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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Power of College Radio

Friday, September 11

College radio is not a high-tech operation. Most DJs are alone in the studio, picking records & CDs, cueing them up, previewing them to see if they'll transition well from the last song, and all the while keeping track of the songs so they can tell you once in a while what you've been listening to.

All that can go to hell in a heartbeat if you have a skipping record or an unexpected guest or malfunctioning equipment or a long-winded phone caller. With experience and imagination, disaster may be averted or transformed to triumph.

Cue Inki's Buttcrack (Rapeman): A 7 inch little record with a big hole, released in 1989 on SubPop as a limited edition installment to their monthly singles club, (posted on this blog). I am lucky enough to have one of these, but it's warped, with a visible curl turning up the edge of the record.

I'd never had a problem playing it though, until yesterday. It seemed like a good idea to open the show with it- it is instrumental, has this slow buildup that you can talk over, and then morphs into a righteous ear-boxing of a song. But because of a very minor (and fixable) technical problem, the intro to the show was practically derailed by the needle jumping up and down and refusing to stay in the grooves.

Perhaps it was the radio gods' intention to throw us a curveball yesterday. I was training a new DJ who was thus able to learn three things: always have a backup thing you can put on, such as a PSA about strokes; needles sometimes are mounted to the cartridge at an angle by careless persons before you so you have to twist them to stop the plastic riding the vinyl and jumping over the warps; and the counterweight on the tone arm can be pushed up to 3.5 to force the needle to sit more heavily on uncooperative records.

Of course, some records are just beyond salvation, but yesterday, things worked out just fine. Listen to it for yourself here.

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