Thursday, January 22, 2015

Weasel's Wild Weekend

Jonathan Gilbert joined WHFS 102.3 in the early 1970s. Beginning as an engineer, he quickly moved into full-time on-air work as Weasel. His distinctive voice and delivery and his legendary knowledge of -- and passion for -- all things musical made him one of the most recognizable and enduring members of the Einstein WHFS lineup.

Weasel stayed with WHFS through the Einstein Days, the Duchossis Days, and into the new Millennium. On January 1, 2000, as he signed off of his part in the Top 99.1 of 1999, he noted that he had now worked with WHFS in four decades: the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. By then the station was in decline, as its present owners tried to monetize it, gradually discarding the things that made WHFS the radio treasure it once had been. In 2003, feeling that the fun was gone, Weasel left WHFS for good. In 2005, 99.1 stopped being WHFS. After a few format changes, 99.1 has emerged as an all-news station, WNEW -- itself a recycling of another famous call sign that had once been synonymous with progressive music in New York City.

Since 2011, Weasel has made his radio home at WTMD 89.7 in Towson, MD. WTMD is the voice of Towson University and the most-listened-to NPR affiliate in Maryland. Branding themselves as "Radio for Music People," they are a strong advocate for and supporter of independent music in Baltimore, MD. A non-commercial station, they depend on listener support for a large part of their funding. This blogger proudly supports WTMD with his pledge dollars, and he urges you to do likewise.

For three hours every Friday night, Jonathan Gilbert hosts Weasel's Wild Weekend, a variety show with a weekly theme, everything from songs about smiles to commemorations of important days such as the Day the Music Died, when we lost Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper on February 3, 1959. And on the Friday before New Year's Day he does his Party Music program. As I listened to it, I realized that I had the answer to the question I posed on the Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium post: What would that program sound like fifteen years on? It would be none other than Weasel's Wildest Weekend of them All: the New Year's Eve Party Program!

Weasel's Wild Weekend Party Set 2014 -- 1.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Party Set 2014 -- 2.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Party Set 2014 -- 3.mp3

Update ... Well I'll be damned ... someone actually likes this Weasel's Wild Weekend thing. I got a request for the Baseball's Opening Day program from April 10, 2015, which I actually did manage to catch on my digital recorder. Here it is ... but you gotta promise ... if you download these recordings and enjoy our Weasel, Pledge WTMD. Become an encore club member. Radio stations don't last forever, and your pledge can help to keep Weasel on the air at WTMD ... not a promo roll ... just saying.

Weasel's Wild Weekend Baseball's Opening Day -- 1.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Baseball's Opening Day -- 2.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Baseball's Opening Day -- 3.mp3

Halloween Update: It seems that All Hallows Eve is one of Weasel's most auspicious days. To this day he devoted two whole episodes in 2014. The only other event that received such lavish treatment was Christmas. The Halloween program is divided into the Treats episode and the Tricks Episode. Each is presented in three segments of about an hour each. Here they are.

Weasel's Wild Weekend Halloween Treats 1.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Halloween Treats 2.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Halloween Treats 3.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Halloween Tricks 1.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Halloween Tricks 2.mp3
Weasel's Wild Weekend Halloween Tricks 3.mp3

