In 1984, in addition to actually trying to be a college student, I was both the music director and production director at WHCL-FM, Hamilton College’s student-run radio channel.
And one day, while goofing around in the production studio … I decided I wanted to create something of my own. A little comedy record, if you please.
I shall explain.
Dickie Goodman was the king of the snippet “interview records,” where he would act as a man on the street reporter, interviewing everyone from Presidential candidates to intergalactic aliens to sharks and 40-foot gorillas. You’ve probably heard his biggest novelty track, “Mr. Jaws,” a Top 10 hit that involved Goodman “interviewing” both the shark and several members of the movie’s characters.
So here I am in the production studio. I’ve got some reel-to-reel tape. There’s an entire radio station music library at my fingertips.
Let’s do this.
Now originally, I had planned on creating a snippet record that poked fun at the Hamilton College football team, which at that time was winless and useless. But there’s a difference between college football players getting stomped on by Amherst or Trinity, and college students looking for a scrawny DJ who was poking fun at them on the radio. And yeah, I didn’t feel like being duct-taped to the door frame at Psi Upsilon. Nobody does.
So instead, I went with something that was less topical. I poked fun at the Revolutionary War. Playing the intrepid on-the-scene reporter, with a voice that sounds like it still hadn’t hit puberty yet, I “interviewed” George Washington and some of the other participants in the battle. The track, nicknamed “Hey, General Washington!” received a few spins on WHCL, but the novelty pretty much dried up when DJ’s got a little peeved about playing this comedy record as if it was actually mandated or something.
Fast forward to 1990. It’s my 5th reunion at Hamilton College, and during a quiet afternoon, the general manager at that time allowed me access to the studios, ostensibly to copy some of my old airchecks onto a cassette. I found an old cassette in the production studio, found a reel-to-reel tape that was labeled with the appropriate date of creation … and duplicated it onto the cassette.
I took the cassette home … and somewhere between 1990, a second marriage, a second divorce, and moving from a walk-up on Morris Street to a two-family home on Winthrop Avenue, and eventually relocating to an apartment in Green Island … the cassette disappeared.
But last week, while cleaning out some boxes of old junk and trash … I found the cassette.
A couple of days later, I ordered and received a cassette-to-USB player, which allowed me to transfer the recording to a digital format.
Now understand something. I was a pizza-faced, socially inept, misfit of a college student. And many of the songs that I sampled for this track were hits at the time on WHCL, but might be head-scratchers to modern listeners.
Oh, what the hell. I’ve already shared so much of my life in the past 12+ blog years, what’s an embarrassing audio tape from 1984 going to do? Make things worse?
So here it is. “Hey, General Washington!” from 1984.
Now, one thing to note here. This is a musical piece about the Revolutionary War. And it was created by a student who attended a college whose name came about because of the efforts of one Alexander Hamilton.
So what I’m saying is …
I beat Lin-Manuel Miranda to a musical about the Revolutionary War by 30 years, at least. HEY, LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA! YOU OWE ME SOME MONEY!!! (ha ha ha ha ha ha)
Yeah, but in all honestness and truth, Lin-Manuel Miranda has oceans of talent. Me? Maybe I can fill up all my talent in a thimble.
But this coming Friday night, I’m going to play this track on WHCL one more time, along with many of the songs that were part of this sound collage. It’s a one-time only thing, so don’t expect it to suddenly race up the pop charts or anything like that.
I’m just glad I found it. Even accidentally.
And Mr. Miranda … if I can’t get royalties, could you at least comp me two front-rows when Hamilton returns to Broadway? I’m good with that in exchange. 😀