WFNX dies before it gets old

Radio Silence
By MICHAEL MAROTTA  |  May 23, 2012

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Passion Pit

One of the greatest anti-establishment rallying cries of the 20th century was the notion that you can't trust anyone over the age of 30. If what free speech activist Jack Weinberg famously told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1965 — a year before the creation of the Boston Phoenix — was in fact an accurate caution, then perhaps the sentiment also holds true for alternative rock radio.

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WFNX, the trailblazing, bratty, and oft unruly rock radio station launched in 1983 to give the music section of the Phoenix an aural presence on the FM dial, will never blow out the candles on its crusty, salty 30th birthday cake. WFNX's 101.7 FM frequency was sold to Clear Channel last week by Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich, ending a nearly-three-decade run as a forum that put alternative rock radio on the map in an embodiment of eternal youth and a rebel yell. "It was an institution," says current program director Paul Driscoll. "Boston has lost a piece of its identity and soul."

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Amanda Palmer
WFNX will go silent once the FCC transfers the license to Clear Channel, a process that could take as long as 90 days from last week's sale. Exactly what Clear Channel intends to change the station's format to is yet to be determined, but it definitely won't be alternative rock radio. WFNX's intellectual property, including its call letters, remains property of the Phoenix. But while there is talk of continuing the station's legacy online, the future is unclear.

Which seems in line with WFNX's raucous history. The station always seemed to teeter on the brink of chaos, balancing life on the edge from its initial broadcasts helmed by radio misfits in 1983 (after Mindich purchased Lynn-based WLYN-FM) to recent years, which saw listeners shift to the Internet, iTunes, and satellite radio. The early years set the tone for its legacy, as the station joined a small handful of alt-rock radio outlets that were emerging just as the modern-rock underground was set to break through into the mainstream in the early '90s.

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  Topics: Music Features , Music, Radio, alternative,  More more >
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