College Countdown: CMJ Top 40 Cuts, March 16, 1990 — An Introduction

Last week, we came to the conclusion of the mightiest College Countdown effort yet, a survey of the Top 250 songs from the first ten years of CMJ, the trade publication that once served student broadcasters — and maybe still does, sorta. It took over a year-and-a-half of weekly posts to count backwards from the lower reaches of the chart to the top spot.

For my next big trick, I’m going to mount an even more ambitious — or perhaps more lunatic — College Countdown undertaking, one that is so large and will take so long that I’m thinking of it as “the final Countdown.”

Right now, though, I haven’t even completely figured out how to pull that off, or at least the basic logistics of the weekly posts are currently eluding me. In part due to that, and in part out of a desire to have something of an interlude between the two massive Countdowns, I’m going to do something a little simpler to carry through to the end of the calendar year.

As I’ve noted before, my College Countdown borrows its name and basic concept from a weekly show that aired at my student radio alma mater, WWSP-90FM, roughly during the years I was a proud member of the staff. Primarily hosted by the fine fellow who would also become my cohort on the on-air movie review show I often remember in this digital space, the weekly program aired on Sunday nights and used the regularly published CMJ 40 Cuts chart to set the playlist.

For the next few weeks, I will honor my predecessor the proper way.

cmj top 40

This chart comes from the spring of 1990, which I don’t idealize quite as fervently as the same time frame one year earlier, but I look at the music that dominated our attention and still see a version of college radio from the days before Nirvana unintentionally knocked sonic diversity asunder with their runaway success. A playlist could go just about anywhere, and the tracks on this chart reflect that.

The new Countdown gets underway properly next week. In the meantime, here is the listing of all that have come before in this space:

The 90FM-WWSP charts

90FM’s Top 90 of 1989

90FM’s Top 90 of 1995

90FM’s Top 90 of 1996

The CMJ charts

The First CMJ Album Chart (from 1978)

CMJ Radio Top Cuts chart from Winter 1991

CMJ Top 50 Albums of 2001

CMJ Top 250 Songs of 1979-1989

The other charts

The Trouser Press Top 10 of 1981

KROQ-FM’s Top 40 Songs of 1987

First Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart from Fall 1988

Rockpool‘s Top 20 College Radio Albums from November 1988

The Gavin Report Top 20 Alternative Chart from October 1992


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