Feast Your Ears ... --jkw

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millenium

On December 31, 1999, the WHFS 99.1 team wrapped up the old year with a listener-vetted collection of songs known as the WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium. Well, sort of. As Rob Timm pointed out, there weren't any party songs written in the 13th, 14th, or 15th centuries, so it is really more like the Top 99 Party songs of the 20th Century. And after losing an argument with his "old man" at the dinner table, and feeling compelled to add a song that pre-dated WHFS by about half a century, Bob Waugh allowed that "some times you just have to add a few."
And what a broadcast it was. The program began at 2PM and lasted until after midnight. Bob Waugh presented the first five hours, and Rob Timm came on at 7PM -- the REAL Y2K moment, given that all that computer stuff runs on Greenwich Mean Time anyway. Between them, they played one song twice, several songs that had never before been heard on WHFS, and we learned a few things that evening. Rob Timm likes his Kiss loud, and Bob Waugh posed a verbal conundrum on the difference between the meanings of "Party Man"(a man belonging to a political party) and "Party Girl" (a physically attractive young woman hired to entertain male guests at parties).
And at ten o'clock, WHFS wrapped up the Millennium Party Song Collection and switched over to the MTV Millennium Mayhem Broadcast from Times Square, NY, what they called Y2K Ground Zero, for live music by Blink 182, No Doubt and others, and to HEAR THE BALL DROP at midnight. And with breathless amazement, the announcers on the scene observed "the lights are still on ..."
Not surprisingly, the list itself was rather loaded with songs of the last half of the '90s. After all this is the music we all had in our brains that year and that week. But it does make me wonder: how different would that list look today, fifteen years on, if a certain pair of millennium veteran DJs were to do it again this New Year's Eve?

The Program, as it aired in December 31, 1999

WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium 1.mp3
WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium 2.mp3
WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium 3.mp3
WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium 4.mp3
WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium 5.mp3
WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium 6.mp3
WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium 7.mp3
WHFS Top 99 Party Songs of the Millennium 8.mp3

If you enjoyed this program, please post a comment and let me know ... think of it as signing a guest book. Thanks and, as they used to say on Einstein's HFS, Feast Your Ears.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WHFS Top 99.1 of 1999

1999 saw the release of what would become the last of the Just Passin' Thru CDs, as another fine program was left behind in the last century. The station was now firmly within the CBS portfolio. Its music continued to shift to a harder, more youthful, more Generation-X direction, as its historical audience, this blogger included, turned elsewhere for our music.

This "Generation-X" directional shift reflected the larger embrace of decadence within the United States at a variety of levels. Culture wars were afoot everywhere you turned, from Congress to talk radio, from the PTA to the Supreme Count, where 5-4 decisions had become the norm. This phenomenon, which generational theorists call the Unraveling, was a time of weak institutions and high individualism. The previous unraveling in U.S. History was the Roaring Twenties, ending with the Crash of 1929. It is interesting to note that the recent unraveling also ended as a broad financial crisis -- the Crash of 2008 and the Great Recession -- roiled the world. But that is another story. 

The 99.1th song is a rather naughty little thing called "No Class of 99" by Spaz Luhrman, a knock-off parody of a successful Baz Luhrman song released in 1998. This song had itself made Number 26 in the countdown. It was based on a potential commencement address written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune in 1997. While tape degradation makes it difficult to hear at some points, enough remains intact to leave no doubt as to the author's message.

The song fits right in with the demotivational messages of the day what were daily joke fodder for young adults in their 20s and 30s.  The lyrics include the advice to "smoke cigarettes to mask puke breath." It recommending a variety of other maladaptive behaviors, such as judging others solely on physical appearance, standing idly by and criticizing, and leaving the places you live before you are involved in a drug deal gone bad. It encourages giving "the finger," noting that it is not passe' and it still hurts people's feelings. 

Moving on from the 99.1th song, the program continued with Weasel announcing the songs down to Number 74. As he closed out, he commented that he had now, as of today, played new rock on HFS during four decades -- the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Rob Timm took over and carried the countdown all the way to Number 5. Along the way he introduced us to his favorite new game of the year: "It's the first time this millennium I have done X." Paula Sangeleer came in and finished the countdown.

Another interesting observation: the stereophonic image of WHFS was broadcasting that day was significantly narrowed as compared to that observable on most compact disc recordings of the day. I'm not sure if this was by accident or an effort to make the station sound better on "boom boxes" and other such portable sound reproduction devices that were prevalent by the late 1990s, but whether intentional or otherwise it certainly degraded their original High Fidelity Stereo concept.

As always, we let the music and the presentation speak for itself. Give it a listen and post your thoughts. 

