A trip through the vault at KEXP
July 9, 2010 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Nothing compares with the experience of wandering through the archives of a college radio station, reading the stickers pasted on the old LPs and seeing first-hand how DJs viewed canonical records when they first came out. The KEXP blog puts those stickers online in Review Revue. Read contemporary reactions to: Paul Simon, Graceland. Peter Broggs, Cease the War. LL Cool J, Bigger and Deffer. Nirvana, Sliver 7". Lou Reed, New York. Tin Machine s/t. Sonic Youth, Goo. The Stone Roses s/t.
posted by escabeche (25 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Kudos to KEXP for this effort, both then and now. My college station has a few of these, but nothing so detailed for the most part. I like the dialogue on some of these, especially in retrospect. Most of the CDs we get come pre-stickered with the promo hype, which sometimes get modified and clarified. Not quite to the level of praises for The DaVinci Code, but there are some interesting connections made (lots of people sound like Radiohead, surprise surprise).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:30 PM on July 9, 2010

This is a fun read -- takes me back to the college radio days. Thanks!
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:33 PM on July 9, 2010

That's pretty neat. OF course, always to be taken with a grain of salt; at our community radio station, there is plenty of disagreement with what THAT BOZO wrote on the CD label about such-and-such an album. Cool idea to share, though!
posted by Miko at 7:34 PM on July 9, 2010

I liked this for Tin Machine, by the way: "Now he’s merely grasping at what is considered the latest trend in hard-pop-rock. Give me the Pixies for hard-pop-rock.”
posted by escabeche at 7:40 PM on July 9, 2010

I've been meaning to try unearth playlists or what have you from my local alternative station growing up--god how I loved it.

posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:59 PM on July 9, 2010

Their enthusiasm for 'goo' pretty much matched mine when I got it. It was on my personal heavy-heavy rotation for a long time. (and I understand the 'overplayed' sentiment expressed as well... it saddened me when I overplayed something I loved so much)
posted by el io at 7:59 PM on July 9, 2010

Don'y miss this one, where Billy Bragg left his own sticker rebuttals on their copy of "Talking With the Taxman..."
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:03 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Way back in the 1970s, my college radio station still had over a thousand 45s from the 50s and 60s, real Top 40 stuff, including some almost forgotten oldies. A copy of "You Talk Too Much" by Joe Jones was in a sleeve with several unfamiliar names written on it. I and my contemporaries came to the conclusion that it was a Hall of Shame for long past DJs who were reprimanded for... talking too much.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:04 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recently revisited my college radio station and spent an hour or so looking over comment cards on albums I hadn't seen in 20+ years. It was fascinating to see real time comments and reviews of early records by Jason and the Scorchers, Pixies, X, English Beat, Blasters, Let's Active, the Nails, Suburbs, Joe Jackson, the Jam, Marshall Crenshaw, Chris Isaak, and many more. Many of those comment cards were essential to my musical development. Plus it was fun to see the pre-internet version of snarking again - so much of the comment card patter replicated the petty squabbles and nitpicking I didn't see again until I got online a few years later.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:05 PM on July 9, 2010

Nothing compares with the experience of wandering through the archives of a college radio station, reading the stickers pasted on the old LPs and seeing first-hand how DJs viewed canonical records when they first came out.

Ain't it the fuckin' truth. Last year my old college radio station threw out a good portion of its CD collection, and now I wonder if they bothered to keep any of the review slips wedged into the fronts of the jewel cases. I spent a lonely summer and so many sleepless nights in that studio going through all the old reviews... it'd be a shame if they were gone.
posted by carsonb at 8:08 PM on July 9, 2010

I stumbled upon a cache of old radio station vinyl back in the late 70's that had recommended tracks & stuff, but never a hand-written review. Those are interesting in a time-capsule kind of way, and it led to an interesting interview with Steve Berlin about Graceland. I love Los Lobos, and I love(d) Paul Simon, but damn, fuck that guy. I never knew Simon was such an asshole.

It's funny --the contrasting snippets about Tim Machine. What you see there in the hand-written snippets seems to be what you saw around its release -- I think the people who took the album on of its own merits by and large liked it, and people who imbued the whole Bowie mystique onto it disliked it. Personally, I've always loved it, but it came out at a time when I was trying to do something similar musically -- very loose & noisy, and I've always appreciated the unforced and raw nature of the thing. It's a great marriage between pretty and ugly, and I love that tension between harmony and discord. Also, Hunt & Tony Sales just burn it all down. Ace rhythm section, for sure. I Can't Read is a pretty powerful song. ("I don't care which shadow gets me. All I've got is someone's face.") I think Bowie took a lot of undeserved shit for Tin Machine. I think if he'd been unknown at the time, the album would have been well-received.

Tin Machine II was pretty awful, though.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:10 PM on July 9, 2010

I've been meaning to try unearth playlists or what have you from my local alternative station growing up--god how I loved it.


