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Radio Free Boston

The Rise and Fall of WBCN

Carter Alan

Publication Year: 2013

Blaring the Cream anthem "I Feel Free," WBCN went on the air in March 1968 as an experiment on the fledgling FM radio band. It broadcast its final song, Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," in August 2009. In between, WBCN became the musical, cultural, and political voice of the young people of Boston and New England, sustaining a vibrant local music scene that launched such artists as the J. Geils Band, Aerosmith, James Taylor, Boston, the Cars, and the Dropkick Murphys, as well as paving the way for Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, U2, and many others. Along the way, the station both pioneered and defined progressive rock radio, the dominant format for a generation of listeners. Brilliantly told by Carter Alan--and featuring the voices of station insiders and the artists they played--Radio Free Boston is the story of a city in tumult, of artistic freedom, of music and politics and identity, and of the cultural, technological, and financial forces that killed rock radio.

Published by: Northeastern University Press

Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 4-7

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

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pp. ix-x

Imagine a time when you could get good in a band by practicing in a basement or garage, when you could play in local bars or clubs, and when local radio stations were actually running themselves. Real human personalities owned the music as much as the bands that wrote it; ...

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

Just weeks after WBCN folded in August of 2009, I got a call from Stephen Hull from University Press of New England. “Would I be interested in writing a book telling legends and fables from the birthplace of Boston progressive radio? ...

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Thanks

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pp. xv-xvi

Johnny and Beth A., Bill Abbate, Katy Abel, Adam 12, Carrie Alan, Dan Beach, Andy Beaubien, Tony Berardini, David Bieber, Bill Bracken, John Brodey, Larry Bruce, Julie Brummer, Bo Burlingham, Cali Calandrello, Mark Cappello, CBS Radio, Nik Carter, Tony Chalmers, Lauren Chiaramonte, Lenny Collins, ...

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The American Revolution

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pp. 1-19

Joe Rogers had a new job. It didn’t pay much, but that wasn’t the point. This was a gig to dream about, like scoring in Vegas for a cool million or winning a gleaming new ’68 Camaro SS in a raffle. Barely three weeks earlier, the Tufts student had been spinning his thoughtful arrangement of folk and blues records at WTBS-FM in Cambridge, ...

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A Radio Commune

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pp. 20-39

Ray Riepen gathered his recruits for the new WBCN air staff, but, in a surprising move, avoided chasing after professional disc jockeys. “I didn’t want people who were in radio trying to figure out what we ought to do, because they couldn’t. They were swimming in the sea of a Top 40 world; all over-hyped and screaming. ...

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I Read the News Today

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pp. 40-59

By the beginning of 1969, the Wheels of Fire album by Cream, with its rambling, fifteen-minute rock jams and abstruse, poetic lyrics, had gone to number 1 in America; the “all-you-need-is-love” Beatles were squabbling, and Janis Joplin brought San Francisco acid blues to the top of the album chart. ...

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Movin' On Up

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pp. 60-80

“Media Freaks Act Out Battles of the Radicals” read the headline of the Boston Globe story by Parker Donham in June 1970. He was describing the wild, often naked, scenes at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, as it hosted the Alternative Media Conference First Gathering. ...

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Camelot

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pp. 81-101

Ensconced in their soaring steel and glass castle in the clouds, the scruffy inhabitants of Boston’s hippie radio station now found themselves under-dressed as they arrived at the skyscraper on Boylston Street. There was also the uncomfortable check-in at the security desk before every trip up the high-speed elevator. ...

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The Battle Joined

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pp. 102-122

It’s interesting to consider that one of WBCN’s cornerstone talents, who would remain with the station for thirteen years, developed his Boston radio career by working to co-opt the very audience that “The American Revolution” had fostered since 1968. Ken Shelton would participate in a near-dismantling of Camelot, ...

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Power to the People

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pp. 123-142

As the newly remodeled WBCN, circa 1978, began to get its balance, a renewed spirit of optimism could be felt on the fiftieth floor of the Prudential as the staff dug in its heels to take on the threat of WCOZ. “It seemed like it had a conscious turnaround in attitude,” David Bieber told the Real Paper in March ’79. “Everybody was excited. ...

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"The Reallllll WBCN, Boston!"

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pp. 143-163

Michael Wiener and Gerald Carrus sat in their office on the fiftieth floor of the Prudential, looking down at the twinkling skyline of the city that had rejected them. As the two owners sat stunned in their defeat, even while publicly claiming a victory, they had to admire the fortitude of their former opponents, whom they were now inheriting, like it or not. ...

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I (Don't) Want My MTV

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pp. 164-180

The coolest people in the know, the hippest of the hip, the taste makers, and the trendsetters watched the pitched battle between WBCN and WCOZ unfold with great interest, perhaps even laying the occasional wager on the outcome. But as the boxing match continued through 1981 and into the following year, ...

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Number 1 Rock 'N' Roll Connection

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pp. 181-200

Back in 1968, a time that already seemed two thousand light years from home, Ray Riepen’s imaginative leap of faith had birthed the successful experiment of underground, free-form radio in Boston. Joe Rogers, Peter Wolf, Al Perry, Sam Kopper, and the other departed soldiers from ’BCN’s front line could congratulate themselves ...

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Camelot Redux

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pp. 201-220

WBCN’s second age of Camelot arrived and set up a decadelong residence at 1265 Boylston Street. In the station’s backyard at Fenway Park, Red Sox seasons came and went, including the heartbreaking ’86 World Series loss to the Mets (one home run ball shot over the left field wall and dented the station van parked on Lansdowne Street), ...

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From Boylston Street to Wall Street

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pp. 221-239

By the mideighties, the Fenway Park–facing, rear garage-door entrance to WBCN had seen thousands of arrivals and departures, carefully timed to avoid the unsportsmanlike panic of Red Sox Nation traffic. Access from the dank garage and up the dangerously pitched stairs to the offices and studios above took one past the graffiti wall, ...

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Nelson, Howard, and "The Love Shack"

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pp. 240-258

A new decade had arrived, a noisy and kicking brat named 1990. Loud and brash, the imp quickly drowned out its older, more reserved, brothers and sisters born during the eighties. Just the end of the Cold War, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the reuniting of East and West Germany was astounding enough to warrant special attention. ...

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Any Given Sunday, Any Given Weekday

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pp. 259-276

The WBCN press release dated 17 November 1994 announced the startling news, but the local media was already buzzing excitedly about it: WBCN and the New England Patriots had signed a three-year deal for the radio broadcast rights beginning in the 1995–1996 season, ending the football team’s previous relationship with WBZ-AM. ...

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A Bad-Boy Business

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pp. 277-294

WBCN’s embrace of modern rock scored statistically from the first, but a dramatic visual confirmation of all this ratings hoopla played out in June 1995 when the station presented its first “River Rave,” at Boston’s Esplanade on the bank of the Charles. Four fledgling bands from the ’BCN playlist — Sleeper, Letters to Cleo, General Public, and Better Than Ezra ...

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Shine On You Crazy Diamond

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pp. 295-314

Opie and Anthony’s brand of offensive radio gumbo thrived in New York City, proving that mediocre taste amongst radio listeners wasn’t necessarily exclusive to the Boston market. Because of this success, and the previous gold that Infinity had mined by syndicating Howard Stern’s show into multiple markets, CBS pursued a similar deal for O & A’s afternoon show. ...

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Afterword

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pp. 315-320

Wednesday, 12 August 2009: It’s the morning after WBCN has gone silent. I push on the main air studio door at 7:00 a.m., expecting to stick my head in on a bustling morning team from the new sports talk station. But I forgot: tomorrow is the day that ’98.5, “The Sports Hub,” will occupy this studio while WBMX assumes WBCN’s former 104.1 frequency. ...

Images

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pp. 340-347

Bibliography

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pp. 321-328

Index

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pp. 329-334


E-ISBN-13: 9781555538262
E-ISBN-10: 1555538266
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555537296

Page Count: 364
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • WBCN (Radio station : Boston, Mass.) -- History.
  • Music radio stations -- Massachusetts -- Boston -- History.
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