Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Salon - I Still Believe

We got some big, bad news in Boston this week- WFNX, a 29-year-old independent alternative-music radio station (one of the last in the city) was sold to Clear Channel Corporation. I have been an FNX listener since my teens- 20+ years of its run- and I just don't know what I'm going to do.

I love books and reading, but I love music too, and I can't imagine growing up without the music I love, so much of which I heard on FNX. I didn't have angsty YA novels to get me through college and high school; I had The Smiths, and The Cure and The Ramones. I remember getting ready for school everyday to Morning Guy Tai and Henry Santoro's news. I remember the time when Tai was late for his shift and the overnight DJ vowed to play Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" over and over until he arrived- and did, for about forty minutes. I remember learning about Boston's gay community by listening to the weekly radio show One in Ten. I remember when FNX did its live on-air reading of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. I remember driving through Boston on a spring day with FNX on, making me feel at home in the city.  I remember joking with my husband that we couldn't tune FNX in in a western suburb because that town "wasn't cool enough" to get the signal. And how for a full minute he believed me! I remember falling asleep to Dr. Drew and "Loveline," and wrapping presents on Christmas Eve to FNX's amazing mix of alternative Christmas music, and all those long afternoons and mornings and nights, as recently as this week, just living my life with the radio on the in the background.

Along with its media sister, the weekly newspaper The Boston Phoenix, FNX taught me that there was a world beyond my suburban home town and showed me how to be a part of it. Without One in Ten I never would have volunteered at AIDS Action Committee or explored gay bookstores or read Alison Bechdel's comics 15 years before Fun Home. Without their annual Christmas show I wouldn't have known that Fountains of Wayne really wanted an alien for Christmas, or that punk bands could lighten up for the holidays. I went to see movies they talked about on-air, read books they mentioned (including Howl), shopped with their advertisers and never mind how much of my music collection and how much of my day to day listening they've influenced. FNX wasn't just a radio station; it was a part of my identity. Pretty soon though, all it's going to be is a playlist on my iPod to which I will never add another new song.

From news coverage on the sale, it seems Clear Channel wants to turn the station into something else- talk radio or country music or who-knows-what. Boston doesn't need something else. Boston needs WFNX. It needs independent alternative radio because music matters and the people who pick it out, curate it and narrate it matter too. In the words of Francis Edward Turner,

And I still believe in the need
For guitars and drums and desperate poetry,
And I still believe that everyone
Can find a song for every time they've lost and every time they've won.

So just remember folks we're not just saving lives we're saving souls,
And we're having fun.

Now who'd have thought that after all,
Something as simple as rock 'n' roll would save us all...
Who'd have thought that after all, it's rock 'n' roll?

The station will be broadcasting for a while yet while the sale goes through. Listen on the air or online while you still can.

More Sunday Salon here.