WFNX in Ashes

18 Mar

When I was a college student in the mid-1980s I listened exclusively to WBCN. At the time the station was a leading adult-oriented-rock with strong loyalty to Boston-based bands like Aerosmith, the J. Geils Band, The Cars, ‘Til Tuesday and, well, Boston. (I remember the one time they played Madonna’s “Get Into the Groove,” it being the most palatable of her MTV-era hits. DJ Charles Laquidara got into a heated argument on air with their program director; it was never aired again.) 

400_wbcnWBCN had a tradition of playing Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding)” whenever a famous musician died. To this day if I hear it on the air, my heart sinks. I wonder if they played it when they changed their format to Limp Bizkit 24/7 in the late 1990s … or if it’s playing now in honor of their former competitor, WFNX, which will likely breathe its last this week.

WFNX was the radio counterpart of the Boston Phoenix, the alternative weekly paper that was a prize-winning combination of sleazy classifieds and great arts and politics coverage. When I graduated college and had my first real job, the stereo in my office was set to 101.7. I had heard it had become an online-only radio station a few months ago, the Phoenix having lost its terrestrial place on the dial in a sale to Clear Channel without losing the rights to the call letters and the intellectual property.

wfnxLo and behold, I downloaded its app on my iPhone just a couple of weeks ago … and I was enthralled. Once again I could sit in my office and listen to, with real live DJs playing a combination of current and, dare I say it, “classic” alternative. Within a day of listening I’d discovered a great band new to me (The Cusses), revisited a song I hadn’t heard in decades (Tracy Bonham’s “Mother Mother”) and delighted in listening to Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” with all the bad words intact. It was fantastic. I haven’t enjoyed a radio experience so much in years.

And just as the warm wave of nostalgia was cresting, it crashed.

Without warning, the Boston Phoenix shuttered last week after 47 years of publication. With its demise the radio station is expected to fold as well. It’s like an awful Hollywood plot in which lovers long separated tearfully reunite … only to have one of them immediately mowed down by a crosstown bus. On top of mourning the loss of a great paper and a landmark radio station, I just lost a part of my past for the second time.

May the Phoenix rise again … if it doesn’t, we’ll all have a reason to mourn.

See you on the flip side …


6 Responses to “WFNX in Ashes”

  1. Barbara Parker March 20, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    I felt the same way when WNCN FM bit the dust precisely at midnight many years ago and heavy metal poured out of my wonderful classical station at precisely one second after midnight. It’s really sad when somethiing you care about just disappears into memory.
    Barbara Parker

    • lpon45 March 20, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

      I share your wistfulness, Barbara. Thanks!

  2. Gail Nelson-Bonebrake March 27, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    I was so excited to move to a city with a real honest-to-god rock station (KFOG)…not as alternative as WFNX but still, it’s something. I just hope it never joins the ranks of the missing.

  3. Gail Nelson-Bonebrake March 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    And yes, Barbara, I sure missed WNCN too. Remember how the station used to play “Blow Thy Horne Hunter” every day? I forget what it marked, but I remember running to the radio to listen to it as a kid. I think that’s when I started loving madrigals.

  4. Kathy DeMoranville May 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    I left Boston for San Diego in 1985, a year after graduating from Lesley College. I grew up in Lexington and was an avid BCN fan since the late 70s. I woke up to Charles every morning on the Big Mattress, I was always near a radio when the lunch whistle blew to listen to Captain Ken Shelton’s lunch song, I would call the listener line and talk to the people for hours (once I even had a date to opening night of the Bruins with a guy I met on the listener line!), I would go to as many of the lunchtime concerts as I was able, I loved ALL the DJs…….Remember Carlos The Computer? …………..I loved EVERYTHING about WBCN! Since I left in 1985 I have lived in San Diego, Queensland Australia, London, and for about 13 years in Florida….and I have NEVER, EVER heard a better radio station anywhere! BCN was the best, and they will never be repeated. We are SO lucky to have been “there” for those awesome years at BCN! It was a one of a kind experience 🙂

    • lpon45 May 4, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

      I’m glad to find a fellow BCN fan! I listened so much I memorized all their station IDs: I could sing along with the Boston medley (everything from the band Boston singing “We were just another band out of Boston” to Ella Fitzgerald doing Cole Porter – “I hear in Boston even beans do it). Every time I hear Stephen Hawking I think of Carlos, which was one of the first voice simulators out there. A great station and a great time to be in Boston. Thanks for reading!

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