Sunday, January 07, 2007

Musical Salvation

As you know, radio is in my blood. I've had a passion for wanting to work in radio since I was a child; preparing mock radio shows in my bedroom, complete with stacks of my father's LPs and a portable turntable. When given a chance, I would lug the turntable downstairs to the dining room - plug it in and play selected songs for whatever captive adults that happend to be visiting.

As I grew older I discovered WXPN - which at the time was the far-end of patchwork freeform programming and was similiar in style to other freeform stations of the day ... I enjoyed the oddity of hearing music I had never heard before; punk, space, folk and classic harmony R&B. And, as fitting as it is that I just celebrated my 19th year employed at WXPN, there's a bit of sadness knowing those types of stations are far and few between. Times change and stations like WXPN had to change to survive. It still is easily the most unique station in Philadelphia and one of only a few unique stations in the larger region (nods to WPRB).

But then there is WFMU.

WFMU first went on the air on April 24, 1958, and was formerly affiliated with Upsala College, in East Orange, New Jersey. Shortly before the closing of the college in 1995, WFMU purchased its license from Upsala, and is now fully independent. It relocated to Jersey City, NJ, into a building which the station purchased with donations from listeners. WFMU's license is now owned by Auricle Communications, a nonprofit group made up of current and former WFMU staff members and listeners. Although heard throughout north Jersey, NYC and eastern PA, it can be accessed online as well at

This brings me to why I am writing tonight.

This week I finished a wonderful book called Turn The Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco. This book not only lays out the creation of disco as a genre (as well as the collapse and the rise of genres like new wave and such), but also the history of the discoteque and the development of the DJ ... there are actual people credited for everything from the first person to play records in a nightclub (back in the 40s in Paris), to the first person to mix, the creator of the 12" single etc ... it's an incredible and informative read!

While reading it - it mentioned Frankie Crocker - easily one of the best (and most influential) radio DJs of the 1970s and 1980s when it comes to soul, R&B and dance music. So, I decided to Google the late, great Frankie and stumbled upon a link to an aircheck of a special that was done saluting Frankie shortly after his death in 2000. It was from WFMU and was hosted by someone named Monica.

So - I listened to the aircheck and enjoyed Monica's knowledge and passion for music. Upon clicking around, I saw she had posted the playlists and real audio files of all of her past programs going back several years!!!

I clicked on a few and I fell in love with Monica's unique taste in music - one set alone would feature everything from old R&B, to a classic French tune, to disco, to some field recording of a children's choir from the South back in the 1940s to classic jazz standards ... it was hypnotic radio and I was like a kid in a candy store! Each show is three hours long and here were pages of links ot thousands of hours of commercial free, freeform radio!

Natually I've spent much of the weekend listening to Monica - but I was curious who this one name DJ was? So I did a bit of unique Googling and discovered that she's not just some housewife that likes music ... instead she is Monica Lynch, co-founder of Tommy Boy Records!!!

Aside from shaking up dance music when everyone thought it had died in 1982 with tracks like Afrika Bambaataa's 'Planet Rock' etc., she and co-owner Tom Silverman launched everyone from Queen Latifah, Coolio, De La Soul, Stetsasonic, 808 State, Naughty By Nature, House of Pain, Soul Sonic Force, Digital Undergound, and one RuPaul André Charles among others.

This chick knows her shit!!

So - if you are a musicholic, or just want to stretch your mind and listen to some truly incredible radio programs, visit this page and explore some of the radio airchecks that Monica has online going back to 1999! (Real Audio is required - but all links are free to listen to!)

For those really interersted in dance music history - check out this particular show she did with special in-studio guest Tom Moulton (the man credited with creating the 12", and remixing just about everything from 1972 through today!)


Gillian said...

That sounds AWESOME. I'll definitely be checking that out.

wgato said...

woah, cool! i'll be checking it all out...

btw have you ever read Last Night A DJ Saved My Life? i thought it was a good history