Tuesday, March 26, 2013

top ten Tuesday: ten songs from my DJ days.

I went to the University of Minnesota, Morris: a teeny liberal arts branch of the U of M. One of the major benefits of going to a tiny campus was that you could participate in any and every extracurricular activity you felt like. That’s why I had a radio show.

For three semesters, I had a show on 89.7, KUMM (I am not making that up; those are its actual call letters). 
This bumper sticker is real, too.
During that first semester (spring 2007, to be exact), I teamed up with Hipster Boyfriend, and the show was a hot mess. My friend and roommate Sara and I had our own radio show in fall 2007 and spring 2008, which mostly amounted to us goofing off for two hours each Sunday.

I played a great many songs during my tenure at KUMM, but there are ten of them that stand out. Without further ado, I present my top ten KUMM songs! (this sounds really dirty, but actually isn’t! trust me!)

Leslie Carter – “Like Wow”
I don’t know where Sara first heard this song, but it was a big thing in fall 2007… big enough that we named our radio show after it. Yes, for a solid school year, we had a radio show called “Like Wow.” I don’t think we were actually ever allowed to play the song (KUMM had a strict ban on Top 40 music), but it was our namesake just the same.

The Slip – “Even Rats”
To have a radio show on KUMM, you had to meet certain requirements. You had to play a certain number of pre-recorded ads, and you had to read ads off of little index cards every so often, as well. But what KUMM took the most seriously was its new music requirement. There was a stack of recently-acquired CDs, and we needed to play four new songs every hour. Most of the new music was terrible, but every once in a while, you’d find something decent. “Even Rats” was one of the first songs we found in the new music pile that we didn’t mind, and we played it once per radio show until it aged out of the new music section.

Scissor Sisters – “Kiss You Off”
If you want the long version of this story, feel free to go here: http://callagator.blogspot.com/2012/01/some-radio-stories.html. Here’s the short-ish version: Hipster Boyfriend and I couldn’t agree on a damn thing during our time as cohosts. My family (bless their long-suffering hearts) always listened to our radio show, so I wanted to play something they’d recognize. Specifically? “Faith” by George Michael. Hipster Boyfriend argued that it was too popular. I countered that KUMM rules allowed us to play music that hadn’t been in the Top 40 for the past ten years, and “Faith” was certainly not in the Top 40 in 1997 or beyond. Hipster Boyfriend also declared that it was inappropriate (for a radio station named KUMM? I don’t think so). I asked him why, and he proceeded to go through the song, practically lyric by lyric. I then asked, as innocently as I could, if it was so inappropriate, then why could he describe it in such great detail while on the air? Hipster Boyfriend then pulled the seniority card: this was his fourth semester as a DJ, and only my first, and he informed me that what he said was law. With as much venom as I could muster, I spat, “You’re a JERK!” and immediately played “Kiss You Off” by Scissor Sisters. I got a call from my parents later that evening, telling me how much they had enjoyed the show that night. And to this day, “Kiss You Off” is one of my mom’s favorite songs.

Zibra Zibra – “Lions on the Astroturf”
“Lions on the Astroturf” falls squarely into the same category as “Even Rats.” It was in the new music pile, Sara and I didn’t mind it, so we played it until was too old to count as one of our mandatory four new songs. Plus, the album cover was really colorful and cheery, so there’s that.

Halloween, Alaska – “Call it Clear”
(YouTube failed me! Here's a link to the song: http://vimeo.com/33082839)
KUMM did their best to promote Minnesota bands, and Halloween, Alaska was one of them. Sara’s and my roommate Matt was a fan, so he recommended we play “Call it Clear.” So we did. What do you know, it grew on us. Plus, it was a double-whammy: Minnesota band AND new music. Score for us!

The Fratellis – “The Gutterati”
Sara and I came across the Fratellis in the new music section. This album was an extremely rare find: new music that we not only didn’t mind, but actually enjoyed! There were quite a few quality songs from which to choose, but “The Gutterati” was a favorite. The only problem? At the end of every three or four song set, we had to pause and list all the songs that we’d played… and we never really knew how to pronounce this title. We never got any complaints, though!

The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony”
Sara’s and my radio show was at kind of an inconvenient time: it was from 4 – 6 on Sunday nights, and we had a newspaper staff meeting immediately following. This meant no time for supper… unless we MADE time. Food wasn’t allowed right in the studio, but we could have food in the little waiting area outside the studio. From time to time, Sara and I would order Pizza Hut and have it delivered to the student center. When it arrived, we’d play a set of long songs so that we’d have time to eat our pizza. “Bittersweet Symphony” was one of said long songs, and nobody was the wiser!

Elliott Smith – “Waltz #2”
In addition to all the new music, KUMM had a pretty respectable collection of old stuff, too. In addition to our four new songs per hour, we could select music from the massive CD collection, the slightly-less-massive LP collection, or our own iPods. We just couldn’t play anything a.) that had been in the top 40 in the last ten years, b.) that had curse words in it (but you could play them if you had a show after 10 o’clock!), and c.) by the same artist twice in one radio show. So we sampled quite a few of the previously-unknown artists picked from the CD wall. Sara had heard of Elliott Smith, and she chose “Waltz #2” one day. I loved it, and still love it. If only I knew how to waltz.

The Flaming Lips – “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”
The Flaming Lips is one of those bands that I was always vaguely aware of, but I couldn’t name one of their songs if you paid me. That is, until the KUMM radio show. KUMM owned ever last one of the Flaming Lips’ albums, and Sara was a fan. I’m pretty sure a radio show never went by without a selection by the Flaming Lips, and “Yoshimi vs the Pink Robots” was one of the first.

The White Stripes – “You Don’t Know What Love Is”
Just like the Fratellis, the White Stripes came out with an album that was full of new song GOLD. Until we started playing the new album (Icky Thump) on a regular basis, I had no idea that I liked the White Stripes. So thanks, KUMM! Looks like I learned something after all!

So there you have it: my top ten songs from my days as a KUMM DJ (again, sounds dirty. actually isn’t). If you’re ever near Morris, MN (really REALLY near, as KUMM has a fairly pitiful broadcasting area), turn your radio to 89.7 FM. You might hear some awkward DJs and some truly terrible indie music, but you also might hear a song that you never knew you loved.

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