"And the talent that came through there musically — Joe Strummer came through 25 Exchange Street," he recalls. "Julie Kramer took photos of Iggy Pop in Kurt St. Thomas's car. It was more than a radio station; it transcended and became a part of the community. It was kids with keys to the castle. And that's what scared Mindich. But in hindsight, we were the smart kids! In the end, we were right. The music we broke and scene we helped create — it was felt around the world."
Those first few years at 'FNX — where there were maybe just a dozen stations across the continent crafting what would become alternative rock radio, from WLIR on Long Island to Live 105 in San Francisco to CFNY in Toronto — helped shape the station's reputation. "This is a little-remembered fact, but before I was music director, WFNX played Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Yes — both current and back catalog," Bruce McDonald says. "My first 'official' act, with [then program director] Michael Bright's permission, was pull all the AOR stuff out of the air studio. We then set about reshaping the sound of 'FNX. At that moment, for my money, the first true 'alternative' station was born. We played the Depeche Modes and OMDs. But we also played the Fall, the Clash, the Wipers. The second thing I did as MD was put an EP by a local band in heavy rotation. Their songs had been nagging at me for weeks. That EP was O Positive's Only Breathing."
It would set the tone for WFNX being a breeding ground for local music, extended by Sunday night's New England Product, which would become Boston Accents, which it is known as today. "When Passion Pit started gaining some momentum maybe four or so years ago, WFNX was the first real radio station to care," writes the band's vocalist, Michael Angelakos in an e-mail. "WFNX cared greatly for Boston's artists as well as the youngest and newest — the kind of artists radio stations don't take to immediately. But from my experience with radio, and 'FNX now being sold, we're just witnessing another nail in the coffin for radio in general, not just alternative radio. WFNX was one of those stations that just gave you hope."
When WFNX closes up its Lynn studios for the last time in July, they might want to leave a note for the next tenants: the joint is haunted. Stories of the WFNX ghosts are legendary — as host of Boston Accents, I've felt them late at night while alone in the production rooms. And of course there was the city itself — from nearby murders to arsons to the hookers and drug dealers that frequented what was dubbed "Central Scare."
Says Bruce: "It wouldn't have worked as well without that scare factor, the whole freakiness of Lynn — I can't remember world history, but I can tell you all the freaks of Lynn."
Come July, the real freaks will be gone for good.