Farewell Rock of Boston


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

Yes, I killed them.  I KILLED THEM ALL!

Yes, I killed them. I KILLED THEM ALL!

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.


6 Responses to “Farewell Rock of Boston”

  1. [exerpt from my blog posting today, joncoco.wordpress.com]

    Almost to a tee all the negative comments about CBS killing WBCN centers on how great they used to be in the 1970’s and 80’s and how the listeners grew up with the station. No one has talked about the relevance of WBCN today. No one is talking about how influential the current morning show is or how new acts are broken with one play from the station.

    People are missing the idea of WBCN and not the reality of the station and the listener. The reaction is not different than killing any other brand. Ultimately does anyone really miss Plymouth, Oldsmobile, or the Quasar TVs? The answer is no – yet there was great distress when the brands were killed (well maybe not Quasar, but you get the idea).

    If you asked 20 year consumers about where they learn about new music it will not be from the local rock station. It will be from places like Pandora, friends’ downloaded playlists, or social networking sites. That is the direction music is following. CBS made a business decision that I think will be of benefit to the corporation and maybe provide some entertaining listening in the car and I seriously doubt any of you will be suffering from a vast empty feeling every time you hit 104.1 on your preset and not hear WBCN. It has not been what you remember it being for quite a while

  2. Hi Joncoco:
    I agree 100 percent. WBCN isn’t relevant today. Commercial music radio is no longer the place to discover new music – the web is. I understand that completely and note as much in my post.

    What you don’t understand is that my post is completely nostalgic. I’m giving a tip of the cap to a Boston institution – one that shaped the musical tastes of a generation. One that was important to me when I was younger.

    What’s the problem with that?

  3. I think CBS are doing a disservice to their shareholders by closing the station. At the end of the day, the station has huge brand value in Boston, and that would have to be appealing to someone looking to for a turnaround. If allowed to go back to being an innovator, there is no reason why the station couldn’t be a successful business. Instead, they are killing it, which at best realizes a scrap value.

    The reason people are turning away from traditional media is not exclusively because the internet is a better place to find music, but because traditional programming is dull. There is still a big market for radio – it’s called the car. Boston seems to have an appetite for the avante-garde anyway: take a look at FNX’s ratings versus BCN’s recently and you see how much the community rates an innovator.

    I bet CBS didn’t even consider selling it. Net/net, both Boston and CBS shareholders are losers here. Nice move.

  4. Hi Harry:
    You bring up some really good points. Listeners might not be rejecting radio, but corporate radio with pre-arranged playlists and disc jockeys all unsuccessfully imitating Howard Stern.

    Maybe going back to the days of disc jockeys playing their favorites (and getting on a roll – is there anything better than a jockey getting every song just right?) is the way to succeed.

  5. SeanX-the Lord of Wolves August 11, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Sayonara wbcn….YOU WERE GOOD BUT YOU SHOULD’VE GONE WHEN YOU WENT ALT.

    Charles & Captain Ken & Tank & Mark & Tracy Roache,Dwayne Ingals Glascock, & all the rest
    of you wonderful loons will be missed-forever…you inspired many & made many laff,helped many too…The Elevator From Hell,
    The Channel Nite Club ( r.i.p.), Axeminster….so much more……that was BCN-the rock of Boston…

    not the poser of the late 80s thru the 90s as alt.

    take WAAF with you when you go, turn out the lights, lock the door when you leave!

    “So if the creek don’t rise,good lord’s willin & there ain’t no new melt down….”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Farewell Rock of Boston « HighTalk | RadioVendors.Com - July 15, 2009

    [...] See more here: Farewell Rock of Boston « HighTalk [...]

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