A musical look at the legacy and significance of Northeastern University's WRBB (104.9FM - Boston, Back Bay).
Selected and mixed by Camino 84, recorded live, using only vinyl from the WRBB music library.
When people think of quality urban radio they rarely mention Boston.
This is odd considering Boston radio played a big role in the city
being a Jazz mecca as well as pushing the hugely important talent show
era where acts like Donna Summer, Tavares, The Energetics, Jonzun
Crew, Owch! (PKA 9.9), Planet Patrol, Prince Charles & The City Beat
Band, The Superiors, New Edition, NYNUK (PKA New Kids On The Block),
Picture Perfect, etc. came up through the ranks dominating the circuit
then ended up attracting the attention of major labels. Boston radio
is where Bill Adler first heard “Rapper’s Delight” in full (on WRBB,
no less!). A young Peanut Butter Wolf fell in love with music
listening to Boston area radio. Wendy Williams began her career in
media but learning the ropes and cutting her teeth on WRBB radio.
WRBB was a crucial part of my upbringing since they’d actually play
Rap in addition to the R&B, Funk & Soul I was used to hearing on other
area radio stations. Jammin’ Joe Johnson at WILD was NOT a Rap fan and
Sunny Joe White at Kiss 108 FM played it sparingly if ever. In 1982,
WRBB switched to 104.9 FM & became “Boston’s Spice”. It made sense
that a rapper emerged from Boston called MC Spice who became the first
rapper signed to Atlantic, even before MC Lyte. We’d hear the echo
chamber effect “W-W- R-R-B-B… BOSTON! BOSTON!” between tracks and
mixes played on the radio. It was even more mindblowing because WRBB
was located right in my neighborhood.
I’d listen to Reggie Lewis’ basketball games on WRBB then keep it
locked for the music again. They’d play local acts in the rotation
alongside major label artists. On WRBB they’d play The Clash, The
Police, Duran Duran, David Bowie, ABC, Level 42, Human League, Peter
Gabriel, etc. mixed into the regular playlist. First time I ever heard
Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” was in this epic mix on WRBB back
in Summer 1985. I stared at the radio in disbelief as I heard this
beautifully haunting song blare from the speakers.
One of the first places I ever heard Jonzun Crew or Arthur Baker’s new
productions was on WRBB. One of the first places I ever heard play a
New Edition song was WRBB. We’d just put tapes in our box, hold down
PLAY, REC & PAUSE then wait for a jam to come on that would make us
run the length of the room to press the PAUSE button so we could
record the magic we heard broadcasted over the airwaves that day so we
could relive the experience over and over again. Looking back, the bar
for my expectations in terms of music discovery is so high because of
my time listening to Boston radio as a kid.
This is a two hour collection of songs I remember from my early
childhood (including the voting song that was mentioned in the July
1981 “20/20” national feature story on Rap) that got burn on the
station that proclaimed We Rock Boston Better, WRBB. The era where the
convergence of Soul, Funk and Disco occurred is well represented in
this mix. The energy and amazing musicianship takes center stage and
another overlooked fact is Bostonians Tom Moulton and John Luongo were
the first master remixers and engineers for Disco and Soul/Dance
during this era, helping to define the sound of it. Enough words,
listen to “Rare Gems & Killer Grooves From WRBB Archives” mixed by
Camino 84. Enjoy!
Special Thanks to:
Dart Adams for inspiring this project and sharing his knowledge
The WRBB staff(especially Rae Fagin)for helping me get started
Sam Lazer for showing me how to digitize NAB cartridges
Prof. Leon Janikian for his encouragement
and Vanyaland for premiering this in Boston.