Radio Days — Then and Now: May 31, 2020

This series of posts covers my long, beloved history interacting with the medium of radio, including the music that flowed through the airwaves.

bday sign

Last night, I commemorated a momentous birthday, crossing over to one of those ages that can leave a person reeling. Any melancholy I might have felt for crossing into an era of undeniable agedness was seriously mitigated — perhaps even wholly eradicated — by staging my celebration in one of my favorite places on the planet, and arguably the spot that has longest felt like a true home to me. Thanks to generosity of a friend who offered up his weekly air shift and the students who currently run the place, I was on the air at my alma mater college radio station, WWSP-90FM.

Although I’m being coy about the age I hit, the fact that I opened the radio program with the announcement “I’m going to play fifty songs for you” is the clue that solves the mystery. More important that the song count (which was very important and dictated some of my selections because fifty songs is a hefty count for a three-hour radio shift) was getting the songs right. To a degree, I was building a version of my biography, choosing artists and songs that spoke deeply to me or had special significance. To borrow phrasing I first heard uttered by the iconoclastic artist who kicked off the show, “I didn’t write these songs, but they wrote me.”

Sometimes I recreate the playlist online, but I know there are at least a couple of songs here that will repel such efforts. Rather than an abridged version, I’ll bypass the habit this time. In case you’re interested, and for the sake of posterity, here is what I played:

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, “My Wife and My Dead Wife”
The Replacements, “Left of the Dial”
The White Stripes, “Hotel Yorba (Live at the Hotel Yorba)”
Violent Femmes, “Lies”
Diet Cig, “Barf Day”
Wild Flag, “Romance”
Suzanne Vega, “Blood Makes Noise”
R.E.M., “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville”
They Might Be Giants, “Don’t Let Start”
Wilco, “Casino Queen”
Old 97s, “Buick City Complex”
Hunters and Collectors, “Back on the Breadline”
Billy Bragg, “Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards”
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Night”
The Clash, “Brand New Cadillac”
U2, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
Sinéad O’Connor, “Jump in the River”

Concrete Blonde, “Happy Birthday”
Camper Van Beethoven, “One of the These Days”
The Feelies, “It’s Only Life”
Guadalcanal Diary, “Litany (Life Goes On)”
The Frogs, “Whether U Like It Or Not I Love U”
Mollie Donihe, “Come On Eileen”
Vagabon, “Water Me Down”
XTC, “Earn Enough for Us”
Bob Mould, “See a Little Light”
The Sundays, “Can’t Be Sure”
Too Much Joy, “Pirate”
Swamp Thing, “Trail of Bones”
The Primitives, “Crash”
Ani Difranco, “Gravel”
The National, “Start a War”
The Mountain Goats, “No Children”
PJ Harvey, “You Said Something”

Imperial Teen, “Birthday Girl”
Shilpa Ray, “Morning Terrors Nights of Dread”
St. Vincent, “Digital Witness”
Fiona Apple, “Better Version of Me”
Spoon, “The Underdog”
Hoodoo Gurus, “What’s My Scene”
Courtney Barnett, “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”
The Pipettes, “Pull Shapes”
The Waterboys, “The Whole of the Moon”
Michelle Shocked, “The Hard Way”
Lyle Lovett, “If I Had a Boat”
Lucinda Williams, “Can’t Let Go”
Material Issue, “Destination You”
Better Oblivion Community Center, “Dylan Thomas”
Hüsker Dü, “Could You Be the One”
Sleater-Kinney, “One Beat”

Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Radio Days” tag.

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