The most powerful person at CYVR was the woman who operated the cash register at the the cafeteria.
There was a dial on the wall beside her. If she didn’t like the music – which was often – she could turn off CYVR or turn it down. There’d be silence through out the University of British Columbia’s Student Union Building.
Eventually, CYVR became CITR and got itself organized to the point where it’s now celebrating its 75th anniversary. It has 30 year old shows about reggae, folk and rap. It has podcasts. A monthly music mag, Discorder, itself 30 years old. It presents weekly battles of the bands, Shindig.
Last month, it threw a reunion for CITR alumni with guest air shifts, tours, a concert and a champagne brunch. I was invited to the last, but couldn’t attend. If I had, I might have told a few stories about the time I was the station’s Music “Dictator,” and the station was, perhaps, at its lowest ebb.
At the time, the early 70s, CYVR was trying to get a cable license and later to go to FM, which it eventually did. Then, though, the station was heard at the SUB and was transmitted into three dormitories. We bragged that we were heard by thousands of listeners. The truth was that the transmitters often were not working and if the woman at the cash register didn’t like us, the only person who could hear CYVR was the person in the broadcast booth.
We needed money for such things as the repair of the transmitters and to hire proper management, but we had no credibility. Funding, thus, was hard to come by. I remember that one writer from the Ubyssey, the campus newspaper situated to the station, sneered as he asked what it was like to be a pretend radio station.
We weren’t pretending. We wanted to be a real station. We were facing a lot of basic problems and were still managing to be of service. At least one record company promo rep used CYVR for elaborate promotions while others would bring by current acts to be interviewed live on the air. We also did a few productions and aspiring jocks used the facility to make demos.
For my part as Music Dictator, I had a few problems of my own. I would publish a top 30 list and would mail them. The hope was that the on air personnel would play songs from the list and write them down. They seldom did. Most preferred to play album tracks or songs from their own record collection. In the end, I wouldn’t say the top 30 was bogus, but was more a reflection of what I liked and backed.
Then, too, somebody was stealing new records from the music library. It was my bright idea to deface the albums with big felt pen writing that selected prime cuts and brief, usually sarcastic, critiques. Some were silly or sexist or both. Sorry. The thinking was that nobody would want such marked up albums. The ploy worked only slightly but the thefts continued. Once in a while I see the handiwork and am embarrassed.
I hung out at CYVR, spending most of the time cutting classes and zipping into the SUB pub. Thus, I was privy to what CYVR hoped to accomplish – if it had funding, if it had everybody’s cooperation. Some of us wanted to be different and be an alternative to the commercial AM stations. Others wanted to be exactly like the commercial stations with identical playlists, legitimate news broadcasts and a professional air.
That was impossible as long as there were so-called jocks who used the airtime to eat lunch in private and bliss out to a side of Van Morrison or the Moody Blues. Not that it mattered. Who cared if you were in search of the lost chord if the woman in the cafeteria had turned you off?