Monday, May 4, 2009

The Loser Listens to College Radio

As a young man in college The Complete and Total Loser had a radio show. A 10-watt station which reached his school's tiny campus and a few houses beyond but, given that this was in a rural part of the Midwest, there was little else to reach.
He was happy there. He knew nothing about any kind of music except that he liked musicals and music from movies and had a small collection of records from the genre. (This was in the late 1970s. It wasn't until after college that he learned, embarrassingly, that a love for show tunes was a gay stereotype.)
A tiny station, in a dorm's basement. One room filled with records, a larger one with a desk never used and junk, the studio, with a mixing board, two turntables, a cassette deck and a reel-to-reel tape machine.
Did any of the under 2,000 students listen to his show, broadcast on Sunday afternoons? The Loser didn't care. He imagined one, perhaps. That was plenty.
A poor student, the Loser's grades declined as his love for being on the air grew and he filled in for hosts of other shows as they put academics first or lost interest in filling their weekly hour or two.
Last week, the Loser discovered that the station streams through iTunes. He puts in earbuds and listens. The students play whatever they want, even if it's Neil Young followed by Bob Marley followed by Led Zepplin, which he likes. Like much college radio, they play far too much jazz. Surprisingly, when the DJs talk their voices have little presence, due to cheap microphones and poorly designed studio acoustics. He imagined this would have improved in the 28 years since he was there.
It's fun to listen to, but even the happiest songs (Good Day, Sunshine!) make the Loser melancholy.

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