Pajama Slave Dancers were a super-cool band in Northampton while I was at Smith. I wasn’t cool enough to actually know them personally, but my sister was. This would be my sister the 21st Century Band Mom, formally known as the Goth Princess of Northampton, Massachusetts. This morning I learned that today is NATIONAL COLLEGE RADIO DAY, and the Pajama Slave Dancers’ “Thank God for College Radio” popped into my head. Except that I thought it was the Replacements. Whatever.
College radio saved my life in high school and no doubt improved the quality of life of everyone around me. I hated my hometown growing up, and I made sure everyone knew it. I was the quintessential self-marginalizing small-town freak, and my poetry sucked. Up in my attic bedroom one day I fussed with my AM/FM clock radio and picked up the most glorious sound I’d ever heard: “Whip It,” by Devo. I had landed on WMUA, the UMASS Amherst college station. ‘MUA opened my ears and gave me something to listen to that was so infinitely cool I had to stop writing poetry. That was 1980.
My sophomore year at Smith the radio station went FM; I have no idea where the call letters WOZQ came from. My show was called HOPE FOR TOMORROW and I was always somewhere in the deep overnight. My radio neighbor was usually my excellent friend Lisa Twaronite; her show was called THE TWARONITE ZONE. She did awesome flyers for both our shows. Our one collaboration was a theme show inspired by the invasion of the Falklands. My senior year I was on the station’s board of directors and I designed ‘OZQ’s first t-shirt! It was an awesome shirt and I still have mine but somehow it’s shrunk down to doll-clothes-size over the past 30 years.
I love college radio. In 2006, when I was living in Portland, Maine, I spent some time with a DJ at WMPG. After listening to me go on and on and on about how much I loved being a DJ at Smith, he interrupted me and pointed out the sign-up sheet for DJ training. Wow! A couple of weeks later, I was on the air, and just this past spring ended my run at ‘MPG.
Here is my playlist for the show I did on WMPG called 1980: The Year I Discovered College Radio. True radio fact: the louder you play it, the more you will enjoy it. Trust me. I’m a DJ.