From 1981 to 1985 – my college years – I spent most of my free time buried in the basement of the Minor Theater, playing music on the powerful (well, it started out as five watts of powerful) WHCL 88.7 college radio station. You could only pick up the station on half the campus, and there was a tendency for graduating seniors to pilfer the remaining station library LP’s for their own parting graduation gifts.
But by 1985, we were cruising at 250 watts of power, and people throughout Oneida County could hear our station.
I say this because yesterday I remembered that some of our tabulated college playlists were reprinted in the archives of the Clinton Courier weekly newspaper … and lo and behold, the digital archive fultonhistory.com has the run of the Courier from that time period.
Ooh, this ought to be fun. I can look and see the songs that were popular on our station at that time, including …
Wait. I don’t recognize that song. And here’s another … it says we played that song in massive rotation, but I can’t for the life of me recall a note or a lyric or anything. And I remember this band – and that band – but not those songs. Hmm…
Well… I guess it’s time to fire up the old K-Chuck Radio blogcast and refresh my failing memory. And in addition to the songs referenced, I’ll even post the notes about the songs themselves, as taken directly from the Clinton Courier from three decades ago.
Memory of You
“From Rochester, Absolute Grey were the headliners in a benefit concert at Hamilton College. This former #1 WHCL band is another graduate of the neo-psychedelic sound pioneered by bands like R.E.M. and the Dream Syndicate.” (Clinton Courier, February 27, 1985)
Way of the World
“For those of the faint of heart, I should warn you that Flipper now has the no. 10 song. Flipper is now the highest charting hardcore punk group on WHCL in the past two years.” (Clinton Courier, October 24, 1984)
THE MARCH VIOLETS
Religious As Hell
I don’t remember writing about the March Violets, but I do recall them as a labelmate of another band we used to play a lot, the Sisters of Mercy. Apparently this song did get a ton of plays on WHCL, but when I found it on YouTube, it was as if I had heard it for the first time.
Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
How popular were the Smiths on WHCL? This song hit #1 – as an imported 45 from the UK. Imports making big dents on our college playlist were rare occurrences, but hey this is the Smiths we’re talking about.
MALCOLM X feat. KEITH LeBLANC
No Sell Out
This was a unique little record. Remixer Keith LeBlanc spliced together speeches and phrases from Malcolm X’s interviews and speeches, and soldered them to a funky dance beat. A great dance beat for those who didn’t get it, and a solid message for those who did.
MADE FOR TV
So Afraid of the Russians
Another spoken-word industrial record, this was produced by John Cale. This was a huge hit on college radio stations throughout the early 1980’s, but the group just completely disappeared after this track.
The Assembly was a studio collaboration featuring Vince Clarke (Yaz, Erasure) and Feargal Sharkey (The Undertones). This ballad was the big hit, but the Assembly never recorded with that lineup ever again.
All I Need Is Everything
Wow. At one point, Aztec Camera was the most popular group on WHCL – so popular, in fact, that nearly every track on their LP found fans with our on-air talent. They even did a ballad version of Van Halen’s “Jump” that got plenty of play. I think this was their most popular track on the station.
Love Ain’t No Holiday
We played a lot of electronica on WHCL. We also played a lot of reggae and dub. And on occasion, we acquired records that contained both electronica and dub. Such as this slow-groove track by the New York City group Native.
Truth. This record was created during the 1984 Presidential campaign, where Gil Scott-Heron satirized the re-election of Ronald Reagan. Man, I wish Gil Scott-Heron was alive today. He would have a field day with the political situation in 2016.
And that’s a sample of some of the music that populated our little college radio station in the early 1980’s. Hope you enjoy.
Another spin – from the crew at WHCL – er – um – the crew at K-Chuck Radio!