the soft compulsion of constant consumption training

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One Sunday night in May 1976, Hughes’ idea would accidentally come to fruition. Needing a last-minute substitute DJ for the evening, she brought in Melvin Lindsey, a Howard journalism student, WHUR intern, and her babysitter, to boot. Lindsey grabbed some Isley Brothers, Delfonics, and Spinners LPs from his family’s collection and hurried to the studio. Somehow, despite Lindsey’s complete lack of experience behind the mic, it clicked. Lindsey’s silky, youthful voice was an appealing shift from many of the more forceful black DJs of the day, and his smooth soul-song selections coupled with the Sunday-evening slot to create something bigger than he or Hughes could have imagined: ‘The lines were flooded with calls. There must have been some kind of natural knack.’ The next morning, Hughes came up with the perfect name for Lindsey, and his show: ‘The Quiet Storm’. Lindsey left the station to finish his bachelor’s degree, but upon returning in November 1977, ‘The Quiet Storm’ quickly became a WHUR weeknight staple, and Lindsey became a local celebrity.

The format was simple and effective, not too different in structure from what album-oriented rock stations had been doing for years. During his evening shift, Lindsey would play long stretches of uninterrupted medium-to-low tempo soul and R&B music— at times for up to 40 minutes straight— only occasionally intervening to guide listeners along. In a very real way, Lindsey’s Quiet Storm was doing exactly what radio does best— since its earliest days, radio has brought faraway voices of musicians and on-air personalities into private homes, creating a sense of intimate community amongst listeners. ‘Lindsey’s on-the-air personality [is] that of the soft-spoken alter ego for some 220,500 listeners each night,’ wrote The Washington Post, ‘not all of whom want to distinguish between radio and real life.’ It was common for listeners to call in and complain if the tempo sped up too much.

Really psyched that my Quiet Storm retrospective is up on Pitchfork. Thanks to Mark Richardson and Ryan Dombal for letting me do it.
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