Here’s the scene. Twelve year old boy wearing headphones the size of a football helmet. He’s lying on his back on the avocado-colored, wall-to-wall carpeting in his bedroom. The volume is tuned loud and suddenly a reggae-infused rock number kicks in:
“Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light
Those days are over
You don’t have to sell your body to the night
Roxanne, you don’t have to wear that dress tonight
Walk the streets for money
You don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right
Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light
Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light.”
It was the Police, of course, singing “Roxanne.”
The date was 1978 and I was in 8th grade in junior high school. My new stereo (a birthday gift) was the latest model – with a turntable and a built in cassette
deck. The radio was tuned – as always – to WBCN 104.1 FM – The Rock of Boston. WBCN gave me the start of my musical education with a mix of detached counterculture cool and off-beat comedy. It’s were I discovered R.E.M., Talking Heads, Psychedelic Furs, the Cars and the whole movement to alternative that fueled the 1980s.
But it also kept on playing the classics: Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stone, Beatles, Aerosmith, KISS, Boston, Steve Miller Band, the Grateful Dead and Neil Young.
WBCN was the soundtrack of my youth. And now it will be no more.
The Rock of Boston will fall silent in August – after a storied 41-year run. Adam Reilly at the Boston Phoenix has the gory details of CBS’s decision to move MIX 98.7 to WBCN and then replace MIX with a sports talk station. The Boston Herald also has a story and a poll to vote for your favorite WBCN disc jockey of all time.
The Social Web and our age of technology has touched off the Great Media Collapse of 2009 and are leaving no medium unscathed: newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. The storm that is the Social Web has become a tsunami.
Commercial radio stations specializing in music can’t compete with iPods, satellite radio and free online music providers like Pandora Radio. Why listen to a disc jockey when you can be your own disc jockey?
Music has become a fragmented industry. The soundtrack of my youth was one that I shared with hundreds of thousands of kids in Massachusetts. We connected with the disc jockeys and the radio stations. In my day, you knew a little something about a teenager by what radio station he listened to. The disco set tuned into KISS-108 (who can forget the Gap Band “You Dropped a Bomb on Me?”) and the hard rockers listened to WAAF (the Rock n’ Roll Air Force) and, of course, the cool kids (amen) WBCN.
If you’re from Boston will you miss WBCN? Do you listen to music radio anymore? Is talk and news going to be the only radio survivers?
In the meantime, good-bye, WBCN. Thank you Charles Laquidara, Tank, the Big Mattress, Ken Shelton, Bradley J., Carter Allen, Oedipus, Duane Glasscock and Tami Heide. Thanks for the memories.