WHFS Top 99.1 of 1999 -1- Top 99.1 to 83.mp3 
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1999 -2- Top 82 to 67.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1999 -3- Top 66 to 50.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1999 -4- Top 49 to 33.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1999 -5- Top 32 to 18.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1999 -6- Top 17 to 4.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1999 -7- Top 3 to Number One, Paula Sangeleer.mp3

Monday, January 19, 2015

WHFS Top 99.1 of 1998

THe Top 99.1 of 1998 aired on New Year's Day 1999. Gina Crash -- a rather over-partied version of her usual energetic self -- started things off and carried us through song number 54, complaining at times about the horns being a bit loud. Paula Sangeleer took over then and finished out the program.

1998 was a challenging year for the Top 99.1. The atmosphere was atrocious, with a major thermal inversion that challenged WHFS's usually clear signal in Columbia, MD. I had recently moved and did not yet have the outdoor antenna installed yet. These two factors contributed to a lower quality recording than the earlier ones -- fortunately these effects cleared up later in the day when the best songs were being aired. The program was further challenged by some noticeable tape degradation. Some of it cleaned up with selective restarts and tape alignment shifts. To recover the Top 99.1th song I actually spliced bits of the song from three source recordings to render a reasonably clean version of the song. Other parts were just beyond salvage though. Fifteen years too late, I have learned that TDK made a better tape from an archival perspective, than SONY did. Viewed as blemishes in a piece of fine leather -- as the Woodstock liner notes once described such things -- they're not too bad, all things considered.

And it is an important historical document, as the times, they were a-changin'. The Top 99.1 of 1998 sounded more different from the one before of any issue in the set. The Top 99.1th song, that had featured creative acts from within the station itself during the 1992-94 period when Duchossis Communications owned WHFS, was now a political work: a spoof of the Marcy Playground Sex and Candy song, that rode a big wave of musical parodies of President Clinton and his various and sundry scandalous affairs. The song was titled Sex is Dandy. It featured a Bill Clinton sound-alike who poked mischievous fun at Clinton for his Monica Lewinsky affair and also on Ken Starr, whose four years of investigating turned up only this sexual liaison -- that had been front page news for months by the time Starr started investigating it.

The station's style had evolved to a more glitzy set of jingles and a "louder" sound. Three years in the CBS fold were beginning to show their effect.  The production included something new that year: an electronic voice announcing the number of each song. I personally didn't care for it, and it was not repeated the following year. There was also, to my knowledge, no other retrospective programming of the kind seen in the Duchossis years.

WHFS Top 99.1 of 1998 -1- Top 99.1 to 89.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1998 -2- Top 88 to 74.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1998 -3- Top 73 to 55.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1998 -4- Top 54 to 41.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1998 -5- Top 40 to 28.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1998 -6- Top 27 to 14.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1998 -7- Top 13 to Number One.mp3

If you enjoy these recordings. please take a moment to leave a comment. Think of it as signing a guest book

Thanks and happy listening,


Sunday, January 18, 2015

WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997

1997 saw the continued transformation of WHFS in a more Generation-X direction. Its staff was primarily of Generation X -- born between 1961 and 1982 -- with one notable exception: Weasel. And by 1997 the 17 age cohorts that comprise WHFS's 18 to 34 age demographic were completely of the Generation X birth years.

The year saw the second of the Just Passin' Thru CDs, arguably the best of the lot and certainly this blogger's favorite.

The alternative music itself had changed as well. It was less guitar-based and more electronic, sometimes more pop-ish, and sometimes with a harder edge. It was also a big year for swing, led by groups such as the Mighty Mighty Boss Tones, who broke big that year.

Some have criticized HFS for "going pop" in those days. While the complaints have some merit, the effect seems to have been at least as much generational in nature as business decision (which itself was made by increasingly Generation-X station management). And WHFS 99.1 did maintain its creative edge that other alternative stations of the day lacked, through its highly stable program staff, several of whom had been with the station while the Einstein brothers still worked there.

