He doesn’t wear a black leather jacket. His thick, grey hair isn’t spiked but rather clean and brushed toward the left. He sports light-washed, unripped blue jeans, small, frameless glasses, white Nike shoes and sometimes an orange-and-white-striped Auburn polo or a black-and-white Ramones T-shirt, depending on his mood.
Tucked in the crook of one arm, he carries a stack of CDs and vinyl records, always one by The Clash on hand. In the other, he clutches a boombox.
It’s Friday morning, a little before 8 a.m., and this isn’t John Cusack serenading Ione Skye outside her window with Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes." It’s Doctor Punk.
“That was my wife’s idea,” Doctor Punk said. “She named me. I hadn’t even thought of a radio name yet.”
Monday through Thursday, Doctor Punk is Peter Stanwick, Auburn University’s laid-back, rosy-cheeked strategic management professor. He carries a briefcase, uses PowerPoint and has had research published in numerous journals. But give him a microphone, two turntables, two CD players and an hour-and-a-half on Friday mornings, and the strategic management professor transforms into the punk-rock disc jockey of WEGL’s radio show “‘80s Rewind,” always booming a rock-steady track by The Clash to commence his show.
“I think even though everyone knows The Clash, they’re still so underrated in the impact they’ve had on music,” Stanwick said. “There are a lot of great songs people have never heard of, so The Clash is always the first song.”
The alter ego of Doctor Punk was conceived in 2004 at the recurring urge of Stanwick’s wife, who is also a professor at Auburn. She knew her husband had a knack for the art of disc jockeying, which could be heard in the mixtapes he made for her 30 years prior while they dated.
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“I think her first mixtape included Olivia Newton-John, Hall and Oates, Meatloaf, Huey Lewis and the News, 10 Thousand Maniacs, Fine Young Cannibals and REM,” Stanwick said.
His future wife wasn’t the only lucky one to receive a Stanwick-original mixtape. From family to high school buddies and even his best friend from first grade, Stanwick’s signature gift was a mix of songs that he thought would be the perfect fit for that person.
The show, Stanwick said, is no different. He views it as one giant mixtape for his audience, made entirely with the CDs and vinyl records he carries from home.
The boombox he carries also isn’t just part of the aesthetic, but rather it’s a 15-year-long catalog of every show since 2004, cemented in cassette tapes.
“All I can say is, thank goodness for eBay,” he said.
Every night, Stanwick plays pool in the basement with his son John, a sophomore in high school who has guest hosted the show with his dad every so often. His sister Olivia, freshman at Auburn University, is the current co-host of “80s Rewind” with Stanwick. As Stanwick and his son challenge each other to shots at the eight ball, they listen to one of the nearly 500 hour-and-a-half-long shows in the same basement that lodges the 12,000 vinyl records and close to 5,000 CDs Stanwick has collected over the years.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “I’m a music hoarder.”
Stanwick has always loved music, a propensity he owes to his dad. Born and raised in Toronto, Stanwick recalls music constantly filling his house.
“On radio, on record,” Stanwick said. “My dad’s family was from Poland, so we’d be hearing polkas then jazz then classical, and then Saturday afternoons, we’d listen to the opera from the Met.”
Music was a family affair. Stanwick’s mom brought Stanwick and his brother to the symphony, and his dad told stories of the great jazz artists he’d listened to in New York City jazz clubs post-World War II.
“It was one of those things where they really valued the cultural aspects of music and understood that sort of helps develop you as a person — that kind of love you have for it,” Stanwick said.
While his dad laid the foundation, the music scene of Toronto in the ‘70s and ‘80s provided Stanwick with a love for punk rock and new wave. Up-and-coming musicians journeying to New York stopped in the number of bars and outlets in Toronto’s downtown. Their pitstops are one of the reasons Stanwick will post a five-page summary to his students, listing the 123 bands and musicians he’s seen live since 1974, the year of the first performer he saw with his brother, Olivia Newton-John. His champion artist, David Bowie, followed soon after in 1976, then thrice more in 1978, 1983 and 1987. The list then sprouted with Van Halen, Lou Reed, Devo, The Police, Joan Jett, REM and The Ramones — not just once.
“Seven times,” he said.
“Supertramp, Talking Heads, Aerosmith, Queen,” he went on.
“Freddie Mercury, he’s like Bowie,” Stanwick said. “Just one of those people, a once in a life-time persona. You have to be there to understand how dominant one person can be at a concert. It was phenomenal.”
So phenomenal, he saw him twice.
“So, I’ve gotten to see a lot of great groups in my time,” he admitted.
The personal experience of seeing a musician performing in concert, hearing them live, knowing their quirks, it’s what makes music music and the art of DJ’ing so vital, according to Stanwick.
“I think the art of the DJ is dying,” he said. “I think there is great value in not just listening to music but listening to the people who are playing the music. I think being able to tell stories, it adds some color to the songs. It’s a huge value.”
For Stanwick, no matter how many times a song is streamed, without a little backstory to the lyrics, the song remains only a collection of sounds — a few notes and keys that can be disposed if not careful.
“[Today’s music] is just part of the background,” Stanwick said. “It’s just there. There’s not the emotional attachment to songs I think that there used to be.”
It’s one of the reasons Stanwick holds onto each of the hundreds of ticket stubs from all of the concerts he’s attended, why he continues to add to his immense vinyl and CD collection and why he records every show on cassette.
“I embrace this idea that the physical copy of the music is so important — to look at the lyrics, look at who wrote the songs, who produced the songs,” Stanwick said. “All those things I think are extremely valuable to help you understand the core parts of the music.”
Between the songs and sets, Stanwick draws on his own experiences to keep to the emotional attachment resonating, such as recounting the time he urged his wife to see The Rolling Stones in 1994 because he thought Keith Richards, the lead guitarist, would die soon. Or it means remembering the teacher strike during his freshman year of high school that left Stanwick and his buddies to three months of record shops, pinball and the eventual beginning of his album collection, begun by the purchase of The Beatles’ 1968 “The White Album.” Or it’s telling of the time he calculated the precise number of albums he could buy every day based on the length of his arm to carry them from the store to the bus stop, which happened to be 20.
“It’s something that, when you love music, it’s one of those dreams come true to actually be able to be on the radio and tell other people about your love and your connection with those songs,” Stanwick said.
While in the WEGL studio, Stanwick isn’t an off-duty teacher. He might not teach strategy or international management. Instead, he teaches people to love the songs they already know. But almost more importantly, he teaches people to love the songs they don’t know, so that the life of the song will live on.
“When you have people call and request, and they request from songs you’ve played on earlier shows, you know that they’ve listened in and liked it,” Stanwick said. “So I know that I’ve served the purpose of introducing new material to them and they liked it, and they want to hear it again. That’s my favorite part.”
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