Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: “Crap from the Past”

Posted by Maximum Fun on 3rd May 2008

Podthoughts has been one of my favorite features on MaximumFun.org, not least because I don’t have to write it. Ian Brill has spent the last few months building a legacy as the greatest podcast reviewer of all time, but he’s gotten a demanding full-time job as a comics editor, so he’s had to resign his commission. Freelance journalist Colin Marshall will be picking up the column, and hopefully his insights will be just as valuable. And look out for Joe Coughlin, who will be contributing occaisional Vidthoughts on video podcasts. — Jesse

At the tender age of eleven, Ron “Boogiemonster” Gerber began laboriously copying the chart positions of every single on the American Top 40 into a binder, genuflecting before the divine word of Casey Kasem. At the same time, he began regularly purchasing 45s of every top single he didn’t already own. His enthusiasm for pop music has, in the ensuing three decades, evolved into Crap from the Past, where he’s been behind the mic passing the love on to us for sixteen years now.

Gerber currently broadcasts out of KFAI in Minneapolis, with syndication in England and New Zealand. (Luckily for everyone who isn’t a Kiwi, a Brit or Prince, there’s a podcast feed.) If he were simply slapping a hodgepodge of pop tunes onto the turntables every week, his program would be no worse — and, let’s admit it, probably better — than most of that which spews forth from community radio. But Crap from the Past is so much more; the Boogiemonster bills it as, in effect, “a graduate-level course in pop music,” but it’s even better than that, because he rarely if ever resorts to critical post-structuralist gender theory.

See, when Ron Gerber lays down a show on Tears for Fears, he doesn’t spin “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and call it a night. He spins “Everybody Wants to Run the World”, which the band re-recorded from scratch as a charity single for some kind of benefit run, changing only one word. He spins “Victims of Fact”, a single recorded by Neon, an early group comprising the members of what would become Tears for Fears and the members of what would become Naked Eyes. He spins a cut recorded for The Karate Kid Part II by Mancrab, a one-off outfit helmed by Tears for Fears’ lead singer. And he digs out his 1980s issues of Billboard to read out the original reviews of these songs.

Similarly, a New-Kids-on-the-Block-themed program features Biscuit, the boy band’s bodyguard-turned-rapper, the Perfect Gentlemen, an even younger boy band created by the New Kids’ producer Maurice Starr, and the James Brown records off of which Starr bit to formulate that irresistible New Kids sound. Interwoven are interview excerpts from a New Kids concert VHS tape. (Imagine how full this guy’s house is, and of what else.)

Gerber also conducts the occasional interview of his own: electronic pop pioneer Thomas Dolby, forgotten — and much Boogiemonster-championed — power-popper D.L. Byron and mayor of Funkytown Stephen Greenberg, to name only three.

Though Gerber introduces certain songs as, say, “atrocities,” don’t take the Crap in Crap from the Past too literally: the show’s not some sort of kitschfest, but if it’s necessary to play some kitsch, the Boogiemonster won’t back down. (He may, however, talk over said kitsch or yank it off early.) As a man unashamed of his pop habits, I adore Crap from the Past. If you don’t deign to enjoy pop yourself, prepare to be converted. It’s a bit of a cliché to put it this way, but were you to give his show a listen, you’d almost certainly be infected with his near-obsessive — okay, obsessive — passion for well-crafted pop and all information relating to it.

[Direct all correspondence to colinjmarshall at gmail.]