By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Forgotten but not gone — until now

Learning that WBCN Radio (104.1 FM) is leaving the airwaves leaves me feeling a bit wistful, but not much more. There was a time when I would have been outraged. But ‘BCN had become so irrelevant to my life that I had not listened to it in years.

It looks like I wasn’t alone, as the Phoenix’s Adam Reilly reports that CBS is doing a station switch, the main result of which will be a new sports-talk station, WBZ-FM, at 98.5 FM. Anything that makes the boyos at WEEI (AM 850) break into a sweat is all right by me.

Charles Laquidara greets the news of WBCN’s demise with an obscure one-liner, while Danny “The News Dissector” Schechter hasn’t mentioned it yet.

WBCN, an independently owned “underground” station that launched in 1968, was an ear-opener for an exurban adolescent growing up in the early 1970s. I listened to Laquidara and Schechter and Old Saxophone Joe and Maxanne Sartori and all the rest of that great crew.

Along with alternative papers like the Phoenix, Boston After Dark and the Real Paper, WBCN was my main source of information on leftist politics and the counterculture.

But the station had long since disappeared into the cog of corporate radio. It’s not that it won’t be missed. It’s that the time to miss it expired about 20 years ago.

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  1. LFNeilson

    Man, it's back to Woo Woo on WMEX!zzzzz

  2. GFS3

    Like you, Dan, WBCN was a huge part of my musical education in high school. The station was the soundtrack for those formative years. Before I became a NPR and talk radio junkie, I was an avid listener of 'BCN, but it has been a long time since I've been a steady listener (too much rude and crude – rather than counterculture and cool).I'll miss the idea of WBCN more than the reality – another sign o the times.George Snell

  3. Amused

    The WBCN of the last decade (perhaps longer) is like Johnny Unitas with the San Diego Chargers; something that never should have happened and, now that it is gone, something that we need to quickly forget lest it forever scar the memory of something special.The winner in all this is Entercom; it has more than 250 fairly important sports events on its properties between Celtics and Red Sox (regular season, preseason and playoffs), which makes for a better foundation for sports talk than once-a-week football and hockey on the radio.Entercom also wins because WBCN does have thousands and thousands of relatively young male listeners who already don't listen to sports talk, and CBS is jettisoning those listeners by dumping WBCN. With some tweaking its WAAF stands to reap significant audience gain. HD radio is just to placate the hard core; most of the '95 trans am crowd doesn't own an HD radio

  4. TheWizard

    Now here's some trivia. The call letters WBCN first stood for Boston Concert Network. 'BCN was originally, as my brother listened to it in the early 1960s, a commercial classical music station not unlike WCRB. But it was hard then to change call letters. Ted Turner, wanting his Turner Broadcasting System to be based on a WTBS station, had to buy out the MIT student radio station's call letters (Tech Broadcasting System) to get them!

  5. Patricia of Trakai

    And in Washington, D.C., a similarly pioneering prog-rock station of the same era, WHFS, got its call letters from the phrase "High Fidelity Stereo." Quaint, eh?In the late '70s and early '80s, I lived and breathed 'BCN. (Sadly, before then, I was raised just outside of the station's range.) Now 'BCN has followed 'HFS into broadcasting history, but a couple of generations of listeners will always have fond memories of a community that you just can't find on iTunes.

  6. bostonmediawatch

    GBH (as in WGBH) = Great Blue Hill, where their original transmitter was.As I recall it, MTV pretty much tsunami'd commercial rock radio in the '80's and put BCN's music programming on autopilot aside from the occasional local band.When those waters receded, musical genres splintered, and narrowcasting developed.I was listening to an aircheck of WVBF from around 1974 the other day, it was pretty funny to listen to a Cher-into-Led Zeppelin transition. 2X2L calling CQ…2X2L calling CQ…2X2L calling CQ New York…

  7. dbvader

    "corporate radio"Can people stop using this ignorant, reductionist phrase?When people use the term "corporate" they mean "publicly-traded business", which does not have to be a corporation and a corporation does not have to be publicly traded. I could go out tomorrow and form a corporation and buy a radio station. If I am the sole investor, it doesn't matter if a corporation owns it, an LLC, or its sole proprietorship and I can run it anyway I want. The business form does not change how I act. Once I get investors, the business form doesn't matter, either. To some degree, I have to answer to somebody else. It's publicly traded entities that drive a constant demand for quarterly profits, growth, and security.

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