August 2015 -  WPRB History
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August 2015

The Musical Box, and Prog vs. Punk at WPRB

 

[By Bill Rosenblatt]

When I first showed up at WPRB in the Fall of 1979, the station’s musical center of gravity was shifting from progressive rock to punk and new wave. I was a prog fanatic – thanks in part to listening to WPRB during my senior year of high school in Philadelphia, especially late at night when the signal was stronger (this was before the early 1990s power increase) and DJs were more likely to play 10-minute epic prog tracks. But by the time I had gone through DJ training, I was one of the few remaining people who was still into prog. So I started a specialty show called “The Musical Box”, named after an early Genesis tune, which focused on prog rock as well as jazz-rock fusion. I believe I did the show from 1980 through 1982. Later on, Kevin Boyce ’83 joined me as cohost.

LISTEN: Musical Box Promo #1 (featuring stylish use of “Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes.)

 

LISTEN: Musical Box promo #2 (with great re-purposing of “California Über Alles ” by the Dead Kennedys”

 

We had an on-air “rivalry” between Mark Dickinson ’84 and myself.  Mark was the resident expert on hardcore punk; he did a specialty show on it called “Decline and Fall”. The rivalry was “Punk is not music, the musicians can’t even play their instruments” vs. “Prog is pretentious, self-indulgent dinosaur music that isn’t real rock ‘n’ roll.” It was nothing personal; I had great respect for Mark, and he even got me to fill in for his show once.

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Friday WPRB DJ Pinup: Tim Kastelle!

[aka “Rockin'” Tim Kastelle]

Years on air: 1982-1989

Favorite bands: This is kind of like asking which oxygen molecule I like best when I’m breathing.

Memorable on-air moment: [My wife] Nancy and I had joint bachelor and bachelorette parties by doing a graveyard (late night show) with our friends the night before we got married. It was a Saturday night, so we started early at around 11 pm. It was a cool thing for many reasons. Everyone that was there did something – the 12 or so ex-DJs all played a set, while everyone else picked songs, or read the weather or news, or something. And all through the night we were getting calls from people who were happy to hear voices they hadn’t heard in years. Like Sean Murphy said in his post last week, I majored in radio, and this ended up being the last show I ever did. It was a great combination of friendship and connection that were the hallmarks of all of my great WPRB memories.

Advice for current WPRB DJs: Experiment with everything. The station gives an amazing opportunity to try out every idea you have, even the stupid ones. And the stupid ones often end up be the best. So much of university life is regimented, but at the station you have unbelievable autonomy – take full advantage of that!

On the Lasting Benefits of the WPRB Experience

[By Dave Forrest ’60]

Reminiscences of the heroic age of PRB in the late 50’s retain their noble lustre beneath the encrusted molluscs and other crud of time. Other contributors to this [project] will no doubt limn the brilliant PRB trajectories of such mythic figures as Siggins, Crowther, McGuire, Dunn, Fuellhart, McCracken, Miller, McGiffert, Fleishhaker, Medina, et al. and the promulgated joys of midcult and masscult offerings of the station.

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LISTEN: I.R.S. Records Tax Day Giveaway promo

Here’s a promo for an early 80s record giveaway coordinated between WPRB and the once-omnipresent I.R.S. Record Label. Listen carefully for recorded evidence of The Music Cellar—a great record shop that existed in the basement of Titles Unlimited booksellers, at the Princeton Shopping Center.

Promo voiced by Jordan Becker ’82, digitized by Bill Rosenblatt ’83.

Ramones and Bad Brains at City Gardens, 1991

Here’s another classic City Gardens promo, this one hyping gigs from the Ramones (who at that point in their career were playing the club every 3-4 months), and whose local appearances were frequently announced on WPRB with three-hour, all-Ramones broadcasts helmed by DJ Greg Savage.

The promo also touts an appearance from the Bad Brains. This recording dates from 1991 and is an interesting document of the brief time when Bad Brains vocalist HR and been replaced by Chuck Mosley, original singer of Faith No More.

