For 34 years, I have been living a lie. I’ve been repeating the same fib for so long it’s become the truth. But my conscience is heavy with guilt, and I’m tired of the deception. And what better time to come clean than during the Summer Membership Drive, when so many KEXP listeners profess their love for Music That Matters without reservation.
Throughout today’s broadcasting, we’re asking KEXP fans to tell us what the first record — or cassette, mp3, 8-track, compact disc… whatever — you purchased was, and playing some of those selections on the air. What was mine? Well, if you’d asked me as recently as last week, like John Richards did during a meeting, I’d have given you the same answer I have for decades: “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates. It was #1 in the spring of 1977, and if it isn’t exactly the hippest selection, at least the cycles of pop culture have turned enough since 4th grade that I can say this without looking at the ground and muttering my reply.
But the real truth is that “Rich Girl” was actually the second record I ever bought. A few weeks before, I shelled out two weeks’ allowance on Shaun Cassidy’s chart-topping cover of the Crystals’ 1963 smash “Da Doo Ron Ron.” What can I say? Even as a kid I was a sucker for a Brill Building pop tune. But as I quickly realized on the playground, liking Shaun Cassidy was not “cool” (at least not for boys), and this was an era when Happy Days still ruled the airwaves. “Cool” was everything, and I had a lot working against me already. So I quickly moved on to Daryl and John, and kept my affinity for Shaun a closely guarded secret until I was well into my late thirties… and had abandoned all hope of appearing cool.
Why am I coming clean now? Because if I’ve learned one thing during my tenure at KEXP, it’s that you should never be embarrassed about the music you love, or let popular opinion dictate your listening choices. KEXP listeners constantly show their pride in their decision to support Music That Matters. Every time I see a KEXP t-shirt or bumper sticker, or am greeting with a throng of smiling faces at a KEXP event, I’m reminded that it is foolish to ever feel anything but joy about music you love.
That passion for great music among the family of KEXP knows no boundaries. Last night during “Wo’ Pop,” in the space of the same hour, we received a gift of $1200 from one supporter (broken up into twelve handy payments of $100/month) and another for $14 from an 8-year-old who said “I love KEXP, your music is my life.” The size of the gift doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you show your support for the music you love right now. And when you make your gift, please let us know what the first record you bought was, too. Surely someone else didn’t emerge from 1977 unscathed. (After all, that was the year Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” was #1 for over 2 months.)
Something else I noticed last night? Members of the greater KEXP community take a great deal of pride in their geographic communities, too. Summer Drive means we’re in the thick of our annual Hood To Hood Challenge, and yesterday I watched West Seattle, Ballard, and University District/Wallingford jockey for the top three slots all day long; that’s how close the competition is right now. Just a few gifts can make a huge difference, not just for KEXP fans worldwide, but right there in your own neighborhood. So take pride in your love for KEXP, take pride in your Hood, and — if you haven’t already — please show your support with a gift today. Even if your neighborhood doesn’t win Hood To Hood this year, I assure you, the sense of satisfaction from knowing you power KEXP is a lot more rewarding than carrying around the shame of a short-lived crush on a teen idol for 30+ years!