Here’s a pair of videos spotlighting WPRB’s vibrant hip-hop culture circa 1992. Just in time for the holidays with the Raw Deal / Club Krush / Vibes & Vapors completist in mind! Great shots of WPRB’s old studios in Holder Hall, the vinyl library, and audio consoles of yore. Thanks to Jon Solomon for the tip on these vids!
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!
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.
One of the more perplexing pieces of archival audio we’ve discovered while combing through WPRB’s deep freeze storage facility is one from February of 1992 which I’ve taken to calling The Proto Punk Production Tapes. For some reason that is long lost to the ages, DJ Arthur Fenno spent the evening of February 11th barricaded in WPRB’s production studio with the goal of merging song snippets from the MC5, Iggy & the Stooges, The X-Ray Spex, and the Avengers into…well… something.
The recording embedded below features repeated takes of the MC5‘s legendary “Kick Out the Jams” intro, and then quickly segues into the brutal riff from “TV Eye” by the Stooges. That is followed immediately by Poly Styrene’s opening screeches of “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” by her band X-Ray Spex, and then finally, the closing refrain of “The American in Me” by the Avengers.
In the days before digital audio software, editing tight transitions like these required a razor blade, splice tape, and an ungodly amount of patience. Arthur’s challenges were exacerbated by the fact that the MC5 segment is very much not-ok-for-the-radio, and since no apparent final version of the recording was contained on this reel, I can only assume that Arthur threw down his razor blade, kicked over a few chairs in the production studio, and stormed angrily into the Princeton night.
We may never know. Nevertheless, I find that the five+ minutes of WPRB’s Proto Punk Production Tapes offer unique insight into the studio challenges of 20+ years ago. It’s also a weirdly inventive listening experience that quickly divorces itself from its individual parts, and becomes something all its own.
I remember a lot of failures. Failing to cue the right song, failing to turn on the mic, failing to read the weather report. Near-failing grades, too. Every DJ has nightmares of irrevocable failures and total chaos, only to wake up and be thankful that real mistakes are quickly lost in the atmosphere.
There were failed promotion stunts, like the rain of nerf balls dropped by the Raritan Valley Flying School over the live Communiversity broadcast on Nassau Street. The lucky person who returned a certain colored ball to Axel’s booth would have won a weekend to Florida, or something like that. However, the wind carried the balls away from the center of town. I don’t know if anyone claimed the prize.
I remember the WPRB night at City Gardens in conjunction with the Mekons concert. We promoted it heavily, but the small enthusiastic crowd was mostly ‘PRB staff. And there was that paid promotional audience-involvement stunt for the First National Bank (Adam, check that.) For weeks we advertised the first annual Bank Vault Cram-In. The group that fit the most people into the vault would win a new CD player. No one (but a few enterprising ‘PRB staffers who thought we needed a new CD player, myself included) showed up. The bank manager was not very amused.
Everything seemed to break or was broken when I was a DJ. The headphones were always broken, as were the chairs; the turntables in Studio C were rarely working at the same time; cart machines and their remote control buttons were always fickle or feckless. Not to mention this production director’s love affair with the elderly Scully reel-to-reel recorder. I also remember the valiant efforts of the helpless engineers, Charlie and then James and then Steve, to reconstruct the scene of the technological crimes. All i can report to have built were some record shelves; setting off the fire alarms by burning the wood with a very dull radial saw is admitted, too. But why dwell on failures? WPRB also fostered many wonderful memories…
Pictured: WPRB’s trophy wax Naughty by Nature 12″s
With thanks to WPRB History’s newest digital archivist Joan Hsiao, we present two recently digitized drop-ins from the station’s storied era of Thursday night hip-hop shows (The Raw Deal, Vibes & Vapors, Club Krush, etc.)
First up, this drop from Jeru the Damaja from the Vibes & Vapors era.
And then from the Raw Deal, we present Treach from Naughty by Nature.
And finally, just because it’s an easy excuse to post a great song, here’s the late, great Tony D, who was a contributor to all of the above mentioned shows, as well as a WPRB DJ in his own right. “Check the Elevation” is a critical slice of local hip-hop history.
Photo: The Daily Princetonian
Things have been pretty quiet here at WPRB History Central for a long time, but with several new volunteer archivists itching to cozy up with our trusty Otari MX5050 reel-to-reel player, we’re aiming to get back to regular posting. And what better way to re-launch the ship than with this brief James Brown phone interview from 1996, performed by the great Lily Prillinger!
At the time, the Godfather of Soul was busy promoting the “Live at the Apollo 1995” album, and Lily managed to contact his management and secure access to The Man Himself for this brief phone interview. Lily is obviously nervous, but hell, what 20-year-old who’s about to speak to JAMES EFFING BROWN wouldn’t be?! For his part, Brown delivers on every level you could hope for—fielding Lily’s anxious questions with a mix of sincerity and almost mechanically-deployed James Brown-isms. (Put another way, it’s either like James Brown doing an impression of himself, or Eddie Murphy’s legendary “Celebrity Hot Tub Party” parody.)
The lead up to Brown taking WPRB’s call is also kind of fascinating, as Lily is given stern instructions by (presumably) Brown’s agent, as to what she may (and may not) ask about. Listen or download below.
James Brown performed in Princeton’s Dillon Gymnasium in February of that year (to mixed reviews.)
Adam Gottlieb was one of WPRB’s more assertively challenging DJs of the early 1990s. As has been previously mentioned here, he once subjected himself to every single Jandek LP in one marathon/overnight session. On top of that, his love of skronky jazz, Captain Beefheart, and obscure international music often made his show something of an endurance test for more timid listeners.
Mixing all of those sounds together into a single freeform show was no big deal for Adam, but sometimes (usually during school breaks when the majority of the airstaff was away from campus), he’d embark upon marathon broadcasts devoted to a single artist with a sprawling back catalog—as much as to fill/kill long stretches of airtime as for the irritainment of the listenership. Case in point, his 1992 eight-hour spotlight on The Residents.
Here’s the promo:
[Words: Jen Moyse ‘94. DJ 1990-1999. Music Director 1992-94. Image: Original “Hey You Kids” playlist]
As I sit here trying to decide how to approach getting my thoughts on WPRB to paper, I’m browsing through my iTunes library, trying to identify which in my enormous virtual collection of albums I feel like hearing right now. I glance over to the bookshelf housing my 1000+ vinyl library, and back to the living room, where I still have an embarrassing number of CDs (in sleeves now) and 7” singles stored discreetly in not-terribly-unattractive boxes for easy access.
The cassettes, including a full box of recordings of Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn!, the show I delivered weekly with Mike Lupica for many years, are stored in the closet, since I long ago disconnected my cassette player. Which, now that I think of it, is still lodged deep in the closet as well.
The external hard drive includes a stash of music I haven’t even organized yet.
This is all WPRB’s fault, and I love it. It’s been 25 years since I arrived at WPRB, and I’ve been a different person since. And not just because of this wall of music. I can genuinely say that the station has influenced my life more dramatically than just about anything else (hi, Mom and Dad!). (more…)
Years on air:
Favorite bands/musicians: David Bromberg, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, Beppe Gambetta, Dan Bern, Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Randy Newman. Lacy J. Dalton, Chuck Brodsky, Bruce Hornsby.
Memorable on-air moment: When I started and had an early morning show, a woman called in and said, “Young man, do you realize you are in Princeton, New Jersey? This is not Nashville.”
Advice for current WPRB DJs: From time to time while you are alone (and preferably driving), listen to a recording of your show and make sure nothing about it annoys you and makes you think about switching the station.