As KCSB’s winter quarter draws to a close, three types of people ask three different questions. KCSB listeners wonder when their favorite shows will air in the spring. KCSB DJs wonder what sort of time slot they’ll get, or if they’ll get a time slot at all. Columnists who write about KCSB—and surely we are many, though I haven’t checked—wonder if the spring will bring any sonically fresh, conceptually exciting new programs to examine. Below appears a wish list, of sorts, of potential new shows to which even grizzled KCSB-enjoying veterans might well look forward. While I have no evidence that these shows or even shows like these will ever appear on the station’s schedule, only good can come of loosing them into the zeitgeist as inspirations.
Mediocrity: Every few years, KCSB offers a show whose host interviews the most interesting people on UCSB’s campus. This makes sense, but ignores an infinitely more vast resource: the least interesting people on UCSB’s campus. I have no objection to hearing from the university’s leading scientists and engineers, its world-class musicians, and its skilled athletes, but sometimes I long—because of hearing from such luminaries all the time, I long—to hear, for upwards of 75 minutes, an interview with someone who nurtures only the goal of watching the Biggest Loser episodes backlogged on their TiVo. I want to hear from the people agonizing over the intricacies of a purchase of a 1997 Toyota Camry in “great” condition. I want to bear witness to a deep, extended, on-air exchange between a student who knows mostly about beer pong strategy, yet does not win games of it, and another student with near-perfect knowledge of the continuity of Futurama, seasons one through three.
Goodwill’s Finest: Digging through the record crates in all our town’s thrift shops, I can’t help but feel a huge but unrealized potential. For each and every vintage R&B gem or coveted jazz obscurity I pull out of the dust, I flip by at least 300 albums that only register on my consciousness in the most basic, animal sense. Though I know little of what these time-softened sleeves and the still suspiciously shiny discs within actually contain, musically speaking, the names emblazoned on them now loom large on my mental landscape: Mantovani, Lawrence Welk, the Ray Conniff Singers. I desperately want to hear a KCSB show that plays only these unloved albums, released upon resale stores across America like international aid drops from the living rooms of the deceased Greatest Generation. The catch: I don’t want these spun by some 20-year-old in skin-tight jeans and a beige Members Only jacket. I crave sincerity, not irony. I want to hear the voice of someone who, given one record to take to the proverbial desert island, would without hesitation choose Say it With Music (A Touch of Latin)..
KCSB on KCSB: In a gesture toward all that is meta, I’d like to hear a program with only one subject: the station on which it broadcasts. I admit that it would initially sound a little like this column brought to the airwaves, but with that essential component of needless reflexivity that makes things so much more entertaining. The hosts of KCSB on KCSB could talk about other shows on KCSB, sure, or about the intrigue of the quarterly station staff meetings, but I feel that, over time, it would inevitably contract like the ancient Ouroboros, that snake that eats its own tail. Ultimately, the show would become about its own broadcasts, then about the broadcast going on at the same moment of its discussion, then about the exact words the host speaks even as he speaks about them. I envision the show ultimately pushing through to existence in the future, leaving the rest of KCSB far behind it in the present.
Taiwanese Karaoke Backing Tracks of Current Top 40 Hits: A great many KCSB DJs seem pushed into the station by their loathing for popular mainstream music alone. I wouldn’t necessary call them wrong to do this, but sometimes I wonder if they might just need a shift in perspective. Would the pierced, the dyed, and the horn-rimmed bear so much ill will toward the Justin Biebers, the Rihannas, and the Katy Perrys of the world if they listened instead to versions of these singers’ inescapable songs recorded somewhere off the coast of mainland China by middle-aged men with comb-overs and Casio CT-655s? Stripped of their auto-tuned vocals and reimagined as simple tonal patterns processed by discount synthesizer technology, these chart-busting powerhouses become something else entirely. Maybe it wouldn’t make them cool, but surely, with sufficiently radical uncoolness, they could just about get there.