The Top 99.1 begins with Bob Waugh opining that 1997 was "not a great year for music, but it was a pretty good year." He carried the program through the first 20 songs. Weasel came in around number 80, in an uncharacteristically quiet hand-off, and he carried the show until number 40, at which point Jonny Riggs (sans Auggh!) took over and finished off the countdown. Then Tom came in and produced a couple hours of radio, featuring a few decidedly decadent stories (e.g. How to be Suave). Just before the tape's end, Tom handed things over the Mark the Alien. His last words: "here, take this pack of matches, and follow my instructions."

Yet it is still HFS and the Top 99.1, and in retrospective I find myself wishing I had loaded a third tape ...

WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -1- Bob Waugh, Top 99.1 to 84.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -2- Top 83 to 71.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -3- Weasel, Top 70 to 59.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -4- Top 58 to 46.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -5- Top 45 to 30.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -6- Top 29 to 18.mp3 
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -7- Top 17 to Number One.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -8- Johnny Riggs.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -9- Tom.mp3 
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1997 -A- Top 9 at 9.mp3

If you enjoy this program, please post a comment with your nickname ... think if it as signing a guest book. Thanks!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Missing: The WHFS Top 99.1 of 1996

The WHFS Top 99.1 of 1996 went off as planned, but there is unfortunately no known recording of the event. I missed it due to an unexpected trip out of town due to an untimely death in the family. I left a long tape set to run, but a power failure while we were out of town put the Kibosh on that plan.

Better Luck Next Year ...


Friday, January 16, 2015

WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995

1995 was a transitional year for WHFS.  and the New Year's Day retrospective reflected that. During 1994, Jake Einstein had taken over WRNR and pulled together some HFS talent to re-create the "old HFS." The Einstein brothers left to join their father/s new station, but Weasel stayed at 99.1. The station's ownership also changed twice in 1995. When Jake Einstein sold WHFS in the late 1980s, Duchossois Communications took ownership and would hold the station until 1993, when it sold WHFS to Liberty Broadcasting. Liberty Broadcasting then sold the station to SFX Entertainment who quickly flipped it to CBS/Infinity in 1996.

The Top 99.1 of 1995 featured Pat Ferrise and Rob Timm, each of whom called about half of the songs. The 99.1th song featured Matthew Sweet doing the Scooby-Doo theme song -- a cute and clever song but no "Bitch Boy" (see the Top 99.1 of 1994). And neither "Just Passin' Thru" nor "Best of Dave's Garage" appeared in the retrospective lineup. Instead, there was a concert, Dave Matthews Band, broadcast live from Hampton Roads Coliseum in Newport News, VA, beginning at about 10PM on New Year's Eve. The concert had significant production and delivery problems: periods of dead air during which WHFS filled in with other music. This made for a choppy presentation that required some editing -- fading abrupt sound breaks and splicing out dead space and weird electrical noises -- to make it presentable.

The following morning featured an "Acoustic Feast," two hours of unplugged music, some of which had been previously recorded in the Modern Rock Morning Show sessions over the past few years. While a nice block of music, it lacked the professional charm of the Just Passin' Thru series.

Just Passin' Thru would make a return in 1996, when the first of what would eventually become 3 CDs was released. The quality was noticeably better than some of the earlier programs had been -- there is an upside as well as a downside to a more corporate environment. Yet among HFS afficionados, including myself, the home-grown studio version was missed.

If you enjoy this program, please post a comment with your nickname ... think if it as signing a guest book. Thanks!


The Links:

WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -1- Prelude Pat Ferrise, Top 99.1 to 88.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -2- Top 87 to 70.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -3- Top 69 to 51.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -4- Top 50 to 36.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -5- Top 35 to 18.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -6- Top 17 to 2.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -7- Number One, Dave Matthews Band, First Set.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -8- Dave Matthews Band, Second Set.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -9- Acoustic Feast.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -A- Acoustic Feast.mp3
WHFS Top 99.1 of 1995 -B- Acoustic Feast.mp3