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What Is Cheese?
Blurb by Lisa.Cheese Patrol is our yearly homage to all the songs that people vociferously hate but secretly know all the words to. These are the songs we grew up with; over-orchestrated. overwrought, oversynthed, over the top.
It started very innocuously on a Friday night back in 1990. Sue and I used to have shows back-to-back on Friday. We were followed by Danny and Shawn who would alternate weeks on the "Spin Control" show. Danny had a penchant for early 80's cheese, and would often play processed cheese food with a straight face. Danny also had a penchant for phoning in several minutes before he was due on the air to tell us he was stuck at work and wouldn't be here to do his show.
Once, he called at 9:58pm to tell us he wouldn't be here at 10. I was out of ideas to continue on with the indie rock slop I was foisting on the loyal listeners, so I decided to take Danny's dairy product theme and run with it. I beamed as I cued up Romeo Void's "Never Say Never" and "Cheese Control" was born.
Over the years, "Cheese Control" metamorphosized into the "Cheese Patrol", and our initial 2-hour time slot blossomed into a 6 hour "special" in 1991, a 10 hour spectacular in 1994, a16 hour fest in 1995, a 24 hour New Years Eve marathon in 1996, and a somewhat scaled-back 20 hour gala in 1997. (1992 and 1993 were off-years due to my self-imposed exile at graduate school in NC).
Eventually we'd like to have all our playlists up on the web, and maybe some background "stories" on why these songs are so special to us. We're starting with the latest 1997 playlist and we'll add information whenever we emerge from our lameness with bursts of creative verbiage.
So what exactly makes a song cheesy? We ourselves often argue over the relative cheese merit of various songs but there are a number of criteria that most classic aged slices have in common:
Our Cheese Patrol specials generally cover all time periods from the 60's to the present. We play all the perennial cheesy commercial favorites, but we also play a good share of more obscure indie and punk rock tunes. Hey, it's college radio, this is what we do.The regular participants each have "specialties", which for the most part tend to be determined by how old everyone is. Sue does the 60's top 40 and the 70's prog rock thing, Nancy does the 60's chick and 70s/80s/90s punk rock thing, Shawn does the 70's sap thing, Keith does the early 80's thing, and I get stuck with late 70's disco/R&B thing mainly because I was the one who was 12 at the time (OK, I'll admit it, I like the R&B stuff).
- TOO MUCH PRODUCTION - Swirling strings, choral accompaniment, blaring horns, big guitar solos, seizure provoking synth. Whatever instrument, if there's too much of it, it's cheese. Pretentious prog rock (like ELP) instantly qualifies as Velveeta.
- YOWLING VOCALS - "I-yeeeeee-I-yeeeeeee-I, will always love yooooooo-oo-oo-oo" "Aaaahhhhaaaaahh-reeeeeee-yeeelllllll" "Sheeeh-eehhh-eeehh-eh-eh-eh-reeeee Baaay-yaaah-beeeeeee" "Shannon is gone I saw her drifting out to seeeeeeeeeaaaaaaa" You get it.
- WRETCHED LYRICS - Most songs written to mourn the death of loved ones or announce one's imminent suicide are cheesy. Most epic stories put to music are cheesy. Most songs written about the grim reaper, the ferryman, or the boogey man are cheesy. All songs about runaway pets are cheesy. All teenage death anthems are cheesy.
- BANAL/NONSENSE/STUPID - The addition of tra-la-la, doo-doo-doo, da-da-da, ooooh-ooooh, yummy-yummy, suu-suu-sussudio, or any other nonsense words automatically add limburgher value. Songs about lollipops, aliens, vans or trucks, rebellion by growing your hair long, or hot babes waiting to lay it down are pure Swiss. Any song about masturbation should not be written.
- HISTRIONICS/PRETENTIOUS/SAPPY - There is generally a direct relationship between how seriously the artist takes him/herself and the cheese value of the song. Where there's sappiness, there's cheese. Anything by the Carpenters or Olivia Newton John is cheesy.
- TOP 40 BETWEEN 1970 AND 1985 - If it was a Top 40 hit during this period, and people danced to it on American Bandstand, it was likely Muenster.
That's all for now. Something has gone wrong with the facilities in the building that houses WMBR and a sharp sulfur smell has permeated the studio. It smells like exit 13 on the New Jersey Turnpike in here. I think I need to go.
Your cheese queen, Lisa
The Cheese Queens Lisa and Sue bring forth speaker-melting sounds from the past as WMBR converts from cool to cheese for its one traditional day of the year. Buried in the distant recesses of your brain are the songs you loved before you developed any sense of taste or morals, Cheese Patrol dredges up those melodious memories with guilt-free aplomb.