imagined hoards of drivers stuck for hours in Thanksgiving traffic, all tuning in to WPRB. I was hooked.

Despite the rush of that first drive-time show, my most favorite memories come from late night shifts, where after finishing homework in the office, I might stroll down to the studio at 2am and tell the DJ not to bother turning the station off – I would take over and play music for a few hours. Now the idea that there might only be a few lonely listeners, driving down a deserted New Jersey road in the middle of the night with only the radio to keep them company seemed strangely beautiful. Those late-night broadcasts were special; I was able to relax in a way I didn’t during my regular afternoon timeslot. Perhaps the fact that the station would have been off-air anyhow, or that there were only a few listeners out there, freed me to experiment.

One late-night haunt that WPRBers often visited was the Crystal Diner on old Route 1, towards Trenton. If it wasn’t open 24-hours, it had to have been close. Upon returning to campus, sometimes we’d finish the night with a trip to the top of Holder Tower. Some station engineer from well before our time had managed to borrow the key from building services and never returned it. Behind the locked door, the stairwell up to the roof was filled with WPRB graffiti. (See slideshow, below.) Emerging into the night, you got the best view from anywhere on campus. Nassau Street runs along a hill, which meant that the top of Holder was even taller than the top of Fine tower. Perhaps the only other campus building that could rival it was the University Chapel. Standing there in the dark, looking out at the glittering lights of central NJ stretching into the distance, the mysterious shadows of the radio tower and other transmission equipment looming over you in the dark – what was cooler than that?

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Pierre Moerlen (Gong) Interview, 1980

By Bill Rosenblatt ’83

This was my first ever interview with a musician on the air. There I was, a wide-eyed sophomore, treating this obscure French drummer like he was a huge rock star. The drummer was Pierre Moerlen, leader of Gong. They were in Princeton for a WPRB-sponsored stop at Alexander Hall (now Richardson Auditorium) on their first US tour ever.

[LISTEN or DOWNLOAD: Pierre Moerlen interview, 8.28.80]

 

[Digitized 11.25.14 by Bill Rosenblatt]

If you have no idea who Gong was, you are far from alone. Gong was originally a band from France that started in the late 60s, led by Australian guitarist/singer Daevid Allen, formerly of the seminal British psychedelic band Soft Machine. They had a cult following through the early-mid 70s as a wacky, spaced-out post-hippie band, along the lines of early Pink Floyd (but zanier) or Hawkwind (but softer and proggier). Gong’s “Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy” of 1973-74 is its best-known work and remains a favorite of mine to this day. (more…)

WPRU Bulletin, Winter 1955

[Click here to download the 4-page PDF version]

From 1940-1955, WPRB’s call letters were “WPRU”. The station was heard on-campus at 640 AM and for a time, its staff created a weekly, printed bulletin. Paul Dunn ’58 recalls: “I believe we distributed [the bulletin] to dorms and at commons. This was the time when our signal reached only a few dorms, and we were trying to increase station awareness on campus. John Norton, known as Dopey, along with freshmen Ned Irons and Dave Meginity had developed black boxes—small transmitters which were installed in dorm basements.”

Friday WPRB DJ Pinup: Ray Gonzalez!

[AKA “The Death Ray”]

Years on air: 1982-84

Favorite Bands: REM, The Fleshtones, The Funstigators

Memorable on-air moment: Terrible live on-air interview with Wall Of Voodoo. Stan Ridgway wasn’t there for some reason and I was completely unprepared and ill-equipped to speak with the rest of the band. I made a couple of lame jokes and ended up pissing them off.

Advice for current WPRB DJs: This was originally passed along to me from Billy Disease (Kevin Hensley): Never just play one Ramones track when you can play two back-to-back.

LISTEN: Captain Beefheart “Spotlight” Promo

Spotlight was a weekly, early-90s program that enabled WPRB programmers to play the deep fields of self-indulgence by dedicating an entire hour to a specific artist, scene, or record label. (My earliest understandings of Einstürzende Neubauten were informed by a thusly-dedicated edition of the show. I can also remember Spotlights on Galaxie 500, Ohio garage rock, and the Residents. I hosted one dedicated to the Canadian punk band Nomeansno.)

