WBCN, maybe the greatest of all rock radio stations, is being yanked off the air by its owner, CBS Radio, in August. We shouldn’t be surprised. CBS Radio (which used to be called Infinity Broadcasting, but really was finite) did the same thing a few years ago to New York’s grand WNEW-FM. The succeeding station is a joke.
Of course, it made me feel very old to learn that WBCN is 41 years old. My first thought was wow, 41 years ago ‘ it must have started in the Fifties! LOL, as they say now. When the station celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1978 ‘ yes, 1978 ‘ yours truly won the station’s big’ contest. The station printed a list of the 104 top albums of “all time” ‘ “all time” having been just really a short time, but the golden era of rock. They left off the top 10; the winner had to guess what they were, in order. My memory is scratchy, but I think the list was something like: Sgt. Pepper, Blonde on Blonde, Songs in the Key of Life, What’s Going On, Tapestry, Fleetwood Mac (the one before Rumours), Beggars Banquet, Astral Weeks, Led Zeppelin 1 and maybe Purple Haze.
This was just as punk/new wave had taken hold in Boston, before it was anywhere. It was a generation before grunge and Nirvana. At the time, WBCN had solidified a fervent listening audience with Charles Laquidara and Oedipus by introducing the Cars, Talking Heads, Blondie, Ramones, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Joe Jackson, Mink DeVille, Patti Smith, the Jam, the Clash, Dire Straits, and so on. They were definitely the first to play “Ca Plane Pour Moi.” These were artists whom WNEW in New York were ignoring by and large.
All the good new music was coming out of Boston, and in particular BCN. Check this out’to hear and see Laquidara from last year’s 40th anniversary. He was Howard Stern before there was Howard Stern, trust me.
It’s all very ancient now. As a 52 year old curmudgeon, I am always eager to report that digital, rap, hip hop, sampling, a lack of respect for real musicanship and artistry, etc. washed over the music business and killed it. Radio now in New York and Boston, as well as Los Angeles (and probably a lot of other places) is completely unlistenable.
I guess the fact that WBCN hung in there so long is remarkable in a way. They were known for having a personality. That’s verboten now. I can remember when the station (I think this happened at WCOZ too) had intermittent strikes, where a deejay would lock out management. Now, you know, a SWAT team would be called, ATF agents would arrive, etc.
This morning, a la Ted Baxter in the final episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” the two morning jocks were singing the praises of the station’s upcoming new format. Why? They’re staying, of course! Such a betrayal would not have been possible in ‘78. But that, my friends, was 31 years ago.’ Charles would have been playing the Talking Heads’ “Don’t Worry ‘Bout the Government.” And the audience would have known it was ironic.