Though I started at the college radio station in the fall of 1988, my first time on air was a few months before that. While in high school outside of Madison, Wisconsin, I turned into a little bit of a geek boy fan, listening to local radio station WMAD-FM and calling up the deejays to discuss music. I vaguely remember a couple longer conversations with their overnight guy and one day when I called in a talked at length with the midday jock about the new Springsteen album, which I’m sure the radio professional on the other end found mercilessly tedious. Thankfully, none of those instances translated into airtime. The first time I wound up on the air is when I called up correctly identifying the Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods song “Rev It Up” as part of a contest, winning myself a fabulous prize package. Naturally, I sounded like a dope.
Back when CDs were the fabulous new thing, someone at WMAD figured out there was fine contest fodder in the blipping, fragmented version of a song heard when pressing the equivalent of the fast forward button on the CD player. The problem was that the sound created was often too fragmentary, and the song was usually nearly unidentifiable. In my recollection, there were plenty of instances when the deejay had to come on after a few minutes and announce that no one had actually won, always a mortifying thing to do. I was certainly always baffled by what I was hearing. Except for one instance.
In early 1988, Jerry Harrison came out with the album that can either be considered his second solo effort or his first outing with the band Casual Gods, your pick. In most places, the Casual Gods effort was almost entirely overshadowed by the release of Naked, widely and correctly predicted to be the final Talking Heads album. But Harrison, guitarist for Talking Heads, was originally from Milwaukee and the Casual Gods album was partially recorded in a studio in Wisconsin’s biggest city, heightening Dairyland interest in the record. The lead single, “Rev It Up,” got play a lot of WMAD, and its opening guitar riff was distinctive enough that I recognized it through the skipping effect of the CD player. I called up when they played it, winning a small stack of records (including Kick by INXS, which I gave away to a girl I had a crush on, because of course I did). They aired my answer, including the deejay doing his best to try to make the exchange interesting (“So how did you know it was ‘Rev It Up’?”) despite my dullard responses (“I just recognized it”).
It wasn’t an auspicious debut, I will readily concede. But that was the beginning. A few years later I’d be a deejay on WMAD myself, operating from the very same studio I called into. And by that fall, I was on the air at WWSP-90FM in Stevens Point. I even played “Rev It Up” a few times.
Listen or download –> Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods, “Rev It Up”
(Disclaimer: I believe that both Casual Gods releases are out of print as physical objects that can be procured through the efforts of your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a way that provides due compensation to both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. The song can be purchased digitally, but I have no faith that such monies make their way fairly and equitably to Mr. Harrison. Besides, that doesn’t help out the record store folks one bit. I stand by my stand, but I’ll still gladly and promptly remove the song if contacted by a person or entity making such a request, as long as the person or entity has the due authority to make such a request.)