Monday, January 23, 2017

Hey Mom! I've Taken Over the Planet!

In 1995 I was going to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln NE.  At the time, Lincoln had a radio station that was a little more than a year old called "The Planet".  The Planet claimed to be the "Home of Lincoln's Alternative Music!"  Yes, I guess you could call it that.  Especially if your idea of Alternative was Nirvana and Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam and the Spin Doctors and all of those other Grunge and psuedo-Grunge groups that came out at that time.

But, in 1995, The Planet offered a new segment to it's listeners called "Hey, Mom! I've Taken Over the Planet!"  This segment allowed listeners to send in a reason why they, the listener, should be allowed to "take over the Planet" for one hour, and a list of songs that they would play if they were to be selected.  I looked forward to this segment that took place once a week on Friday nights from 9-10pm because I hoped that I would be able to hear new groups, groups that I liked, and a little diversity in what was being played.

But, I didn't.

From the outset, every person that was selected came on the air, acted like a fucking goofball, and played the same old shit that the radio was already playing.  The SAME STUFF.  If you were to take over a radio station for an hour and allowed to play whatever you wanted, why the hell would you play what they were already playing?!  Stupidity. 

Two months I listened to that crap.  Two months.  I was VERY disappointed.  So, I did what any rational, true aficionado of classic Post Punk/80s/New Wave/Madchester/Electronica/Rock would do.  I made my list.

When I wrote my letter, I explained to them exactly as I told you above.  I also told them that playing the same old American Grunge was only one small facet of the true nature of "Alternative" music.  I know that now the term Alternative DOES define specifically that sort of Grunge/Garage/College Rock sound.  Now, the bands that I have listed above would probably cringe at being considered "Alternative."  BUT, at the time, the only term I knew that could describe the sort of music that I was referring to was the word Alternative.  SO, I told them that the music that they were playing was only one small facet of Alternative, and that there were a bunch more bands/sounds/movements out there that should get their respective exposure, and given that exposure, could lead to a more diverse listening group, a better understanding of what was available, and a broader catalog of music for them to choose from to play for people.

We were told at the beginning when we submitted our lists, that they had to be under 53 minutes, to account for commercial breaks and station IDs.  Mine came in at just over 52 minutes.  Perfect. 

They called me, and told me that due to my well thought out letter, that they were going to let me on the air.  I was thrilled.  I took my girlfriend (now wife) up to the station with me, and she sat in the booth with me.  Mind you, I had worked in radio from 1991 to 1993, so I was very familiar with how the process worked, and what I needed to do.  I slipped right into place like I had been doing it my whole life.  I had arranged the songs, personally planned where I wanted to break for commercials, and planned how I wanted them to fade and mix.  My performance was flawless.

One of my roommates at the house I was living at stuck around for the evening and taped my hour long show on cassette.  I STILL have that cassette, 22 years later.  I wish that I could figure out how to get it transferred to a digital file, but I don't even have the equipment to do it, even if I knew how.

My hour long show ended up actually being popular.  The station ended up cancelling the segment several months later, but they invited me back to do it one more time, simply because I had been the most popular.  That show, though, I was ill-prepared in what I wanted to play, and thought that I could just pull songs out of my ass, on the fly, without planning it all in advance.  I was wrong.  The show sucked, as I didn't know what to play, and ended up playing a bunch of shit.

The Planet radio station hung around until about 1998 before it was absorbed by it's sister radio station, The Blaze.  The Blaze played Hard Rock & Heavy Metal, so Grunge and Alt Metal/Rock fit in nicely there.  The Planet never ever did play Post Punk, Madchester, New Wave, Britrock, Synthpop, Electronica, after my shows, none of that.  I think that's why it died.  When you live in a college town, college kids are willing to experiment with music in ways you couldn't imagine.  College was where I discovered a lot of my likes and dislikes, but listening to a station that only plays you one brand of music couldn't hold me for long.  I never would.

You already have most if not all of this music.  But, odds are, you've never listened to them mixed together like this.  You will get the full spectrum of what "Alternative" was to me, and you'll also get a nifty little mix that sounds good on repeat.

Remember John Cusack's philosophy on mixtapes from High Fidelity.  That was my philosophy long before I saw it on the movie.  I think anyone who likes to make mix tapes would agree.

7 comments:

  1. LOVE this mix of songs! Especially the remix of U2's cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love."

    "Alternative" encompasses such a wide range of bands/sounds, that I don't think it can be defined in just a few words -- or a few bands. For me, at that time in the 90s, it would have included bands like Live, Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead. But that's the beauty of music that's considered "alternative" -- it can mean different things to different people. It's not just one concentrated sound, it can encompass a lot of different sounds & styles, and that's what makes it so interesting.

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  2. Thanks for a very interesting read. I do enjoy your stories that go along with your offerings. Oh yeah, the music is great as well! Cheers!

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  3. Wow, great opportunity you had (and took), interesting background to this selection. And I'm impressed that you could recall your songs 22 years later!! (Do you have your second, bunch of shit playlist from when they asked you back for comparison, or was it /really/ that bad :-) )

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    1. I wouldn't have been able to recall the list (and order) if I didn't have the original letter still in my possession. I'll always keep that thing in my "memoir box." And, I didn't make a list for the second trip. The only song I remember playing on my second visit was Primary by the Cure, which isn't shit in itself, but in the "mix", it all just wasn't working. I remember I had about 20 minutes left, and I had no idea what to play....

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  4. -= Martin L. Gore =-January 24, 2017 at 3:13 AM

    GREAT STORY and EXCELLENT COMPILATION! I love it. Danielle Dax, Caterwaul, Lush ... and I have always loved this Doors cover by the Cure. In fact, I think The Cure should put out an entire covers albums, since I also love their interpretation of Jimi Hendrix and Depeche Mode. I appreciate that they make those songs sound like Cure songs!

    I really dig this cover by the way!

    GREAT job, back then and now!

    looking forward to more of you comps!

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  5. Re your old tape - they're not the greatest, but if you want to experiment cheaply, look for those Walkman-sized cassette/USB combos on Amazon. Shouldn't cost you much more than $25 at the most.

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    1. I'm going to do that! Now I have to go dig out the tape.

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