Now that’s a radio station playlist

What can be perused below is the playlist from KTXT-FM circa 1991*, the once great college station at Texas Tech University in, of all places, Lubbock.  It is 45 pages and more than 1000 songs of the most diverse programmed radio probably ever broadcast.

The letter “J” alone might best demonstrate the pure range the station expressed.  Hard core, folk, rap, alternative, noise, R&B, house and even classic rock all existed on 88.1.  The station could be challenging but if you gave it a chance, it was totally listenable.  Sure, that really odd Jello Biafra thing would pop up, but then it would be followed by something you really loved – Jane’s Addiction, Jesus & Mary Chain, Joe Jackson, Joy Division, Jungle Bros or The Judy’s – and because of it you found that maybe you liked that Jello Biafra more than you first thought.

I used the word “programmed” on purpose.  Most college stations are free-form, play whatever you like formats.  KTXT, at the time, was part of the Mass Comm broadcasting curriculum and was a programmed station – in the vain of a commercial station.  The point was to learn about the radio business and radio programming.  There were classes, but obtaining an air shift was open to any interested student.  It is the reason I chose to go to TTU.  While visiting on a Senior Day I found out I could also work at the station.  My almost 30 year radio career started there in 1987.

Starting in 1988 the station was flipped from a generic Top40 music format to a hybrid of alternative and college music.  At the time because the alternative format had begun popping up as commercial formats (KROQ/LA, KDGE/Dallas) what had been exclusively college music, started to find its way into the mainstream.  Lubbock had no outlet for alternative, or any music that still fell into the college music category but the fact commercial alternative stations were finding success allowed several of us to convince the powers that be a format flip would be popular.

I became the Station Manager in 1989 and hired Dave White – a large, intimidating, scowly-face of a man – to be the music director (think ‘less ambitious Henry Rollins). He alone deserves the credit for not only building this amazingly eclectic list of music, but also being open minded enough to realize that U2, REM, Smiths, Talking Heads and Depheche Modes of the world could work on the same station as one that also played TAD, 808 State, John Gorka and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  As concerned as my more mainstream music friends were of my choice of Dave to be Music Director, equally was his pack of friends who all, understandably, thought Dave had sold out to the Anti-Christ.

What resulted was a few years of the best music education I ever got.  Every once in a while I will meet someone who also was at Tech in that time frame and they end up telling me how much the loved the station and how many bands, musicians and genres they learned about because of KTXT.  It really is the highest indirect compliement I could ever get.
DAVE SAYS: 
I remember learning from the music director who came before me that the station operated entirely differently from a typical college radio station, where the DJs got to choose their own music. KTXT was operated as though it were a regular commercial station, in order to give the Communications majors some hands-on experience in a real world setting. The music director’s job was to select every song played. So I knew I wanted to make it was varied as it could possibly be, given the constraints of the music library we had. I made it my personal, not-so-secret mission to figure out a way to destroy the “programmed” idea without interfering with the practical aspects of people working in a training environment.  So I overloaded the playlist to make it *seem* as though people were making random choices from the music library. Each day the big computer would spit out the day’s playlist and I took my pen to it and eliminated songs that were being played too often and added lesser known songs. I also made sure that as much weird variety was taking place as Lubbock TX would allow in 1990. I look at this list now and mostly what I see is the gaps, the places I failed to beef up the presence of a particular worthy band or artist. I remember people yelling at me a lot. Also, I remember doing a lot of yelling myself.
savektxtAt some point after graduation Mass Comm at Tech lost its accreditation and the University decided to remove the station from any curriculum and put it under the general Student Media department.  The station then became the more traditional free-form format and a cost center.  In December 2010, due to budget issues, the station was shut down, almost out of the blue.  There was a futile out-cry, the station was gone and at that moment I divorced myself from Texas Tech.  It returned as an on-line only station and I’m now told it has returned both to its 88.1FM position and back under control of the Mass Comm department.  Still, I will never forgive Tech.

*the 5/8/92 date at the top represents the date this was printed.  this list actually ceased being added to by Dave in ’91

Yes, the station had a playlist of over 1100 songs – which is unheard of today.  If you look at the column on the right listed as ‘Type” that was the category the song fell into and decided the likelihood it would play.  Now, this version of the list was printed in 1992, but Dave informs me it’s actually a list from 1991, so the songs that were heard the most during a 18 hour day (station was on only 6am-midlnight) were the ones listed with “PWR” (Power).  This was probably 30 songs that were recycled through 3-4 hourly slots.  So, in 18 hours  those songs were played about 72 times, meaning they would play about 3x a day, each.  That actually is really low compared to a hits station which would have a similar category, but with fewer songs and more slots per hour.  The other categories NEW/ACT (newer stuff, up and coming) DWN (down, former PWR) and then the “recurrents” (REC1, REC2 REC+) were the library’s depth with various classic hits (Pretenders, Bowie, Big Star) and newer more recent classics of that decade (Smiths, Cure, REM) and then Dave’s amazingly curated list of great music.  So, the odds of hearing any particular song was pretty low, but it added to the amazing randomness and listenability of the station.

