Do you remember when your favorite radio station died? Because I’m sure it’s dead by now, even if it’s been reincarnated in a wholly different form. If the station you grew up with is exactly the same now, I’ll give you a nickel. See, mine died about 15 times. First there there was a lawsuit and it was given to another owner who pretended it was the same, but it never really was. Half the DJ’s left but they mostly came back. My true station, WLIR, had the Screamer of the Week. The new station, WDRE (a play on LIR’s slogan “The Station That Dares to be Different”), had the “Shriek of the Week.” Nice, right? I mean, they still played the stuff no one else in the area was playing, stuff from the UK, non-album-tracks, weirdo New Wave acts and such, Depeche Mode all day, etc., but it felt cheap. Eventually, it shifted formats several times, to Modern Rock, to AAA (Adult Album Alternative), yadda yadda. Along the way, it became WLIR again but by then I no longer was in an area that got reception so I pretty much lost track of all that.
I did notice when it was bought by Univision and went Spanish in 2004. That felt like death. Just like the first time they were forced off the air, they played Alphaville’s Forever Young and closed. But they were reborn! On a frequency no one was able to receive, but that was OK, they also had the Interweb and we all get that, don’t we? But you know, all those deaths weren’t enough and even that incarnation became a smooth jazz station (because there’s so much non-smooth jazz out there). But that failed! And WLIR came back! Until this week, when it closed for good and became an affiliate of ESPN radio. So farewell to my station which died a thousand deaths.
And here’s to my favorite DJ’s: Donna Donna, Nancy Abramson, Malibu Sue, Denis McNamara, Larry the Duck, Ben Manilla, Mark the Shark, Bob Waugh, and lots of others who were my daily companions. One of the highlights of my first label gig was when the Alternative Promotion lady let me talk to Bob Waugh on the phone and ask him some questions. He ended the call by saying, “thanks for calling in!” I guess that’s the way DJ’s close their calls in real life too.
Most of the iPod Songs of the Week, I heard them on WLIR first. The kind of music that people consider 80′s music now was only played here on LIR: U2, Culture Club, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths, Squeeze, Tears For Fears, The Ramones, The Clash. Some bands who didn’t become popular in the general world until the 90′s were already played on LIR in the 80′s: REM, Red Hot Chili Peppers, B-52′s. Z100, the popular Top 40 station here, was playing the Footloose soundtrack and Madonna and Genesis and Wang Chung. Eventually they got around to music LIR had been all over for months. This is why as a child I was a Police and U2 fan when my friends were listening to pop. I remember going to England as a teenager and finding that all the bands I had to go to the tiny underground (literally, it was underground) record store to find were front and center in the regular racks… like Bryan Adams was here. It was like I’d died and gone to New Wave heaven.
So thanks, WLIR, for daring to be different and making me the music fan I am today. Satellite radio rocks my world now but it will never be in my heart the way the stations of my youth were. RIP.