 

Oh God, My God, I Left my Key to Heaven at Home

By Teri Noel Towe
[aka “TNT” or Teri “The Animal” Towe]

The late 60’s were a Golden Age for classical music at the station. WPRB was blessed with a string of committed and sensitive Classical Music Directors: Jeff Schaefer, Hal Abelson, Greg Petsko, and Alan Konefsky. I myself had the pleasure of serving in that capacity for a year and a half. The Classical Department had four hours every weekday evening (7 to 11) and several hours on Sunday afternoon. As a record collector and classical music nut, I found at WPRB the perfect forum for the grinding of my personal axes. For two years (my junior and senior years), I did two shows a week (Tuesday and Thursday evenings). In addition to series devoted to all the recordings of the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska and the cellist and conductor Pablo Casals, I regularly presented “The Age of Shellac”, a series devoted to historic 78 RPM recordings, which I transferred to tape on my own equipment in my dorm room, first in ’41 Hall, and then in ’03.

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Friday WPRB DJ Pinup: Adoley!

Photo by Dan Ungar ’74

Years on air: 2010-2014

Favorite band/artist: Okkervil River. Will Sheff is a brilliant lyricist, which appeals to the poet in me.

Memorable on-air moment: The first happened during a sub that I was doing my freshman year with two other new DJs who had recently passed their tests. We were dancing in the studio and I, impassioned by the spirit of radio, dropped it so hard that I split my pants. Really cemented my status as a top dog among the freshman DJs.

Advice for current WPRB DJs: Understand that the station is a glorious combination of a monied institution and a startup over which you have full creative control, and milk that for all it’s worth.

Welcome Back—Fall of ’83

By Henry Yu
(Above, L-R: Yuval Taylor 85, Nicola Ginzler 85, Colin Iosso 84, Henry Yu 84, Bob Bruce 85. On the road to an REM/Hüsker Dü gig in WPRB’s VW Rabbit. Photo by Kristin Belz ’84))

1980-1984 was such a great time period musically. First generation punk rock may have already been declared dead by the cognoscenti, but those four years would mark the heyday of the post-punk and hardcore eras, the advent of college rock, and the birth of what would come to be known fondly as 80’s rock. To have been at WPRB when so many incredible records were coming out, while clubs like City Gardens and Maxwell’s played host to these bands tours, and their records could be bought at the Princeton Record Exchange or a Saturday bus ride to NYC from in front of Nassau Hall, was an incredible experience. And to have shared it with fellow DJs who became lifelong friends has made WPRB much more than a four year experience.

I began my DJ-ing as one half of the self-proclaimed “no future glimmer twins”, since neither one of us was competent enough to both talk and engineer at the same time, it took both of us to get us through a show. We even walked around campus handcuffed together on occasion. Eventually, we got our own shows.

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WPRU Remote Broadcast Mystery

This is one of the oldest original photos we’ve discovered in the station’s archives, but no details as to the subjects, location, or year it was taken have been revealed. The mic setup suggests a remote broadcast, the WPRU banner places it somewhere between 1940 and 1955, and the combo’s setup indicates a live jazz gig at a… University eating club? Some long-shuttered venue in Princeton?

Do you recognize any of the subjects in this photo or have any information on the event it depicts? Please comment below and help us unravel this mystery!

UPDATE: Rob Schuman says: “I don’t, of course, recognize the group, but the station aired live jazz from very early on in its existence. I doubt its the same group, but here’s a clip from the Princetonian, October 9, 1941.”

 

WPRB and Me—Perfect Together!

By Sean Murphy ’94 [photo: Nicole Scheller]

I’m definitely not the first, and I hope I’m not the last, to be able to say that I majored in WPRB. Officially, I graduated with a degree in Politics, but my independent work and thesis focused on regulatory processes at the Federal Communications Commission. And that work resulted from many long and late nights spent playing and talking about records and bands and radio and what it meant to be non-profit, commercial, and independent all at the same time. From the music to the management lessons to the friendships, my WPRB experiences still reverberate nearly 25 years later.

I arrived at the basement of Holder Hall’s 11th entry in September 1990. I had some idea of what I might be getting into, as I’d spent the previous spring and summer interning at WMBR, 88.1 Cambridge, MA (MIT’s radio station). WPRB was different, from the rigidity of the program logs and actual paid 30- and 60-second ads to the presence of the main record library right in the control room. But the most important similarity was that WPRB saw and understood itself as an institution at, but not of, the university.

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