Guided by (a cappella) voices

When we got up here I quickly settled on WERS from Emerson College as my favorite radio station. I’m scrolling through a playlist right now and there’s Sly Stone, Wilco, David Byrne/Brian Eno, Radiohead, Lucinda Williams — pretty much right in my wheelhouse. What I didn’t know was how they filled airtime on weekend afternoons. What I didn’t know was that I would fall in love with college a cappella music.

I don’t think this was a big deal when I was in college 25 years ago — at least it wasn’t a big deal at the University of Georgia, where we mainly concentrated on football and trying to get girls to ride out to the Iron Horse. (What happens at the Iron Horse stays at the Iron Horse.) But now, if what I’m hearing is any indication, pretty much every university in America is crawling with four-part (and five-part, and six-part, and seven-part) harmony.

The best part is that they cover stuff you’d never expect — so far I’ve heard great versions of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” (by the Suffolk University Ramifications), Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” (by the Colorado College Back Row) and that goofy Darkness song “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” (by the University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers).

I have also decided to marry one or all of the Wellesley College Tupelos, sight unseen, based on their version of the Counting Crows’ “Accidentally In Love.” Yes, the Shrek song. Never cared for it. But then the Tupelos get ahold of it and the lead singers make it sexy and the harmonies are flying around in the back and I’m bouncing around in the car seat. It’s about 18 million times better than anything the actual Counting Crows have ever done.

Being a writer, I thought, wow — this stuff would make a great book or a great documentary. It turns out somebody else thought the same things. (This happens to me a lot — I get a great idea for a book approximately one week after someone has published a book on the exact same topic. Have you heard about my idea for a book on Andre the Giant?)

So for now I’ll be content with Saturday and Sunday afternoons with “All A Cappella” , and I’m seriously thinking about laying down 25 bucks for a live show in a couple of weeks. I realize this might permanently damage my reputation among some of my cooler friends. Then again: Ben Folds agrees with me. (And if you don’t think I’m getting that CD the day it comes out, you’re nuts.)


2 thoughts on “Guided by (a cappella) voices

  1. You guys had the Whiffenpoofs, right? See, I already know way too much about this subject.

  2. I like WERS too, but man, I get mad whenever I hear that a capella show on weekend afternoons. (Which are basically the only times I ever listen to the radio, since it’s the only time I’m ever in my car.) My college was completely overrun by a capella groups (15 at current count), which I think gave me some built-in immunity to their alleged charms.

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