Hello NY, South Florida and everywhere else, I'm Bird and this is the Birdcage at Hockeybird.com.
For those of you who don't know (hard to believe you don't) on Friday night, March 30th the documentary film NEW WAVE: Dare to be Different makes it's North American TV debut on Showtime at 8pm.
As DJ Bird I was lucky enough to be a part of the new music revolution that took place in NY, on Long Island and even in places like Pittsburgh. Because MTV closely followed us at WLIR the rest of the country soon followed. The film documents those days and concentrates on WLIR, the bands and listeners.....as well as the scene that developed around the music.
As I have in the past, I need to thank Denis McNamara for including me. I also have to thank the films director Ellen Goldfarb for her tenacious work in putting this all together on film. The result is not just this awesome look back in time......she also brought us all back together at the film's debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC back in April, 2017. It was a real treat to reconnect with people who were back then, like a family to me.
I haven't hid the fact that I and my family are dealing with a really tough time so this film is a great distraction from an otherwise crappy time in my life. My two daughters and I are OK for now. Thanks to all who have reached out in support. It's been hard to find out that others in the WLIR family have had real life issues making my troubles seem small. That said, for the past few weeks, it's been a treat to think back on those days and I for one am amazed at what we did at WLIR (and WXXP).
I know I have told these stories before either here or on Facebook, forgive me if I repeat myself. But, I was just a kid from Levittown, attending Division Avenue high school. My friends and I listened to WLIR because they played songs and bands not heard on other stations in NY. WNEW and WPLJ played mostly old stuff that we all had heard a million times. Led Zep, The Beatles and the Stones were great....but how many times can you listen to Stairway to Heaven? On the Island, WBAB was better.....they took a few chances that the others didn't. But it was WLIR that stood out. 92.7 was beyond any doubt, THE STATION to hear stuff you couldn't hear anywhere else. They didn't just play Freebird, they played all the great Skynyrd Songs. They played Blackfoot and Molly hatchet before anybody else. We listened to the "News Blimp" each morning before school. Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult and The Outlaws were all played on WLIR and barely mentioned elsewhere. The Good Rats were "Live from My Father's Place in Roslyn.
It was a great station. They even introduced us to the Clash, The Sex Pistols and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. They Played Generation X (featuring a young Billy Idol). So, as I was spinning disco records and learning from some of the best......I was heavily influenced by some of the music that WLIR dared to play. The Ramones.....from Forest Hills, Queens got airplay. Well, it's fair to say that I wasn't happy DJing private parties and playing the "Chicken Dance" so I got hired at a club and any chance I got, I'd spin some records not heard in most places. I had no idea at the time that this would turn into what it did. I just couldn't help myself. The owner at The Camelot Inn threatened to fire me many times because of some of the crazy stuff I played. Lucky for me, Face To Face was one of the live bands they had play and we became friendly right away. Lenny approached me one night and asked if I'd consider leaving the Camelot and spin at Monkey's, a yet to open club in Lynbrook. Lenny and Phil's parents were the co-owners and they agreed to give me full musical freedom. I was in!
Monkey's lead to Paris NY where the four owners from Paris, France allowed me even more freedom and together we built a scene that was only rivaled by clubs in NYC. OK, in fairness, there were a few other clubs playing "New Music" but at the beginning, it's was a real risk. WLIR had changed over to the new music format and MTV was born during the last few months at Monkey's. It was Paris New York where everything just fell into place. I met guys like DJ Slave and Rudeboy and the whole New Music scene just exploded everywhere. Record stores, haircut paces, clothing stores.....it seemed like all of Long Island was feeding the NYC scene.
Paris New York became a top spot on the Island for a variety of different scenes. We had the new wave thing, the Punks, Reggae, Ska, Rockabilly and yes......early hip hop all in the same place on the same night! This is where I met Denis McNamara and eventually left to do more WLIR projects. DJ Slave took over and took Paris to the next level which worked out because I never really wanted to leave there.
My days at the station were quite special. At the time, it was our job but as I've heard often, find something you love and you'll never feel like it's work. That's true! I had the chance to spin at so many different clubs, introduce many different bands and participate in the day to day music selection process at WLIR. This led to an opportunity to help run WXXP, a station in Pittsburgh where we blended the WLIR format with some really cool rock songs....the ones WLIR played before the change over that WNEW or WPLJ didn't play. Over 30 years later and we are still remembered in the Steel City with sold out reunions. In fact, I hear that one more might be scheduled.
Looking back it's fair to say that we did know that what was happening was special. I'm sure we all knew that our work was being recognized and we had influenced the music and culture of America. There's none of us who knew to what extent......and this is something I'm both proud of and humbled by.
Over the years, Denis and I stayed in touch. We often spoke about writing a book or doing a movie. When Ellen reached out to us.......it began a seven year journey for her and her team. Denis and Maxx got involved and many of the bands we helped break were tracked down and interviewed. To listen to Ellen talk about all the work that went into it is quite impressive.
I realize this is not a Hockey post......so I'll add that my daughter Alex and I did attend the NYR vs Panther's game on March 10th. NY lost in a shootout and as predicted, not a Cup contender. Heck, they are not even a playoff team. The Cats might make the playoffs but Alex predicts a first round exit if they do.
So I hope all of you will tune in this Friday night and see how WLIR became the voice of a generation and influenced the music world.