"The station was all attitude," says former music director and assistant program director Bruce McDonald, at the forefront of WFNX's fledgling years from 1983 to 1990. "Some of it was pop, some of it was punk. We dabbled in reggae and even played some blues, just because we wanted to. There was no format, there were no rules, there was no template. We were figuring it out and there was a lot of trial and error."
It's easy to run off a timeline of events that marked WFNX's legacy — the affiliated X-Night dance party at Spit that brought punks to the disco; its ongoing radio wars with WBCN that perhaps culminated in the "WFNX Welcomes the Godfathers" guerilla marketing campaign at the Paradise in March 1988; booking Pearl Jam to open a five-band show on July 10, 1991, billed under not only the Lemonheads and Buffalo Tom but bands like 7 League Boots and Stress; the now-infamous Nirvana show at Axis (with Smashing Pumpkins, Bullet LaVolta, and Cliffs of Dooneen) for the station's eighth birthday party on September 23, 1991, the night before Nevermind was released; nearly 100,000 people overwhelming the Hatch Shell during a free Green Day concert on September 9, 1994; the creation of One in Ten, a specialty talk show geared specifically to the LGBT community; the countless Best Music Poll and birthday-party shitshows and street parties; the outdoor Clambakes on Lansdowne Street, in particular last year's, on the day after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup; and the Sapporo House at Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California, which welcomed roughly 100 bands to its friendly confines.
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But it's the freedom that WFNX embodied, from its personalities to its playlists, that helped define its legacy. After news of WFNX's sale went public last week, Sharon Brody, who worked at the station for 13 years and offered the daily commentary segment the Brody Beat, summed things up nicely in a blog post for her current employer, WBUR: "WFNX was not governed by ratings — we had none. We were not ruled by money — we had none. We could pretty much do anything we wanted, and we did."
While the station will broadcast with a skeleton crew for the next few weeks, the end of its run was felt last week by two free-form — and farewell — on-air performances, one by 25-year veteran of the station and Leftover Lunch host Julie Kramer and another by midday host Adam "Adam 12" Chapman, who first interned at the station as a 20-year-old and came back after the demise of 'BCN a few years ago.
Their farewell sets were must-hear radio, and the on-the-fly nature of their personal selections were what WFNX was once all about. Adam 12 closed with a trio of personal touches: Death Cab For Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin,'" and finally, Buffalo Tom's "Taillights Fade."