92.7 WLIR, The Station That Dared To Be Different
This is not going to be a hockey article(except for the very bottom, see below)....so if that bothers you please select a different Hockeybird article. This is about the day a legend died for me. It's with great sadness that I tell you that 92.7 WLIR is no more.
Hello NY and everywhere else, I'm DJ Bird and you're in the Birdcage at 92.7 WLIR.....The Station That Dares To Be Different.
That's how I opened my show as per program director Denis McNamara. January 9th, 2004 WLIR at 92.7FM Garden City played it's last song at 12:14pm, Forever Young by Alphaville. Since I left the station in 1987 it shouldn't be that big a deal....but it has become an emotional event for me. I had said goodbye back then, said goodbye again when they changed over to WDRE and now this. The 92.7 frequency was sold to a company that will not be broadcasting the same format. Sure, there are still a few places to hear the old 'LIR music of the 80's but having 92.7 programed in on my car radio was something I had been doing since I was a kid. Now it's officially done. How sad.
I began my career in music as a club DJ and was very lucky to find a place that would let me play this punk/new wave format I was into at the time, Monkey's in Lynbrook. I left there for Paris New York in Huntington as I needed a bigger stage. Paris was just a great place and I was allowed to create a scene as if it were the heart of NYC. It was truly a wild place and the four guys from Paris, France did a great job in allowing it's guests to be creative and to have fun.
Around late 1983 I noticed that the program Director of WLIR, Denis McNamara walked in and I paged him to my DJ booth. After a discussion on the music I played, Denis handed me his card and asked that I call him. The following day I joined the station and soon became assistant to the music director(who was Larry the Duck). Now at this point I should tell you that I grew up listening to WLIR so this place was like a shrine to me. Denis added me to help with the music selection for the same station I had been listening to for years....what a great treat.
As time went by I became more involved in other aspects of the station and had the chance to work with some of the great NY DJs as well as meet the artists whose records I played in the clubs each night. Imagine a kid from Long Island hanging out with his idols like well, Billy Idol, Joey Ramone, Joan Jett, UB40, Mick Jones of the Clash just to name a few. I produced the Meg Griffen show and became good friends with Bob Waugh and Malibu Sue. Life couldn't get any better could it ?
Well it did. I don't remember the exact date but Denis told me I was going to do an airshift at 2 am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. He also told me not to bring coffee....the adrenaline would be flowing. It was....and I had a blast. Denis then scheduled me for a few more shows and the next thing you know, I was a radio announcer. Of course I had no real business doing this and to prove it I actually said "shit"on the air by mistake. One of the funniest things you'll ever hear as just after I said shit, a Crazy Eddie (remember those?) commercial started with "Yes, Yes, Yes !" so I'm sure no one noticed. But I have the tape somewhere.....and of course it came up in my "air check meetings". Denis laughed so hard he nearly couldn't breathe.....but told me never to do it again.
What was WLIR....what made it so great ? That would take a long time to answer properly and I'm not so sure I'm qualified to answer......but of course I'll try. 'LIR was a "New Music" station. My definition of New Music differs from most. I thought of it not as a category but a movement. New Music was an idea, a concept. It was the playing of new songs, new styles and new bands that broke new ground and /or paid homage to older styles and artists. In a word, it was anything good while avoiding the trends.
What made the station so great was the fact that Denis listened to his audience. He allowed them to help shape the format. We watched what people were buying from the import stores and as with me, Denis surrounded himself with others who were in on the street scene. We actually listened to a ton of recordings just to find a few that were good each week, which meant we heard a lot of crap. But if you don't know, that's not how most radio stations work. Not then and not now.
WLIR was a rare example of the free form college radio format....only we got paid. And we had advertisers who paid. We helped make the local club scene. And in turn, they helped make us. But the true heroes in all of this were the listeners. They bought more records per capita than any other radio station in the NY area by a mile. Think about that for a second......NY is the capital of the music world and we at WLIR attracted the people who were the real force behind the trends in music. The listeners......yes, the listeners whose loyalty and support stands to this day. They were the real stars of WLIR. If you are one of them, I thank you. It was you that made what happened at WLIR possible. At least the early days.....the hey day if you will.
