The DJ Turns 40

I don’t remember who first told me about WISU’s Alternative Sundays or which boy I was trying to impress by learning about alternative music, but somewhere along the line in ’92 or ’93, I started listening to the Sunday night show. From 6PM until midnight, every week, three college radio DJs played the newest in alternative.

I do remember that when I finally called to request a song for the first time, I didn’t know what qualified as alternative. So I asked the DJ to play Triangle Man by They Might Be Giants. TMBG are weird, but not alternative.

I finally settled on a song by the Violent Femmes which was close enough to what they played that the DJ put it on the radio. I was probably a Freshman in high school when I placed the first call.

I don’t remember the first DJ’s name. We chatted on the phone a bit. He dubbed me Princess Leah and I called in the next few weeks to request music and started getting closer to requesting the right music. Eventually the semester came to an end, he graduated and he told Adam to take care of Princess Leah.

Adam was the DJ in the slot before his or after his. I wasn’t impressed, but I got used to the idea of a new college DJ to call, request songs and eventually chat between station breaks.

I went from being a fan to being a friend. Or something like a friend. Adam was, and still is, 5 years older than me. I adored him the way a high school girl can adore a college boy with access to hundreds of CDs. The only time I got grounded in high school was when I stayed too long at the radio studio talking to Adam when I was supposed to be home seeing my visiting aunt.

Adam was on the air when I found out I didnt get into the school of music at DePauw in Greencastle, so the studio was where I went for a pep talk. He gave me my first copy of The Stranger after suggesting I get it from the library to understand the song, “Killing an Arab.” I know own 10 copies of The Stranger in three languages. It is my souvenir of choice when I travel.

Two short memories.

1. When Adam was bartender in Scotland, I wrote letters and he wrote post cards. Then email became a thing and I remember sending him an email with romantic advice I’d picked up in an english class. We’d just studied a poem about gold and how much stress it can handle without breaking. I think I was writing in support of a long distance relationship. I was 19, tops, trying to use poetry as actual advice. It wasn’t well received, but he is married to the woman we were writing about.

2. Adam graduated from college a week or two before I graduated from high school and I was invited to his graduation party. I went and saw his friends I knew from the studio, met other people I’d only heard of and was awkward, sober, high school girl who left in time for my curfew. When I got home, I called my twin sister to report on the party. She told me that when we turned 18, our parents had lifted our curfew AND FAILED TO TELL ME.

I went back to the party.

Since I was the only sober person, I drove Adam’s younger brother to the store for more supplies. In the check-out line, Matt asked me if I wanted a treat and I picked a bag of Skittles.

Thanks to the power of the internet (and the sticking power of a teenage girls’ crush), we’re still in touch. Somehow the DJ is turning 40 this weekend. We haven’t seen each other in at least 15 years and I was meant to be at the party, but I’m bailing because of work travel.

I don’t know if 15 year old me can forgive 35 year old me for skipping the party, but here’s hoping the DJ can. I’ll pour out some Skittles tomorrow while I listen to Jane’s Addiction, Beastie Boys (Paul’s Boutique) and Johnny Cash.

Happy birthday, Adam. Thanks for introducing me to alternative music, Albert Camus and how to dial an international phone call.

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One Response to The DJ Turns 40

  1. The DJ forgives you, but still…weak! Maybe October?…

    The previous DJ was Skip, I think, a music major. He used to make fun of me for playing The Cure. He inherited the show from “Razor” Dave Raisor, with whom I sat in occasionally my freshman year. He was a huge Ozzy fan. So was I. He played Ministry and was very easy-going.

    When Skip left, we were Mark, Bil, and me. I had the last two hours (the BEST two hours, natch). Mark played folky chick music. Bil played ska. I played the loud stuff…including Anthrax. The best was the last year, after Bil and Mark left, so I had six hours every Sunday to fill. We had those boss JBLs in the studio and another set in the classroom, and man, you could get them LOUD.

    I never looked at it as the “right” music. I remember I used to have this thing where I would play “wanna-be” sets. I remember playing Pearl Jam and The Who together, or (one of the better ones) Bowie –> Peter Murphy–> Radiohead. I played Dylan. “Rebel Rebel” by Bowie was the first song I ever played on the radio, followed by Ministry’s “Thieves.” I played all manner of things that had no place on an “alternative” radio show–unless one had an eye to history. Which I of course do (and did). I would, however, give a caller no end of shit for requesting “Blister in the Sun.”

    I recently ripped the cassettes of my last show to MP3. I haven’t listened to them. Now that I have an MP3 player, I should load em up and listen in the car. Could be fun. Or terrible.

    Thanks, Leah. This was sweet. I appreciate it. I still refer to you as my #1 Fan!

    Seriously–6 October!

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