other notes:

  • No, I don’t know what the highlighter marks are for, just Dave stuff (DAVE: YEAH I HAVE NO IDEA)
  • We had to convince the student advisor, the late, great Dr Kinghorn, to allow us to play Jane’s Addiction/”Stop” when it debuted because it had the lyric “…god damn radio…”  He was a Mormon, but a reasonable man. (YOU DID ALL THE CONVINCING. I LAID AS LOW AS POSSIBLE.)
  • B——- Surfers, yes, is for “Butthole Surfers” because we we’re not allowed to say “ButtHole” on the air.  We lost that battle with Dr K.  He would have none of that.  (DAVE: EMBARRASSING TO THIS DAY)
  • Because of the old school dot matrix printer, the band 808 State regularly was stated on-air as “Bob State” (ON AIR STAFF MANGLING BAND NAMES, NOT JUST THIS ONE, WAS A SOURCE OF DAILY HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE)
  • “Sliver” was the first Nirvana song we played. Remains my favorite Nirvana song. (NOT TRUE: WE PLAYED SONGS FROM ‘BLEACH,’ NOTABLY THEIR COVER OF ‘LOVE BUZZ.’ I’M NOT SURE WHY THAT STUFF ISN’T ON THIS LIST)
  • Dave did rap proper service and would put our additions up again any station in this timeframe (THE SHEER AMOUNT OF RACIST REACTION I ENCOUNTERED FOR THIS DECISION STILL BLOWS MY MIND 25 YEARS LATER)
  • There is a lot on this list I don’t remember: “Cringer”? “Field Trip”? “Jax Wobble”? (DUNNO WHAT THIS IS EITHER)
  • Notice for the most part there are few bands listed with “The” because our software would have listed all of those bands who had “The” starting its title as such.  The lone exception is, of course “The The”.
  • I always believed Dave was made miserable his list started with 10,000 Maniacs, so he added “1/2Man, 1/2 Biscuit” to retain his music credibility.(AT THE TIME, 10,000 MANIACS WERE QUITE POPULAR AND, MUCH LIKE WITH THE INCLUSION OF BANDS SUCH AS DEPECHE MODE, I JUST RESIGNED MYSELF TO THE NECESSITY OF PLAYING A LOT OF THEIR STUFF. I KNEW GOING IN THAT MY PERSONAL TASTE IN MUSIC, WHICH CAN BE QUITE EXTREME, WAS NOT GOING TO BE REFLECTED HERE. IT WAS NOT TO BE MY PERSONAL JUKEBOX. I JUST WANTED A STATION WHERE MOTORHEAD AND THE “LE MYSTERE DES VOIX BULGARE” ALBUM COULD CO-EXIST WITH R.E.M.)
  • “Burn & Rob” by Pale Face almost got us in trouble with the University.  We played off its silly theme in some promos and t-shirts and some old dude thought we were actually trying to incite looting.  (again, Dr K was a reasonable Mormon) (DR K DID, IN FACT, DEFEND US QUITE A BIT, AND I’M SURE HE GOT MORE FLAK THAN I EVER DID.)

Dave offer this recollection:  one of my favorite off-campus stories:  I was at Main St Saloon one night and someone introduced me to an employee of Lubbock’s classic rock station. The radio station person was informed that I was KTXT’s music director. The guy, in that West Texas way where you laughingly insult someone to their face to try to alpha them, said, “That’s where y’all play all that bullshit?”  And I said, “Yep. And funny, that’s what we say about y’all, too.”

KTXT 1992 Playlist.compressed

If you’d like to download or view in a better viewer, use this Scribd link.

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The 25K foot free fall

yes, this happened.  not much to tell, the video does the work.

And this happened, right under our noses

Woke up Saturday morning to find out the great Bill Watterson had been drawing, in secret for three days worth of strips, right our collective noses.

Now, I haven’t been reading the comic pages on the regular for some time, but those there are those that do who were suspicious about what exactly was going on inside Pearls Before Swine.  In fact, a rather serious debate was going on as to the legitimacy of the idea that Watterson would play along for something like this.

Anyway, turns out it’s true.  Bill Watterson drew these panels.  They are funny, beautiful and bring back all the good feelings of a Calvin & Hobbs strip.

Enjoy, ’cause after this attention Watterson is likely to scurry back into his hermit hole for another decade.

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