Get ready for sports on the FM dial as “The Rock Of Boston”, the legendary WBCN, fizzles and fades. The once proud station was a pioneering, innovative rock radio oasis that became the cornerstone of a corporate behemoth.
To see the devastation, the lack of name and/or talented on-air personalities finally sinking the old ship, is truly sad. The joke in town used to be “Name a band that played last year’s WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble?” with a follow-up – “Name any band that played the WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble??”
More recently that joke (which, admittedly, this writer originated) got even more twisted…and telling…as someone asked me to “Name any jock currently on WBCN – 104.1 FM?”
The station that once had household names in Boston – Charles, Mark, Ken, Maxanne with friendly voices that played incredible music – the first demo from The Cars – “Just What I Needed”, the station that launched Aerosmith, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers via the underground classic “Roadrunner”, the first station to play Marc Bolan of T Rex live and in-the-studio when he got off the plane to headline over The Doobie Brothers at the Orpheum – that innovative station turned into a cold, calculating monster that didn’t care about the on-air talent, the behind-the-scenes talent or the listeners.
According to Wikipedia “The station slowly began to change to an ‘underground’ music format on the night of March 15, 1968. The first song played that evening to usher in the new format and slogan ‘American Revolution’ was “I Feel Free” by the rock group Cream.” Interesting that the day before July 15, 2009, 41 years and 4 months later, the venerable Rock doesn’t fade into the sunset with its head held high…it fizzles and fades away in a fashion that reflects how upper management treated the listeners and the on-air talent and other employees.
According to a Boston Phoenix report the change will happen in mid-August, though there is chatter on the web that the plug can be pulled any day. Mike Dreese of Newbury Comics notes on his Facebook page “Indeed WBCN will be off the air in mid-August, replaced by MIX104 FM. The old MIX 98.5 Slot will be replaced by a Sports Talk format”. The Phoenix says that “Sports Talk Format” will be WBZ-FM, the legendary call letters of a rock radio station run by a Jim McMann who became Ed McMann at Kiss 108.
Business wise it is a smart move. WBCN failed to play to the audience over the last dozen or so years…perhaps longer. Mix is the major music station for CBS in Boston and WBZ-FM is a complement to the talk on the highly rated WBZ AM. It’s all so very corporate, so very predictable and – sad to say – long overdue. The innovation is at the independent stations like Bob Bittner’s WJIB 740 AM, The River in Haverhill (WXRV), WATD in the Marshfield area and some college stations that have a clue. Eli Polonsky is on WMBR as I write this (Noon to 2 PM on Tuedays) 88.1 FM. If you want to hear what WBCN used to sound like…tune in to Eli on the web or at 88.1 on the dial.
The station will reportedly broadcast on the internet just as Entercom keeps Star 93.7 alive http://www.star937fm.com/
Goodbye WBCN, we can’t miss you because what we loved about WBCN we missed a long, long time ago.
Joe Viglione 10:30 AM July 14, 2009