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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Radio Free Doofus

Today’s tale comes with a bit of context, by way of the following shameless self-plug:

This Wednesday, October 12th, I’ll be featured — or possibly feathered; the invitation wasn’t particularly clear — on Kris Earle’s TIME TRAVEL show, from 5-7pm, live on WMFO radio. Have a listen, if you’re in the Tufts University / Boston area — or if, say, someone were to provide a handy link for listening online. Just for instance.

This will be my first foray into a radio DJ booth in quite a while — but not my first spin ’round the old turntable, by any means.

(They don’t use actual turntables on the radio any more, do they? Like I said, it’s been a while. I’m not so up-to-date on the fancy new equipment that’s probably in use in a modern, state-of-the-art university broadcast center.

On the other hand, given the state of educational funding these days, maybe I am. I should probably dig up some old 8-track cassettes to take, just in case.)

As I mentioned a few years ago, I had a semi-regular gig DJing for my local college radio station back in the late ’80s. Though I didn’t actually attend said local college, which apparently was not a prerequisite for manning (or womanning) their airwaves for a couple of hours a week.

(And still isn’t, by the looks of things. So far as I know, Kris isn’t a Tufts student. Though he may once have been a Tufts student.

Of course, at this point, he and I could both have kids who could be Tufts students, which is a little depressing to think about. But not as depressing as actually having said kids. Their respective choice of college notwithstanding.

My parentheses aren’t usually this much of a downer. I’m going to scarf a tub of Cherry Garcia and move right along now. Peachy.)

In preparation for joining him in the booth on Wednesday, Kris asked if I could give him a list of “5-7 songs” to play between the banter and station breaks and wacky inappropriate sound effects.

(The latter of which I’m hoping will come from a machine or recording of some kind. But knowing Kris, I’m not holding my breath.)

So I did. I emailed him back, and listed a half-dozen or so of my favorite tunes from yesteryear — in keeping with the ‘TIME TRAVEL‘ theme, of course. And he promptly replied, saying simply:

Can you bring any of these on a CD or something?

Which I translated to mean, roughly:

What in the hell is this stuff?

Which is a fair point, even if I mistranslated. A lot of the music I listen to — and quite a lot of the older stuff, appropriate for the show — came from my own college DJing days. I worked a shift playing alternative music, which basically meant most people had never heard of it, didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to hear about it, and wouldn’t miss it a week later when the band broke up and went back to bagging groceries at the local grocery and produce concern.

“Leaving almost an hour blank on a burnable CD flies in the face of everything I’ve decided to pretend to believe in for the purposes of this post.”

Now this music is twenty-plus years old. And obscure ‘alt rock’ tunes are not entities that — to the general public, anyway — ‘age like fine wine’. Rather, they ‘decompose like discarded corpses’, crumbling into forgotten dust with upturned collars and spiky hair.

Kris, being a ‘music guy’, probably knows the songs I sent him. But there’s no guarantee he could get his hands on them for the show. Not unless he takes a recorder down to the Stop & Shop and has the line of aging baggers belt a few numbers out, anyway. And that would just be sad. Especially if they all still have the same haircuts.

So I sat down today to burn this CD. I’ve got all the songs in my personal library, so I figured it would take no time at all. I popped the songs I mentioned to Kris in a list, queued up a CD to burn, and was about to hit ‘OK’ when I saw the info note at the bottom of the screen:

7 songs selected [28:15], 51:45 free on CD

Fifty-one minutes blank? Well, that seemed like a hell of a waste. I mean, I sort my plastic and glass into recycling bins and buy ‘green’ paper towels and hugged trees regularly, right up until the fire ant incident a few years ago. Leaving almost an hour blank on a burnable CD flies in the face of everything I’ve decided to pretend to believe in for the purposes of this post.

So I didn’t burn it. Not right away. I went back to my library, and picked out a few more songs. More tunes from the old days, songs I used to hum, stuff from old LPs and cassettes I played back in the booth. I went A-to-Z, hand-selecting appropriately nostalgic material to fill out the disc. I went back to the ‘burn screen’, prepped the list and hit ‘OK’. This time, a friendly help window popped up to greet me:

49 songs selected [3:36:42] — remove 2:16:42, or burn onto 3 CDs?

It’s remotely possible that I went, as the kids say, ‘over the top’ with this little task. Burning those seven songs was going to take me maybe ten minutes, tops. Now here I was, half an hour later, with nothing burned and the prospect of a K-Telesque 3-CD set of all the greatest never-hits no one’s ever heard of. Clearly, this wasn’t going as planned.

On the other hand, this is the kind of thing that Monday holidays are made for. At least in my world. I don’t have a lawn to mow any more. And there’s nothing on TV. So I soldiered on.

Three hours later — no, you shut up — and I had my disc. A clean, tight, 24-song set that spans the full gamut from “obscure album track by popular band that hadn’t yet made it” to “minor success by one-hit wonder that six people within 100 miles might remember” to “no, seriously — what in the hell is this stuff?”. All of it from that magical halcyon period between, say, 1982 and 1988. Or pretty much when people were willing to listen to Tears for Fears.

(And no, there’s no Tears for Fears on this CD. Bite me, smartass.)

Also, maybe three of the original seven songs made it on the disc. Two of the bands fell off altogether. I don’t want to be accused of a ‘bait and switch’, but seriously. Creative editing to craft a set list — even one that’s 350% too long — is important. And it’ll be dinnertime soon, so I am not doing this stupid thing again. Monday holiday or not — I’m done here.

So, I’m ready for my radio closeup. Which will most likely involve Kris playing half a song off the disc, then breaking it over his forehead and playing Lynyrd Skynyrd for the last hour and fifty minutes. C’est la vie. At least I’ll have my lazy afternoon thumbing through the virtual archives. Good times, spiky-haired weren’t-yets and wannabes.

Good times.

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