Sometime after I left in 1987, less than a year I'd guess, the changes I saw coming went into effect and in my mind, that was the end of my WLIR. In my opinion, management began to think that they were the reason for the success of the station and began to force the format in certain directions. I'm sure money was the reasoning and I can't really blame them. But the station continued on and a new generation of DJ's and listeners joined in just as I had replaced some of the older jocks. I faded away as I should have....I had over indulged in the darker side of the scene and became a jerk. Some would say I was kind of a jerk the whole time....maybe I was :-)
WLIR broke new bands that have become household names. Depeche Mode, U2, Culture Club, New Order, The Cult....on and on. Frankie goes to Hollywood's "Relax" was on my turntable as a brand new import one day. After hearing it for the first time I grabbed the phone and called Denis, "we have to play this". It became a favorite quickly and a year later was a number one song here in the US. That story can be repeated for so many bands. I'm sure you've heard of Duran Duran....I saw their first US show at a club in Levittown on Long Island called Spit. They went on to become huge stars.
Now, we may not have been the only ones who did this. I hear that KROQ in L.A did the same thing. But here in NY, it was WLIR, 92.7 where you heard New Music first. We were the "station that dared to be different".
Now I'm sure you'd enjoy some inside dirt wouldn't you ? EDITORS NOTE: This part is being rewritten for content. Stay tuned. What once appeared here needs to be adjusted, I take full responsibility for my original post and apologize to any who has been hurt. End of edit.
Memories......wow. The first time I was ever on 'LIR live was bizarre. Jeff Carlson was the production manager and Denis had me working with Jeff. Jeff was the voice and the creative talent behind most of the great spoof commercials and other funny stuff you heard on the air. He also did most of the paid commercials. Well, Jeff and I were doing a Halloween spot for Paris N.Y. as Bob and Doug McKenzie, you know....the second city Hoser Guys. We really did a good job I thought. After doing the spot we went downstairs from the 'LIR studios at 175 Fulton Ave in beautiful downtown Hempstead NY to what we called Cafe Fatale....bad food, good beer. Jeff and I had a few I guess and back upstairs, Donna Donna was doing the screamer of the week show and getting ready to do a update on the voting. Jeff and I were invited in as Bob and Doug to do the update. So, the first words I ever spoke live on the air at WLIR were, "Good day, I'm Bob McKenzie....this is my brother Doug. Welcome to like, the screamer show eh ! Doug...tell 'em what a screamer is.......you knob !"
I can't list all of those who helped me along the way, I'd leave someone out and feel bad....but Denis McNamara along with the french guys from Paris New York deserve special mention. And the other DJs I worked with.....Larry the Duck, Malibu Sue, Donna Donna, Steve "The Pistol" Jones, Willobee, Bob Waugh, Nancy Abramson, Jeff Carlson, Famous Bob, Maxx and so many others deserve way more credit than I do. I was just a kid in the right place at the right time.
And of course all of you who listened....and went to the clubs. You are what made those days back in the 80's so special. I can't thank you enough for the wonderful memories. It's why today has become such a sad day for me. With WLIR at 92.7 really gone that time is now really over. Radio has not been, nor will it ever be the same in New York as it was in the 80's.
The music will continue of course. There are plenty of people out there who love it and keep it alive. This site has a live show you can tune in to over the internet. I spent the last few hours listening and chatting with DJ Ed. I recommend you do the same.
The last song I ever played on WLIR was from a band called Rain Parade, Depending on you. It seems that you listeners were up to the task and I can depend on you. Thanks.
That's it for me....I'm outta here, the Birdcage is closed. Thanks for listening to the best new music first at the station that dares to be different, 'LIR 92.7
I should have added that during my time in the clubs and at WLIR the NY Islanders were winning Stanley Cups here on Long Island. Many of the players were listeners and I was lucky enough to meet and become friends with some of them including Bobby Nystrom and Wayne Merrick. They all knew I was a Ranger fan but still, we bought each other drinks and showed each other respect. Gerald Diduck met his wife at Paris New York and those of you who went to Paris will remember that I'd announce the scores of hockey games during the night, in fact I'd do that at every club I worked. I recall a night where the Rangers were in the playoffs against the Flyers and it went to overtime.....this was at Heartbeat. As the host and DJ I wouldn't let the band start until after the game was decided (the Rangers won to my delight). There were several Islanders in the club that night, it was heartbeat in Oyster Bay. They got upset with me over a golfing comment I made as they were no longer playing......I think this was 1986.
I was also on the air at WLIR the night Pat LaFontaine scored in overtime at 2am against the Caps in that now famous playoff game. Denis told me at the time that breaking into a song to report the win was something our listeners were not interested in. Ironically, WLIR broadcast Islander game several years later. So you see, my time in the music biz was not totally devoid of hockey. In fact it was filled with it. I will say that the early 80s were a tough time to be a Rangers fan as the Isles were wining cup after cup after cup. I would get boo-ed for announcing a Rangers final score in a club.....but hey, someone had to do it, right ?