Original posted 12/22/09 on Blogger
Sure, Christians like me should think of Christ first when we think of Christmas. Of course most people think of Santa Clause first; Big Red is big this time of year, and he has more press. But in our house, as the air crisps and the tree goes up, our minds drift to that other holiday hero, Jon Solomon and the 24 Hour Holiday Radio Show on WPRB in Princeton, NJ even more often than to Santa.
This should be no surprise to the three of you who are regular readers of this space. I extol the virtues of the Holiday Radio Show, which runs from 6 p.m. Christmas Eve to 6 p.m. Christmas Day on 103.3 FM, every year. I admit; I preach, I proselytize and I seek to turn your ears toward the auditory glory of some of the most eclectic holiday music ever gathered every year about this time. And I’ll do it again.
Up went the tree. On came the lights. It’s time for my holiday enticement. Yet, this year there is a difference. Much like Christmas gifting, I can’t give you the same tired pair of socks every year. I was jazzed by how the interview with Dennis turned out last month. I decided I would make an occasional interview a regular column on the blog, such was the power of my jazz. We’ll call it “The Synapse Crackle Pop Quiz.”
Who better to be the first guest, than the Holiday Prince of Princeton, himself. I’ll have him entice you, with some backstage information. Not that he asked me to. I asked him, of course. Mr. Solomon needs no more press, either, much like Santa.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the internet, a five question interview with Jon Solomon.
First we’ll go with something I’ve often wondered, and it involves how the show began. You were 15 when you started, according to the NY Times, but somehow people were still OK with you hosting a show—let alone a 24 hour show—live on the radio. I’ve often pictured some program director frustrated with everyone bailing on their shows for Christmas, and just like the biblical Christmas, suddenly all eyes are on this Jewish kid to save the day. How did it happen and what do you remember from that first show?
Back in the days before the Internet, WPRB’s open time slots during the winter holidays were handled via a paper sign up sheet in the station’s lobby. I did my first show in September of 1988 and I was eager to be on the air as much as possible. There was a huge swath of time available on Christmas Eve and I decided I would write my name in and stay on the air until the next DJ arrived. The next year I decided to go for the full 24 hours and an accidental tradition was born!
Those early shows were a mix of the station’s holiday records, lots of listener requests and verrrrrrrrryyyyy lonnnnnnnnnng sonnnnnnnnnnngs I liked. Someone sent me a mic break they taped from the first Xmas show a few years ago and I was not mortified, which I take as a good sign.
To encapsulate the show for new listeners, I could just ask you “What does the 24 Hour Holiday Radio Show mean to you?” but that’s boring and you’re a well-versed guy in the annals of Christmas music. So, instead, What are three holiday songs that describe or relate to some aspect of the show which you find relevant and why?
The show starts every year with “Santa Claus” by The Sonics from the Etiquette Records Christmas Album and ends with “What Did Santa Claus Bring You For Christmas?” by The Law and “Merry Christmas” by Silkworm. It is hard for me to not think of the show when I think of those songs and hard for me not to think of those songs when I think of the show.
What has changed for the show and how you approach it over the last 20 years?
I’d say I prepare a lot more year-round for the show now than I did as recently as a decade ago. I also have a far larger library of cds, lps and digital files to choose from, which only makes the show stronger and less staid each year. The program has become far more interactive as technology has improved, with a live chat, a webcam feed and the ability to have listeners share their musical finds with me. It is nice that people think of me when they find a new Christmas song in, say, July.
You mentioned to Fox News that you’ve had “anxiety dreams” about the show. I can understand that, I had them when I worked at Burger King as a kid, and the world wasn’t watching my Whopper. What are your best and worst memories of the show?
Getting engaged on the radio in the middle of the night was pretty amazing. There’s a couple who called me a few years ago to let me know they got engaged during the show and they called back last year to tell me they were now married. It was sweet.
A lot of the emails and calls I get from listeners are the sorts of things that I turn to if I’m ever feeling down or frustrated about the station.
Worst memories? Tweaking my back loading albums in to the station before the show 4-5 years ago and having a terrible pain throbbing the entire program. Thankfully, Julia Factorial brought me a special pillow to sit on or else it would have been much worse!
When there was a documentary film crew filming the Fox camera crew filming me during the 2007 show, I did want to crawl under the board and hide. That was extremely stressful.
Finally, let’s get a bit Barbara Walters. As you mentioned, you proposed to your wife, Nicole on the show. Last year you had your toddler daughter in studio for a bit. I know some DJ’s keep their personal lives off the air. How has the show affected your life and what prompts you to mingle both on the 24 Hour Holiday Radio Show?
I hope it isn’t forced down listeners’ ears too often, but the show is important to me and it is something I want to share with my friends and family. It just makes sense to have them on during the program at some point. I am always surprised when people say “…but you don’t get to have a Christmas” like this is a unwelcome chore I am doing.
It is cliché, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else on Christmas and the fact that so many people close to me stop by just makes it all the nicer. The sense of community at WPRB during the holidays is one I want to replicate over the air, especially for folks who might not be around family and friends during that time of year.
I say to you, again, internet: Tune in to the 24 hour Holiday Radio Show on WPRB, as I have for the last decade. Listen for a piece in the car on the way to the Christmas Eve party, listen—as we do—while you drive around looking at lights, listen while you open gifts, listen as you drive home from your Christmas day dinner, with a ham-stuffed belly. Maybe you can only take it for a short while, I get that. But it will grow, like the grinch’s heart, and become part of your holiday tradition.
One day you may find yourself part of that audio family of which Mr. Solomon is patriarch, gathered around their radios all across the tri-state area, and all around the world. One day you, too, might find yourself looking forward to welcoming that family back into your home for another 24 hours. I know I am. It is warm. It is fuzzy. It is punk rock Christmas. And it is good.
Merry Christmas, one and all.