I used to have a weekly radio show on WHCM, the radio station at Harper College. Thursday afternoons from 5:00-7:00 pm was my gig, often going until 9:00 ’cause the guy who followed me didn’t always show up.
When I joined in the fall of 1979, the station had a fairly loose format. The air staff could play just about anything they wanted, provided nobody listening (esp. faculty advisers) complained about it, and it fit within the guidelines of what was supposed to be played during your shift.
The guy before me played a lot of progressive rock– he was heavy on the Pink Floyd, Rush, Genesis, and yes, Kraftwerk.
My shift included the dinner hour, so I was supposed to play “softer” material, as if hearing Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise” would cause indigestion to those listening in (who were mostly on-campus anyway, eating the school’s food that, frankly, didn’t need any help from Messrs. Anderson, et al in that department).
The challenge was to figure out what to play on the air that wouldn’t sound, well, wussy. I was listening to a lot of different stuff at the time: progressive rock, SoCal country rock, Steely Dan, Beatles, Stones… and remember that this was 1979, so there was all this new stuff on my turntable like The Clash, The Ramones, Blondie, OMD, Siouxsie, and Elvis Costello. How would I pull this off?
One method was to carry notes with me, and when I thought of a song that might fit into the format I’d write it down and stick the little piece of paper back in my wallet. I ran across a bunch of these little scraps of paper, and I figured I’d share them here.
This particular note, from what I can figure, dates from around the fall of 1981 when faculty came down on the air staff for playing “material that’s too wild for our audience.” They took on the philosophy (and slogan) that we were there to provide “Something For Everyone” so we really had to tone it down.
Here’s one side of the note, and here’s the other. I deciphered my handwriting and offered some explanations on the next page.
One of these days I’ll pull the playlists off one of the tapes of one of my shows.

Who – Tommy (referring to the entire album– lots of stuff to choose from here)
Andrew Gold – What’s Wrong (With This Picture?) (a soft-rock album by one of Linda Ronstadt’s guitarists. Known for the song “Lonely Boy.”)
“Start with Ian Gomm” refers to the song “Hold On,” a great acoustic new-wavish song with a cool opening riff.
Ian Hunter got in there with “Ships,” mainly because I couldn’t play “Once Bitten Twice Shy” or “Cleveland Rocks.”
Dire Straits’ “Lady Writer” also got in there, one of the better tracks from their second album.
And look– “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. The good thing about that song was that it was long enough to get me down the hall to the bathroom, if required. (The other songs that were good for this were “Hotel California” by the Eagles, “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues, or the long version of “Green Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf.)
And yeah, Three Dog Night even slipped in there. It was probably “Out in the Country” or “Easy to Be Hard.”
On the flipside, we have Van Morrison’s “Moondance” (before it became really cool to play it), Elton John’s “Country Comfort,” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird.” Neil Diamond fans get “Longfellow Serenade” which was a guilty pleasure of mine back then.
Klaatu’s “A Routine Day” is here, too. (I have an entire blog entry on Klaatu that’s not quite halfway done, so expect to hear more about these guys.) In this song, a guy is talking about how boring his life is, and despite its overall cheery McCartneyesque feel, by the end the whole song is really a bummer. If you don’t listen to the words, it sounds pretty happy, actually.

One Response to “Ancient Scribblings”

  1. Looking forward to the Klaatu entry. I love that about the Smiths, that they write happy little songs with devastating lyrics. It’s almost like they feel happy about being sad.

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