All news is attributed to the source from which it was received so that readers may judge the validity of the statements for themselves.
Have Joan Jett news to report? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include the source of the information so it can be validated. 'New Wave: Dare To Be Different' on Showtime Is Fun If Faulty Look Back At Pioneering Radio Station WLIR from: decider.com By Benjamin H. Smith
I hate putting on my old man shoes (A.K.A. New Balance 992s), but lemme tell ya, when it comes to discovering cool new music, you kids got it easy. Everything in the history of recorded music is but a keyboard click away, while nearly 70 years of rock n' roll culture is continually being mined by music blogs, music supervisors, and boutique record labels, turning obscure bands from yesteryear into critically lauded touring artists. Before the Internet, if you wanted to hear anything outside the mainstream, you had to hunt it down via fanzines, tape trading, and college radio stations whose signals were so weak you had to continually turn the dial to tune them in.
One of the first commercial radio stations in the nation to try to break the grip of dinosaur classic rock programming was Long Island's WLIR. Years before the grunge bands ushered in the alt rock heyday, before Green Day brought pop-punk into every living room, "The original new music station" showcased British post-punk, American new wave, synth-pop, indie rock, reggae and other music you wouldn't hear outside of record stores, rock clubs and college dorms. The 2017 documentary New Wave: Dare To Be Different is a fun, if faulty, revisionist history of the station and its legacy, airing on Showtime.
Founded in 1959, WLIR 92.7 was the first stereo FM radio station on Long Island, the seemingly endless run of suburbs and farmland east of the New York City borough of Queens. In the early 1970s, the station adopted the progressive rock radio format (not to be confused with the genre), playing album tracks by contemporary rock bands of the era. Because of their location outside the city and competition from other area stations, WLIR struggled to attract listeners and advertising dollars. "We had to do something," says DJ Denis McNamara.
On August 2, 1982, the station switched over to the New Music radio format. Longhaired classic rock bands were out, funny haircuts and synthesizers were in. DJ Steve Jones called the switch "an earthquake of seismic activity," while old school Long Island rockers like Blue Ã–yster Cult and The Good Rats considered it a betrayal of the highest order. The old motto of "Long Island's Original Rock Station" was replaced with "The Station That Dares To Be Different," hence the documentary's title.
WLIR soon became a beachhead from which bands operating throughout the greater post-punk diaspora could launch their careers in proximity of the United States' major media market. DJs and show producers would go on record buying trips to England or work directly with distributors to get the latest imports. Many British artists got their first American exposure on the station, making their ramshackle offices in Hempstead a crucial tour stop to plug a new record or club date.
Though the documentary's title name-checks new wave, the genre was actually on the wane by the time WLIR switched formats. Indeed the station itself preferred the terms "new music" and later, "alternative." Their playlist may have included '70s holdovers and local heroes like Blondie, the Ramones and JOAN JETT, but it was soon flooded with a deluge of British acts, be they video-centric pretty boys Duran Duran, the synth-pop of Depeche Mode, or mopey rockers like Echo & the Bunnymen and The Cure.
Despite it's new found success, the station continued to struggle financially. Employees joke that the call letters stood for "Low Income Radio," and recount how they would rush to cash their paychecks early in the morning, lest the money be gone by afternoon. Meanwhile, an entire suburban club scene sprouted up on Long Island, with WLIR-sponsored events featuring the music they helped popularize. This gives the station's now-middle aged fans a chance to nostalgically reminisce about the haircuts and antics of their youth.
Unfortunately, WLIR wouldn't last long enough to see the alternative music it popularized go mainstream. The station's broadcasting license had been under threat since a 1972 dispute and the FCC finally revoked it in 1987, ironically, the same year they won the Alternative Station Of The Year Award from radio trade publication the Gavin Report. As a parting fuck you, the last song played on the station was The Sex Pistols' anarchic version of "My Way."
New Wave: Dare To Be Different is a fun look back at the days when radio mattered and the term "alternative rock" still had meaning. Unfortunately, it also suffers from clumsy editing, a wandering narrative, and at times seems unsure whether it's a documentary about the station or the music played on it. As someone who grew up listening to WLIR, I don't remember it being quite as cutting edge as its made out to be, most of the bands featured were regulars on MTV and the Billboard Top 40, however, it is where I first heard The Replacements, so, you know, thanks for that.
New Wave: Dare To Be Different premieres on Showtime on Friday, March 30 at 8pm.