This weekly feature is usually devoted to a song that I swooned over during, as I put it, “my college radio days,” by which I mean the span of time when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and spending most of my time at 90FM, that institution’s student-run station. There is, however, a whole second life I had in college radio, working as the advisor and General Manager for WPRK-FM at Rollins College in central Florida. In additional to all the other opportunities and benefits this job shift brought, it gave me a chance to become reacquainted with the vast variety of new music out there, a treasured part of my media consumption that I’d increasingly lost touch with during the nearly ten years between my college graduation and my return to the left of the dial.
One of the first albums I bought at my new friendly neighborhood record store was Psychopharmacology, the third release from the band Firewater. This was the group started by Tod A. after he left Cop Shoot Cop, another band I knew of only in theory. The music on the album wasn’t especially revolutionary or stunning, but it was clearly, sharply different from the earthy retreads given my primary source for hearing new artists before the move. It was a little arch and a little moody, and it came at songcraft from odd angles. It was cool and a little bizarre, meaning it was laced with everything I’d been missing from “my college radio days,” when obscure performers could receive saturation airplay if they hit the collective mood of the staff in just the right way.
While Firewater never achieved any sort of dominance on our station, or any others that I know of, the title track was a staple for at least a few DJs. I had to explain to one wonderful, devoted volunteer that playing that particular song each and every time she was on the air, well after the album could be considered new by even the most generous definitions of the word, wasn’t a good way to build a radio program. (My view of broadcasting didn’t always match up with the mix-tape mentality that routinely cropped up among the staff, where every show was more of an excuse to play their twenty favorite songs of the moment than to try to appeal to listeners who were likely tuned to the station because they wanted freshness and variety.) To be fair, I could fully understand why she kept returning to the song. It has an addictive quality to it. All the best music does.
(Disclaimer: Psychopharmacology appears to be out of print, and, if Amazon is a good enough indicator of such things, it also isn’t available for digital purchase. A particularly cool used section might have a copy, but without that it seems there’s no way to exchange currency to add this song to a personal collection. That’s the belief I had when I uploaded it to the internet with the intent of sharing it with others who may or may not find it enjoyable. I’m certainly not trying to take proverbial food off of anyone’s proverbial table. If some authoritative figure, or even a meek soul, with some official responsibility for protecting the song from any sort of infringement, copyright or otherwise, contacts me and says some variation of “Knock it off,” I will gladly remove the offending track. Seriously, I will. I’m not trying to start something here.)