In the summer of 1986, I was a student at Rutgers University and a DJ at the campus radio station, WRSU-FM. I had grown up in the area, and listened to both WRSU and WPRB as a teenager. In those days before the Internet and streaming audio, you had to seek out cultural avenues by yourself, and I was very fortunate to have resources like these to light the way.
I’d heard my friends Gene and Bryan, both Rutgers students and WRSU DJs, on WPRB as well. One day I asked Bryan how he managed to get on WPRB. I assumed you had to be a Princeton student to qualify for airtime. “Call Ken Katkin,” he suggested.
Favorite bands: Joy Division, Andrew Bird, Cat Power, Devendra Banhart, T. Rex, Caribou.
Memorable on-air moment: Receiving a request for “Fistful of Love” by Antony and the Johnsons from a federal prisoner.
Advice for current WPRB DJs: Don’t be afraid to mix genres–some of my favorite playlists were the ones that had songs that didn’t seem to go together at all but somehow worked. You don’t always have to have a premeditated theme. And sometimes it’s okay to go mainstream. (I got a lot of flack for listening to Franz Ferdinand but I have no regrets.)
I have a lot of WPRB memories, but the most important is my first. When I got to Princeton in 1998, the social life seemed so homogeneous and it didn’t take me long to realize I wouldn’t fit in with the [University’s] eating club scene. I was already resigned to spend the next four years in my dorm room listening to music alone when fellow freshman Alex Wood and I decided to check out the radio station. The first time I walked into the tech shop and Phil Taylor handed me a soldering iron, I knew I’d found my happy place!
Even pulling a 2am shift, you were never alone in the studio. You were in the company of hundreds of former DJs who’d left their handwritten reviews on record and CD covers.
Pictured below, by Stephanie’s request, WPRB’s copy of Einstürzende Neubauten’s “Silence is Sexy”—a favorite of her era. (Hilariously tagged as “German R&B” by former WPRB DJ and Treblequake host, Brian Farmer.)
Yes, there actually was one summer where I spent my vacation doing the 6AM morning show. It seemed like a cushy enough job, and no one else wanted to do It. I soon found out why. With only a skeleton crew of students around, and most of them here because they partied too much during the semester, some late nights sort of tended to develop. Soon I was dragging myself out of bed just to make it to the station in time to play the opening cart with all those fascinating statistics (how far does 17,000 watts go anyway), never mind shove a cup of coffee down me first. But then I developed a system: There were a few eclectic German bands in the rabbits [aka vinyl stacks] with some twenty-two minute tracks—boring avante-garde gibberish, but just long enough to Iet me make it to the deli just off of the main drag, grab a doughnut, and scoot back. (more…)
Image: “There’s a Dyke in the Pit” 7″ compilation, Outpunk Records, 1992.
[Text: Gayle Wald and Joanne Gottlieb]
WPRB’s “Ladies First” aired Monday nights at 9 PM beginning in the summer of 1992. The original idea was for a show that featured female artists and that interrogated what “women’s” music could sound like. It was one a few radio shows in the New York-to-Philadelphia area that routinely featured music from the burgeoning Riot Grrrl movement of women in indie rock. The title of the show was taken from a track by Queen Latifah and Monie Love on Queen Latifah’s groundbreaking debut LP, “All Hail the Queen”. The original promo invited lady listeners to tune in and “liberate your radios!”
DOWNLOAD: 11 Page PDF of Ladies First playlists from 1992
LISTEN: “Ladies First” promo #1
Below is the transcript of a conversation between co-hosts Gayle Wald (Grad ’95) and Joanne Gottlieb (Grad ’02) about the show and its origins.
Gayle Wald: Joanne, how do you remember getting involved with “Ladies First” and WPRB?
Joanne Gottlieb: I got involved with WPRB in the spring of 1990 – my friend and fellow grad student Christian Perring suggested we do the training for the station/FCC license together, and we started doing our respective shows that summer. As an undergrad, I had had a boyfriend who was a college radio DJ, and doing college radio seemed like one of the coolest things you could do, short of being in a band yourself. Doing the WPRB training was also a way to spend more time with Christian, on whom I had a big crush. (We got together that spring.) I guess my involvement with music has always had a big connection to the men in my life. (more…)
Favorite bands (of the era): Animal Collective, Sufjan Stevens, Caribou, The Books, Bill Callahan, Menomena.
Memorable on-air moment: Live-broadcast of the series finale for Rock Blastaar and the Radio Rangers! Also, not technically ON-air, but near it: painting the studio mural with paint fumes in the unventilated basement!
Advice for current WPRB DJs: Explore the station’s amazing record collection by wheeling open an unfamiliar cabinet, and push yourself to curate as eclectic a program as possible!
We’re thrilled to announce the long-planned second phase of WPRB’s 75th anniversary celebrations (the first being the launch of this website): a physical exhibit of station history and esoterica, which will be on display at Princeton University’s Mudd Library through May of 2016, and which is open to the public!
Titled “WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse”, and curated by WPRB’s Mike Lupica and Princeton University Archivist Dan Linke, the exhibit is a meatspace version of the kind of materials we’ve been highlighting on this website. On display are vintage photographs, playlists, documents, selections from WPRB’s vinyl record library, vintage broadcast equipment, and much more. There is also an interactive content station that allows visitors to browse audio selections and WPRB-related news clippings from the last 75 years.
“WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse” is a free exhibit which is open to the public. The exhibit is housed in the Wiess Lounge at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, 65 Olden Street, in Princeton, New Jersey. (Right around the corner from Hoagie Haven!) Viewing hours are Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 4:45 PM.
I started out with The Daily Princetonian and, in early 1941, part of my news-writing assignment was to cover the new student-operated radio station, WPRU. I became more and more interested in the station’s operations and even began to fill in as an announcer from time to time. My superiors at The Prince, pointing out that WPRU was a competitor to the newspaper, told me to make up my mind who I wanted to work for, so I finally quit the Prince.
Here’s a station ID from the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA (aka Prince Rakeem) recorded for WPRB’s “The Raw Deal” sometime in the early 1990s.
The years 1985-1995 are generally thought of as hip-hop’s ‘golden age’, and it’s impossible to overstate the role that college radio stations played in transitioning the genre from its underground roots to the mainstream. At WPRB, hip-hop first emerged on a late 80s program helmed by Drew Keller GS ’91 along with current New York Times columnist John Leland. In the 90s, shows like “The Raw Deal”, “Club Krush”, and “Vibes & Vapors” attracted huge listenerships and made WPRB a local resource for an emerging genre and cultural movement. (At the apex of its popularity, the student hosts of “Vibes & Vapors” went so far as to rent office space on Princeton’s Nassau Street in order to manage and promote the show!)