Last Record Store Day we went all out and made an epic double album sister compilation to our Boddie Recording Company box set. This year we mellowed out a bit, compiling a smooth LP from the comfort of our company hot tub. No, really.
Here’s where we wax poetic:
There was a time when your hometown station really was your hometown station. Before media conglomerates demanded your coastal burg’s FM band be auto-shuffled via hard drive from a bunker in Alberta, regional frequencies battled tooth-and-nail for listener loyalty. Your allegiance was hard fought for by nicknamed jocks like Mad Dog Mike, The Big Bumper, and Captain Whammo, guerilla marketers high on major label cash and coke who’d stoop to any gimmick to keep the listener tuned in. They’d hand out keys to shiny new convertibles at remote broadcasts from Dairy Queen whilst skywriters spewed call letters over their broadcast domain. Free t-shirts were promised to eleventh callers who could recite station jingles. Repurposed weather copters spotted bumper stickers during drive time, offering the registered owner tix to REO Speedwagon’s gig at the county fair. At Chicago’s Comiskey Park, WLUP’s Disco Demolition Night rigged 100,000 unwanted LPs with explosives, detonating the pile on-field between games at a White Sox doubleheader and sparking a riot of fans united only by radio-promoted anger at a pop genre. At their best, though, radio stations offered coin of unique value back to their listeners. Though local acts got less than 5% of any given playlist, even such airwave leftovers kept small-time hopes alive. “Battles of the Bands” were staged, judged by on-air personalities and regional A&R reps, and winners got their shot at the big time. A handful of these epic contests were committed to wax for posterity, ad dollars, or tax shelter; only in hindsight is their full brilliance apparent.
When done correctly and courageously, radio station comps were referenda on the local pop talent, generating minor mountains of magnetic tape piled upon Program Directors’ desks, and culminating in alternately grueling and inspiring late-night listening sessions. Most groups hoped to emulate contemporary hitmakers, tailoring their sounds to the fickle tastes of major label brass. Unlike run-of-the-mill custom-recorded and privately issued amateur LPs, these best possible efforts of a listening area’s crop got the sheen of professionalism that obscures their “local” status: Ordained into service by radio overlords, these tracks were gonna make it. How could their humble creators ever doubt it?
In the spirit of the Great Radio Comp, we present WTNG 89.9 FM: Solid Bronze, in tribute to 11 would-be chart-climbers that scaled only their given city’s broadcast tower and fell. Here are working artists who deserve acknowledgement for their working-class commitment. None of them “made it,” but they believed—and so will you—in their one great song, that single shining moment in which everything came together and even those who owned the airwaves had to stop…and listen. These shouts into the void inspired momentary dreams of the big show, sold out in hours by a 15,000-seater’s box office, and a single pair of tickets left, awarded only to the 89th caller.
Phone lines remain open.
WTNG 89.9FM: Solid Bronze will be available on CD and LP, with both formats limited to 1000 copies, on April 21st 2012.
Timothy – Your Love Rolled Over Me
Leder Brothers – I’d Like To Touch A Star
Cream & Sugar – Between Us
J. Michael Henderson – Nite People
Archie James Cavanaugh – Take It Easy
Caroline Peyton – Try To Be True
Roach Band – Aladdin
Greenflow – I Got’Cha
Dwain Vigil – Heaven’s Child
Donna Kime – Golden Pony
Lorren Cornelius – Fantasy Woman
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