Dear Admiral Haddock:
This is what you are looking for.
a hardcore WLIR fan
posted by girlhacker at 8:18 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just to reiterate Devils Rancher, the "[Intresting story...]" link to the story of Los Lobos' involvement on the record referred to in the review of Graceland is worth the ten minutes it will take to read it. This story definitely sheds a new light what I long considered to be one of the landmark albums of the 20th century.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:33 PM on July 9, 2010

Aw, some of these are quite sweet. A few of my favorite albums are on here -- makes me want to listen to them right now.

I guess cos about, I dunno, 95% of what I listen to is not-from-today music, it just seems kind of adorable to think of people listening to these albums for the first time, just as they were released, discovering them and all that.
posted by Put the kettle on at 8:43 PM on July 9, 2010

The college radio station I volunteer at is currently putting the bulk of our CDs into sleeves from jewel cases, and it's been great to not only see a lot off the random bands we've collected over the years, but also the reviews. Not only a great record of all the volunteers who've passed through the station, but really the musical whims as well. Maybe we'll copy KEXP.
posted by kendrak at 8:52 PM on July 9, 2010

Ah, a Tin Machine thread, and perfect time to post this.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:54 PM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

“H? C’mon. This really is bad. ‘Boorish and dumb.’ Let KFOX play it.”

KFOX & KZIZ were the only two stations that would play black contemporary music for years (contemporary in the literal sense, not genre). Before KCMU became KEXP, they'd really only play Beastie Boys and Rap Attack once a week.

KUBE would play a Bobby Brown cut maybe 3 times a day, until Dr. Dre's Chronic came out. Then it was "Nothing but a G Thang" at least twice an hour, every day. They came down to Garfield High School and tried to claim to be down, but really, everyone laughed at their "bandwagon" tactics. I blame KUBE for the Pacific Northwest's high ratio of Dudebros.

It was all KFOX & KZIZ, on the AM, and you'd figure out which way to orient your radio and antenna to get the best reception. Daytime and early evening for hiphop and R&B, late night for oldies and the Quiet Storm. And if you answered the Oldie question of the day, you won a prize (usually, a CD). What can I say? I loved those stations and I was the Chinese kid who kept showing up to claim prizes, because I loved me some Earth, Wind and Fire, Blue Magic, Bobby Caldwell, Al Green, etc.

During the Clear Channel buyout wave, KFOX got turned into a Disney radio station or something.

So yeah. Let KFOX play it.

posted by yeloson at 8:56 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

“Face it, folks. Hardcore’s had it.” [This comment was made over 25 years ago. There are, I'm quite sure, people having this same discussion today.]
Punk was born dead.
posted by Kattullus at 9:52 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, this really takes me back.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:41 PM on July 9, 2010

Wow, I played this album nonstop my sophomore year of college. Drove my friend who lived next to me absolutely crazy.
posted by Lucinda at 11:06 PM on July 9, 2010

yeloson, thanks for the history on KFOX (and KZIZ), call letters I only know by legend. I do Street Sounds over @ KEXP, and love this series. there's truly nothing better than reading these stickers in the library.
posted by lar206 at 4:04 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

This "Graceland" album sounds suspiciously like Vampire Weekend! How dare an established songwriter like Paul Simon steal the sound of an up-and-comer like this?

posted by Pope Guilty at 6:34 AM on July 10, 2010

This "Graceland" album sounds suspiciously like Vampire Weekend! How dare an established songwriter like Paul Simon steal the sound of an up-and-comer like this?

I don't recall there being much love for Graceland at my station back in the day, mainly because we were already hearing lots of the cool African stuff he was having fun with. But meanwhile the mainstream media were falling all over themselves calling him a genius etc. This got very boring very fast.

Now I just file it as one of those 80s albums that wasn't completely awful but man, I never feel the need for it.
posted by philip-random at 8:20 AM on July 10, 2010

And ... reading those Sonic Youth, Goo reviews brings back some stupid memories. Stuff like ...

Goo is on the same level as their landmark LPs Bad Moon Rising and EVOL.

As if Daydream Nation, the album that preceded it, was somehow NOT one of the five or ten best guitar albums of all time. Period. No hate for the albums that preceded it but to mistake them as even remotely superior reads as flat, unimaginative and narrow minded today as it did then.

Never trust a hipster (proto or otherwise).
posted by philip-random at 8:28 AM on July 10, 2010

"College radio as it is generally known began in the United States in the 1960s when the FCC began issuing class D licenses for ten-watt stations to further the development of the then-new FM band. Some colleges had already been broadcasting for decades on the AM band, often originating in physics experiments in the early 20th century."

Where Was the First College Radio Station in the U.S.?

Review of Richard Slotten’s 2009 book Radio’s Hidden Voice: The Origins of Public Broadcasting in the United States.

"College radio has always been an unslick, spit-and-baling-wire affair..."
posted by Twang at 7:16 PM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

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