The very top floor of Pearsons Hall holds a record collection that would make most vinyl-grubbing hipsters jealous. WBCR, Beloit College’s student-run radio station, is located on the third floor of Pearsons, looking out across the Rock River to Beloit’s west side.
WBCR hosts independent radio programming for students, faculty, staff, and community members alike. Established in 1907, WBCR has been through a lot. The station weathered the Great Depression and WWII, and has gone through many amalgamations over time, delving into AM broadcasting in the ’60s and operating out of the basement of Haven in the mid-’70s.
WBCR’s vinyl is a testament to the station’s long-standing history. The exact number of records in the library is unknown, but Assistant Station Manager Karin Carlson estimates the size of the collection to be close to a thousand.
“Over the summer the managers usually do some sort of cataloging; we might have a real number in a couple of years,” says Carlson.
Covering genres from classical to punk, the collection has been amassing albums since the ’50s. Records line the walls and occupy several plywood shelving units that fill the music library room. Alphabetized by artist, the shelf space is punctuated with plastic and cardstock letter labels peeking out from between sleeves.
WBCR was the first station in the Midwest to get—and broadcast—the Sex Pistol’s 1977 album, Never Mind the Bollocks. That record has since been stolen, but other special items remain. For example, the library is home to Shaquille O’Neal’s rap albums (yes, plural) and a gem called Chipmunk Punk, which consists of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore covering popular rock songs.
The station began stocking CDs in the late ’80s. “We sometimes get vinyl from promoters, but it’s becoming rarer and rarer,” says Carlson. “Even our CD flow is slowing down, because a lot of music is coming to us digitally now.” Although vinyl’s heyday is clearly past, WBCR still has a turntable, and records still get spun sometimes.
Whether or not they’re playing vinyl, tune in to WBCR at 90.3 FM—again streaming online—for a diverse slate of music and programming.