There is not any onerous-and-quick rule defining Generation X, although at a baseline, it encompasses these born typically between 1965 and 1979, with its musical identification rising within the early 1980s and most related to the MTV phenomenon. But as satellite tv for pc radio like Sirius XM has underscored in its well-liked “Next Wave” channel, this was additionally the technology of other rock, a renaissance of faculty radio and scrappy indie stations—incubators, actually—by way of which promising younger musicians hoped to chop a break that may, in the event that they have been fortunate, land them on the MTV moonscape (or not).
Here is the place the story of the now-defunct Long Island radio station WLIR 92.7 FM, the topic of the brand new documentary movie, “Dare to be Different,” begins. Beyond a slice of Gen X life, it’s a robust reminder of how impartial radio—earlier than satellites and the Internet and leviathan company conglomerates—was in a position to wield such huge affect on the youth market, and foster a cultural neighborhood that went on lengthy after the brick-and-mortar studio turned off its lights.
“Dare To Be Different” is taken from WLIR’s tagline, a nod to its 1982 determination to shed the shopworn progressive/basic rock format for another rock roll of the cube. Despite its small 4-digit-watt transmitter, the Garden City station engendered a formidable following of younger listeners with promos reminiscent of its “Screamer of the Week,” exposing American audiences to then-unfamiliar new acts from the English-speaking world. These ranged from New York (Blondie, Madonna, Ramones, Talking Heads) to Dublin (U2), London (The Clash, Generation X, Duran Duran, Tears For Fears) and Australia (Men at Work). Along the way in which, WLIR’s proprietor, Elton Spitzer, fought a 15-year authorized battle with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), over management of the station’s license which (libertarians take word), he finally misplaced.
Director Ellen Goldfarb, a Long Island native, has captured WLIR’s impression on the period’s musical panorama, which additionally gave delivery to MTV in 1981.
“There wasn’t that many people playing our records on the radio then,” U2’s Bono defined at a 1985 live performance, “just college stations, things like WLIR and stuff.” The suburban station performed impartial music in-demand by teenagers and school youngsters, not playlists managed by file corporations. Hot wax was picked up at JFK Airport, with overseas acts actually rushed onto the air. “To keep ahead of the musical trends in England,” Spitzer’s New York Times obituary defined, WLIR “had an arrangement with a London record store to ship over a box of new records each week.”
“He allowed us to basically play what nobody else played,” defined WLIR Program Director Denis McNamara.
“We pissed off the record companies,” DJ Malibu Sue added. “We didn’t go with their marketing plan.”
For its outsized affect, it was nonetheless fairly small—the day’s climate may intrude with reception. “It would depend if there was cloud cover that night,” Agent Rick Shoor famous.
The DJ interviews seize WLIR’s basic New York perspective, with archival footage and interviews with artists starting from Depeche Mode to Joan Jett, who clarify how essential WLIR was to their nascent careers.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t totally seize the true hand-wringing of politicians and authorities over youth tradition and rising music markets of the time. But it does mirror how troublesome it was for outsiders to play the sport. Starting in 1972, the 92.7 FM frequency went earlier than the FCC and Spitzer acquired non permanent authority to function WLIR the next 12 months. He later misplaced a 1976 bid to have the station’s license renewed due to go-rounds between the FCC and his accomplice.
Spitzer, in a compromise, finally acquired one other non permanent license but it surely was doomed—the frequency was extremely coveted and the competitors grew to become a multi-million greenback authorized battle fought in Washington’s political corridors, not the market of fixing shopper tastes. Spitzer maintained his non permanent license till 1987 when a brand new licensee lastly assumed management of the 92.7 FM frequency.
While “Dare To Be Different”, which has been screening at impartial theaters together with a debut on the Tribeca Film Festival, because the spring, isn’t the final word time capsule described by some reviewers, it’s a reminder of onetime Creem journal investor Russ Gibbs’ important level: Youth music and tradition are ever-altering markets too audacious to forecast. They’re Hayekian spontaneous orders no large file firm will ever predict. No one imagined bobby-soxers, Elvis, the British Invasion and later musical tendencies together with the tunes spun at WLIR. And nobody can think about what Eminem’s grandchildren will wish to hear sooner or later.
Greg Kaza, is a author from Little Rock, Arkansas.