Radio silence in Boston as WBCN goes dark in August

WBCN 104.1 has been shuttled and will now broadcast digitally only.  It’s corporate parent made the decision to replace Mix 98.5 with a FM sports radio station (a good move) but then decided that ah, well, 104.1  would become the new Mix.

I’m devastated.  Honestly.  Though I probably ended up listening to WFNX 101.7 whenever I would return home, WBCN has been around since 1968.  They were the radio station that got my through my adolescents, whether it was Charles Laquidera’s “Big Mattress Show” and then Howard Stern in the mornings, Patriots games on Sunday, Love Line late at night, Boston Emissions on Sunday nights, DJ Nick Carter’s afternoon siren call: “Mutant, freaks, malcontents, I am your leader.”

For decades, WBCN carried a reputation as perhaps the most progressive commercial rock station in the country, featuring such well-known air personalities as Charles Laquidara, with his “The Big Mattress” morning show, Danny Schechter the News Dissector, and J. Geils Band lead singer Peter Wolf, who worked as a DJ there. Musically adventurous and politically active, the station informed popular tastes both regionally and nationally, in its glory days helping to break such artists as U2, Elvis Costello, and The Cars.

There’s a unique relationship radio stations have with their listeners and yes, they are probably disappearing, but this feels in many ways like losing a friend or a pet at the very least.  Yes, WBCN was the first radio station in America to play U2 (good or bad thing at this point?), but it seemed like the music was sometimes secondary.

Their annual River Rave concerts, held first at the Hatchshell and then later at Great Woods (or whatever it’s called now), and also their annual Rock n’ Roll Rumble (local bands squaring off) were for many kids their first foray into live concerts.  I know some kids growing up preferred the heavy metal channel WAAF, or the indie channel at WFNX, but to me WBCN was like the big brother I never had.  Sad, maybe, but sometimes a radio station can provide the same things.

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