I was in Lawrence last Friday and I did something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I parked my car and walked around the campus, visiting various landmarks, both personal and public.
I stopped in at KJHK and took a look at the vinyl stacks. Some of the albums still have the original reviews. Before most college stations got consistent CD service (lets say pre 1987), we were very much a vinyl shop. Five or six music staffers divided the incoming records for review, and the best albums were added to the studio for air-play. A hand-written review was taped on the front cover with track-by-track recommendations.
This is something of a lost art. With the rise of CDs, the amount of real estate available for such editorial commentary dropped sharply. A typical new release in the 90s got a couple of sentences. I also saw CDs with no commentary at all, just track numbers with star ratings.
These record reviews are an interesting bit of station history. In addition to the musical opinions they offered, they were signed and dated. Not all paper reviews have stood up to years of exposure and refiling, but many endure. The best preserved examples I found were those that were typed and covered in clear packing tape.
Here's a hand-written review with scotch tape that survived. It's from the Replacements "Stink" album, dated July 13, 1982. It's obvious that the reviewer put a great deal of effort into this review. Not only did the author take time to listen and critique the album, but he carefully wrote the review by hand. I like this example also because it features the original "Stink" cover design, a hand-stamped white jacket.
The author of this review (B.W.G.) was Blake W. Gumprecht. Blake Gumprecht graduated from K.U. by the time I started at KJHK in the Spring of 1984, but he remains one of the legendary personalities of the 80s. He worked hard as an under-grad, touting influential bands like The Replacements, and talented but relatively unknown artists like Tommy Keene. I also appreciate what he did after he left the station. He liked The Replacements so much he moved to Minneapolis and went to work for Twin-Tone. There aren't many guys that know more about the Replacements than Blake Gumprecht.
Blake has some serious street credentials too. He was mentioned in Michael Azerrad's "Our Band Could Be Your Life", a history of the 80s underground music scene. Not surprisingly, they quote him in reference to something he wrote about Paul Westerberg.
Blake Gumprecht went back to school after a time and he is now an Assistant Professor in Geography at the University of New Hampshire. But he hasn't forgotten his college days. Specifically, he's done considerable research on the phenomena of the college town, their unique properties, existing as islands of bohemia. While the focus of "Paradise for Misfits" is Athens, Georgia, Blake includes references to Lawrence, specifically KJHK founding father Steve Greenwood.
Hopefully, alternative elements of the KJHK vinyl collection will continue to resonate, not only through the airwaves with the listening audience, but as editorial artifacts, offering bits of literary lore and advice for those staffers who take the time to explore the history at hand.