CHAPTER 1: Tell Me A Story
As an undergrad, I had majored in “Mass Communications” because at that time I was still young and dumb enough to actually want to work in the film industry and my school had a veritable butt-load of super expensive film equipment which being a Mass Comm major allowed me unfettered access to, among other things. One of those other things was the university-owned radio station that I ended up working at for two semesters. The major itself required us to learn how to produce various forms of modern media: everything from radio broadcasts to major motion pictures.
We even had an entire course on how to effectively fabricate “reality television.” Our Professor for that class was named Kyle Mox (I used to joke with him about how his name sounded like someone from Boston discussing communism. “There’s this wicked manifesto by Kyle Mox that you should read while we’re drivin’ in the cah to go get some beeyahs…”) Mox had justified the class’ existence the first day by reasoning that any of us who were lucky enough to find jobs after college would more than likely end up working in some form of reality TV. When a student then asked why he thought the format was so popular, Mox simply smiled and replied in a matter-of-fact tone, “Because most people are stupid and the world is a sad, awful place.”
Needless to say, I was a big fan of Mox. Which is why when he approached me about working at the university’s radio station, I couldn’t refuse. At the time, I had no desire to go into broadcasting as a profession but Mox insisted that I had potential. “You’re good at talking. God knows I can never get you to shut up. I really think radio host might just be your calling.”
And it seemed that he was right. After a single day of Mox training me, I was scheduled to host the Monday night/Tuesday morning graveyard shift which went from 11:00pm to 4:30am. Not exactly high tide for listeners but that was the point. I was green and looking to make as few waves as possible, considering pretty much everyone at the station immediately hated me because I hadn’t taken any of Mox’s advanced broadcasting classes with them. You know and then one day Mox comes strolling on in and telling everyone that his new golden boy would be taking over Monday night’s graveyard time-slot? Yeah, I’d fucking hate that guy too.
Still, screw them because I WAS good at it. From what I could tell, most of the people working the late-night slots would usually just play whatever they felt like and between songs they’d mention that call-in requests were welcome and then simply never play the few requests that did come in. So the bar wasn’t exactly set too high.
That first night I started out by playing one of my all-time favorite songs, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum, which I reasoned was poignant enough for a grand entrance and yet well-known enough that it wouldn’t make me look like a complete hipster. When the song ended, I faded the channel out and cued up my mike to say in the sexiest radio voice a white guy who laughs like Peter Griffin can muster…
“There are one-hit wonders and then there are bands that do it so perfectly the first time, there’s simply no need for them to ever release another song. If you ask me, Procol Harum is a band that belongs in that latter category. And who am I, you’re probably wondering? Well my name is Joel and, for the rest of the evening, I will be your tour guide on this journey of obscure rock and pretentious undertones. Unless, of course, you have a request of your own. If so, just give us a jingle at [PHONE NUMBER] and we’ll be happy to play it for you.”