While cleaning out a closet the other day, I discovered an old, forgotten case of cassette tapes. Among them was a ninety-minute recording I made from the radio in 1987. It provides a rare time capsule of college radio in the 1980s.
The station I recorded, WRAS Atlanta (“Album 88”) was the 100,000-watt voice of students at Georgia State University. Although it changed formats and became a PBS station, its online broadcast still serves as a source of new music for listeners in the Atlanta area. The recording made that Memorial Day in 1987 lives on as an example of the variety, quirkiness, and sometimes delightfully amateurish haplessness that made college radio special.
Before the explosive growth of commercial “alternative rock” networks, college stations like WRAS provided access to music one could hear no where else on the dial. Listening to this recording reveals the Cambrian-Explosion-like variety of styles and genres juxtaposed in a single afternoon’s playlist in 1987: reggae, cowpunk, blues-oriented rock, synth pop, rockabilly, goth rock, and folk music all lived together in a strangely symbiotic harmony.
Return with me now to those days of yesteryear, and listen to an hour and a half of great music and college DJ announcements from 1987:
Several of the tracks you’ll hear are rare and hard to find today. After you’ve listened to the broadcast, you can check out this Spotify playlist to hear clearer versions of the songs (at least the ones available on Spotify.)
A list of all the songs and other ephemera on the recording appears below. If you want to enjoy the listening experience the same way any other radio listener would have, without foreknowledge of the playlist, don’t read the text below. For those of you who want to know what you’re getting into, click the + below to expand the list: