An Open Love Letter to the Radio Ladies Who Have Stolen My Heart
I often hear that, in the past, the radio dial took those who were willing to travel into a wondrous world, an endless landscape ripe and overflowing with fruit from foreign faraway lands, inspiring those who journeyed to escape from everyday, to flee from general stores and mining towns, to physically seek the sounds and visions only dreamed of through their ears and in their mind’s eyes. The green flowing living breathing glow of the radio waves inhaled young boys from Lubbock and Hibbing and Newark and spit out legends.
But today, well, it can often seem like a nightmare. Ever have that one? Half wandering, half fleeing through some sort of inexplicable fluidvoidland. Everything is cloudy and uncertain while you’re flung around helpless by the scan/seek on some hellish rickety rollercoaster. Everywhere are pitfalls and cages of jingles of mad morning men of car ads of show ads of bling ads of rotation of a constant machine of glowing red eyes of menacing teeth! You want to break away, you want to run so bad you can taste it. But you know this dream so well by now. You know even before you try that your feet are weighed down and impossibly heavy. You struggle at steps that are much too slow and you feel the breath of the 40-foot-high Casey Casem fanged fire breather singeing the back of your neck. Oh my god… no, NO! Next up, Rob Thomas!
But somewhere out there in the hiss of the radio static and dead air abyss, hopeful angelic sonorous soothing voices emerge. The lumbering beast at your back hesitates; it circles slowly in a drug-like haze and rests and breathes in smoky incense emanating from beyond. And then you see them. Glittering like snowflakes bathed in moonlight. Their edges and curves blurred like looking through smeared lenses. Pixies. Pixies with fluttering electric guitar wings. Singing harmonies. Creating Harmony.
These are the ladies that save me. These are the ladies of WPRB.
While I love all of those at 103.3 FM, those inimitable underground music rangers proudly plowing their way through all of the thick garbage clogging up the sick congested airwaves, my heart goes all a flutter when I hear the voice of a young woman nonchalantly reading off a playlist, speaking like she’s sure that everybody and their mothers are well aware that Aerial Pink is the only non-Animal Collective band on the Paw Tracks label. These are the voices that slither into my noggin and make my brain do somersaults and my guts gurgle nervous adrenaline.
Some may call such ladies snobs, but I would have to disagree. I’ve been accused of music snobbery myself, but I don’t buy it. We, the ladies and I, are lovers of music. And these ladies show their diversity in spades. I’ve heard playlists that tangle the absurdity of Tiny Tim and the nostalgic good times of The Coasters’ “Charlie Brown” with the mass market appeal of Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls.” Swoon.
It doesn’t matter where I am, either. I can be driving in my car, sitting at a busy intersection and hear that “hey guys, you’re listening to WPRB 103.3 Princeton and I just played some awesome music for you” and I’m transported to some hip, messy room with concert posters and homemade collages on the wall while some dream woman looks into my eyes and plays me records on a fabulous suitcase record player with detachable speakers. And all I can do is grin and sigh.
It’s the same sigh I get when the incredibly cute girl in Account Services passes me by in the hall, gives me an adorable smile, and says “hey.” Her hair is dyed dark maroon-purple, her cheeks are round and perfectly rouge when she blushes, she sports a Black Flag sweatshirt when it’s cold in the building and her curves make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. She is a hipster chick amidst a mass of everyday suit & tie monotony, a glowing hot ball of fire in a cubicle-dissected cave, and her boyfriend is the luckiest guy on the face of the earth. You know in corny romantic movies, when the smitten teenage boy pulls the overacted sigh and the slight head tilt? Every single time.
When I do picture the WPRB DJs in my head, it’s usually some kind of amalgam of said Account Services princess and my friend Mandy. She’s got incredibly striking looks, jet-black hair, and is always wearing an outfit that looks like the perfect combination of trendy boutique and thrift shop, perfect for walking through Greenwich Village during a snowfall. She also has black-rimmed glasses, and for likeminded guys of my caliber and tastes, we all know how great that is. She digs good music and records, writes poetry, smokes pot, waxes philosophical, waxes psychological, even waxes biochemical, and is the kind of girl who gets frustrated when she gets an A- on something. Her voice is intellectual and is always teetering on the brink of an English accent, and under the right circumstances will fall straight into an “’ello, love!” An altogether great hang.
But the Princeton ladies don’t need a form for me to adore them; they need not fit into a specific idea of indie sheik or balls-out rock. Their voices and their musical selections alone transcend such tangible molds. They sing me their siren songs, sweet and true, and they even keep me safe and healthy! That’s right; they take time out from being rockin’ and prophesizing the good word to tell me to get a full night’s sleep and avoid the pitfalls of sleep deprivation. Or how to contact the poison prevention center if I happen to ingest some bleach. And they don’t just promote physical health; they keep the good karma and goodwill flowing by reminding me to give to breast cancer research, to promote literacy in children, and to contribute to a host of worthwhile causes. C’mon, ladies, take a break from saving the world and turning it on to great tunes for just a second. You deserve it. That’s it; just sit down right here. Yeah, now I’m just gonna massage your back for a while…
Hey, a boy can dream, can’t he? After all, these are the women who have got me going for years now, the ones who turned me on to Cul de Sac and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Do Make Say Think and Explosions in the Sky and The Kings of Convenience. The ladies who give me my daily dose of The Go! Team and The New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene and Deerhoof and Fiery Furnaces and Magnetic Fields when the other commercial shills spit the acid bile of the new… the… ugh. Hold on. The new Scott Stapp. Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little.
These are the angels who visit me when I’m driving late at night on abandoned roads and envelope me with Sigur Rós and M83 and Aphex Twin and The Thievery Corporation and the Raveonettes and Danny Elfman while I imagine an ongoing apocalyptic expanse.
These are the ladies who remember that bands like Guided By Voices and Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. and The Pixies and the split 7-inch and DIY crashed into existence as a true alternative to spoon-fed cannon fodder. And they won’t let us forget it.
And these are the damsels who have stolen my heart. They come inside my room at night when I glide the radio dial up towards the hundreds, turn the lights down low, light some candles and burn a spliff. They hold me close with their songs and they don’t care what I look like or how much money I make or what kind of car I drive or that despite my indie tastes I still love the hell out of Boston. They love it all, the electric guitars forming their almighty choir, and while they transmit through the green cosmic glow of the airwaves, they love me.
Here’s to you, the fire-eyed femmes keeping rock alive on the radio. You’ll remain forever in my heart.