Daring to Be Different

My musical life was changed forever one day in July 1982 when I was listening to WLIR hoping to hear a Police song I had requested, and they played A Flock of Seagulls’ “Telecommunication.” I wound up getting hooked on most of the songs I was hearing that afternoon. I think “Shock the Monkey” came out later that summer.

1983wlir

This was on both sides of the shirt

I had not really been a music buyer until that summer. I think the only radio station I had listened to with any devotion up until college was 99X (WXLO). I wound up hooked on WLIR after that. I think I might have gotten this t-shirt when the WLIR van came to campus. I have a clear recollection of meeting Ben Manilla, and maybe Donna Donna.

Now, this was was this new music was in fact branded New Music. Long Island was home to one of the coolest radio stations available, but many of my peers were firmly entrenched in Top 40 and more established rock stations, like K-Rock. One friend put it best (from his opinion), “Why should I listen to something that isn’t a hit yet. Why should I listen to experiments?”

Clearly, you cannot reason with someone who’s main musical fandom was Journey. And pretty much only Journey. I was shocked when he became obsessed with “La Bamba” in 1988.

I digeress, though. Getting hooked into the WLIR lineup led to other seditious activities, like reading NME and Melodymaker from Britain. By July 1983, an old childhood friend asked with surprise, “When did you get cool?”

Well, I never did get cool, but I was up on everything. In a way, though, being this much into new music was almost like coming out, almost, as I had to constantly defend or explain liking certain groups with singers of uncertain gender.

The music filled my head, and my dorm room, and gave me ideas for my column at the school paper. It was a very important part of my life, and of course, the only way to hear all of this music was to buy a lot of it (which I certainly did) or listen to the radio. No CDs and no iPods and no Internet back then. So I spent a lot of time poring over LP covers and liner notes, and making connections between my own ideas and this new popular culture.

Eventually, I wound up getting an internship at WLIR, where I wrote the news items once a week in the mornings and working with the promotions department after the morning show went off. What many listeners didn’t know was that when “Malibu” Sue McCann wasn’t on the air, she also worked in the promotions department. By the time I became intern in my senior year, New Music had pretty much taken over the airwaves and wasn’t all that strange anymore to American ears.

And now, most of my favorite 1980s songs are used as muzak at places like Fuddruckers. Oh, the tyranny of age.

One comment.

  1. You always rock Seth!! Too cool for school my dear. Love you Bless you (and your grand sensibilities!!:) always…..xxx

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