College Countdown: Rockpool’s Top 20 College Radio Albums, November 1988, An Introduction

When the task of counting down a chart is complete, I’m always left with the perplexing question of where to go next. For one thing, I don’t exactly have an abundance of options with suitable and satisfying college charts a little more tricky to track down without a stockpile of old CMJ issues squirreled away (though that has as much to do with my general unwillingness to tread too far into the territory of the post-grunge era of college radio, afraid of what I might find there). I did have a couple of strong options I was weighing for this next countdown, including one that literally fell into my hands when I pulled a copy of The Trouser Press Guide to ’90s Rock down from a high shelf. Just this past week, though, I found my way to a chart from an era I simply can’t resist.

As I’ve noted plenty of times before, my tenure in college radio began in the fall of 1988, shortly after I became a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. I stand by my comment from the most recent One for Friday entry, which basically argued that the music from anyone’s first year as a student deejay is likely to benefit from a pronounced level of nostalgic favoritism. Much as I like to think of myself as capable of putting aside predilections when evaluating the quality of pop culture, I’m absolutely not immune to crushing hard on the albums that awaited me on the Heavy, Medium, and Light Rotation shelves when I first clicked on the WWSP-90FM main studio microphone. I knew a little bit about modern rock music (to use the vernacular of the day), but having this blessed access to the radio station’s library was like visiting Wonka’s chocolate factory.


We’ve covered some of this material in a previous Countdown subject, but that was specifically songs. It was also a Billboard chart, so the charting tracks were, by definition, the more commercial offerings out there. The chart the will provide the path for the next several weeks is an album chart compiled from college radio reporters to the trade publication Rockpool, one of many that were vying for broadcast subscribers in the late-eighties and early-nineties. For our purposes, we’ll stick with the Top 20 albums on the chart included in the issue cover-dated November 1, 1988, going through them one by one.

It all gets underway next week with a singles compilation by one of the seminal bands of college rock, even if a decent amount of the attention they received only came after it was clear they’d never record another song again. But, again, that’s for next week.

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