Direct from WPRB’s reel-to-reel archives, here is a promo for an edition of the show where Captain Beefheart was the distinguished point of focus.

 

Spotlight promos like this one were traditionally voiced by the host who’d later present the actual show. In this case, the host was Adam Gottlieb, who was one of the first people I ever met when I started volunteering at WPRB. I’ll never forget arriving at the station in the middle of the night and finding him in the production studio, armed with a brick of Z-grade blank cassettes. His mission? To tape WPRB’s entire catalog of Jandek records. This may have something to do with why I haven’t seen or heard from Adam in 20+ years.

“Gaining Confidence from the Edgy & Strange”

(L-R: John Monroe ’95 & Jon Solera (Snitow) ’97, Studio C renovations)

[By John Monroe ’95.]

WPRB was such a huge part of my life as an undergraduate that it’s really difficult to even know where to begin. I first heard about the station in August 1991, during Outdoor Action, the week-long backpacking trip that used to be – and probably still is – recommended to incoming students as a way of forming preliminary friendships and thereby taking some of the social edge off the first weeks of freshman fall. One of the group leaders was a DJ at WPRB, jazz if I remember right, and told me about how the show’s programming worked, with classical in the morning, jazz at mid-day, and rock in the afternoon and evening, followed by various specialty shows at night.

It hadn’t occurred to me that Princeton would have a radio station – one that “could be heard in Philly,” no less, as I was told – and from the moment I first heard about it, I was intrigued. All through high school, I’d listened to “twentieth-century classical” music pretty much exclusively. I even looked composers up in Who’s Who and sent them fan mail (you’d be amazed who responded: Cage, George Crumb, Lutoslawski, Stockhausen, Tippett, Berio). At the same time, though, in I suppose typical geeky teenager fashion, I felt this odd social shame about how much I loved it. For me, the great revelation of college was discovering that one could find people who appreciated idiosyncrasies of this kind, rather than turning them into some kind of stigma. (more…)

The Sound of WPRB in 1972 (Part One)

Here is a selection of station IDs and announcements from 1972. These were all sourced from a single 1/4″ reel (pictured above), and provide a good snapshot of WPRB’s airsound from that era. Stay tuned for more in part two! (All selections digitized by Rob Schuman on 11.17.14)

1. Morning sign-on message.

 

2. The Alice Coltrane ID. (At least I think the background music is Alice Coltrane. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.)

 

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“WPRB and Me”

[By Chris Fine]

LISTEN: Mic breaks and news reports from Chris Fine’s rock show on WPRB, February 25th, 1980.

 

Introduction
I write these words about WPRB because I love the station. The people of WPRB were some of my best friends during my years at Princeton. WPRB was the single best activity (including courses – as my transcript reflects) in which I participated during my undergraduate years. My interest in radio, and technology in general, dates back well before my journey to Princeton University in September, 1976. Encouraged by my father, who was an audio engineer and inventor, I started tinkering with electronics and chemistry at a young age. Predictably, a number of shocks and small fires resulted – but fortunately no major injuries, and my family was always patient with me.

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1989 NCAA Tournament interviews with Pete Carril and Bob Scrabis

princetongeorgetownstub

March 17, 1989 is the date of one of the most famous first round NCAA Tournament games of all time – 16 seed Princeton’s one point loss to top-ranked powerhouse Georgetown.

While the contest has only grown in legend since it was played, re-airing hundreds of times on ESPN Classic and being called “The Game That Saved March Madness” by Sports Illustrated, the following recordings have been heard by only an exclusive few since original broadcast.

From WPRB’s transmission of this famous game, here are pre-game interviews with senior captain Bob Scrabis and head coach Pete Carril.

Both were taped between Selection Sunday and the Tigers’ trip to Providence.

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