December 27, 1998. Sunday.
WXXE-FM finally began broadcasting earlier that week. It was a long time coming. Syracuse Community Radio had been attempting to navigate the labyrinth of FCC approval for an FM broadcast for years, and had secured a signal at 90.5 FM, with a transmitter located in the rural area of Fenner, NY. SCR originally planned to commence WXXE's signal by the preceding weekend, before Christmas, but technical difficulties delayed things by a few days. I don't remember the precise date that The Double X started beamin' its mighty widdle waves across the county line, but it was during that Christmas week, 1998. The signal was strong enough to hear in Syracuse. And on Sunday night, we would do our show.
The "we" in this instance are Dana & Carl, Carl being me, the other half being my friend and co-host Dana Bonn. We were founding members of Syracuse Community Radio, and this was the culmination of years of work. Granted, a lot of the work had been done by other people, but we were fully prepared to participate and, if necessary, take all the credit. That's show biz.
We loved music. We loved radio, at least in theory. We loved radio the way we remembered it, the way we imagined it. Dana called it "The Joy Of Radio," the delight of discovery, of connection with rockin' pop heard on the air. To him, it was the sense of free-form independence he used to hear on college radio (specifically on Syracuse University's WAER-FM, before it switched to an all-wallpaper-all-the-time light jazz format in the early '80s). To me, the ideal was every great AM Top 40 station that provided bop, fuzz, and jangle as I was growing up in the '60s and '70s, crossed with the boundless possibility to be found left of the dial. Radio. It could mean something. It should mean something.
I picked Dana up at his house, probably around 8:15 or so; we wanted to get to the studio early. We stopped at a (now defunct) Mobil station at Erie Boulevard East and Teal Avenue for coffee, soda, and snacks, fuel for this Joy Of Radio schtick. I had a million songs in my head, records by everyone I'd ever loved on the radio, or ever wished I could hear on the goddamned radio. Power pop. Punk. British Invasion. Soul. Bubblegum. Rock 'n' roll. I wanted to play it all, this night, and for as many Sunday nights as we could hold out before this crazy gig imploded, as it inevitably would. We were going to be on the radio. It couldn't last long, of course, but for now? Tonight? We were gonna be on the radio.
Our show was called The Kids Are Alright. That was the plan, anyway: We're Dana & Carl, it's Sunday night, and THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT! Our proposed title theme song was a cover of The Who's power pop classic, performed on a 1978 import 45 by a British group called The Pleasers. On the way in that Sunday night, while were still on Teal, heading to Mobil, Dana informed me that the turntable at the studio wasn't operational. That meant no vinyl that night, and therefore no way to play our chosen theme song. Plan B, then?, I said. Dana agreed. Plan B.
As we arrived, Eric Strattman was finishing up the inaugural edition of his indie pop show Unsurpervised, I Hit My Head, and he was encouraging listeners to stay tuned for some exciting power pop with Dana & Carl on The Kids Are Alright. Oops--sorry, Eric! We've changed our name. The clock struck nine. Showtime.
The legal ID played. You're listening to WXXE-FM Fenner/Syracuse, Double X! Our show's new and permanent theme song began, a cacophony of signals crossing and warring stations fighting for space on the dial, a symphony of radio's promise. Drums. Benediction: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Come on, let's rock 'n' roll with The Ramones! Louder drums. Guitars. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Marky. Dana & Carl. A question: Do you remember rock 'n' roll radio? An answer, one Sunday night, 20 years ago: This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 1.
There was no time then to ask: What brought us this far? There was no inkling yet of What happens next? Exactly two decades later, maybe we should look back and figure all of that out. As if one Sunday night mattered. As if 20 more years of Sunday nights added up to something.
Maybe they didn't. Maybe they did. It's time to tell that story. This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio. Stay tuned for more rock 'n' roll.
WHEN BOPPIN' THE WHOLE FRIGGIN' PLANET RETURNS: We're Your Friends For Now!
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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-Op, Ray Paul, Circe Link & Christian Nesmith, Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers, The Slapbacks, P. Hux, Irene Peña, Michael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave Merritt, The Rubinoos, Stepford Knives, The Grip Weeds, Popdudes, Ronnie Dark, The Flashcubes,Chris von Sneidern, The Bottle Kids, 1.4.5., The Smithereens, Paul Collins' Beat, The Hit Squad, The Rulers, The Legal Matters, Maura & the Bright Lights, Lisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens' track) is also available from Futureman Records.