for May 14, 2004

"Goodbye To 'The Future Of Rock 'n' Roll'"
by Sean Carolan

Periodically, a good radio station disappears into the ether, and another group of plugged in, devoted, committed music fans somewhere in these great United States has their hearts ripped out.
Back in 2000, I watched the once-great FM106.3 at the Jersey Shore fade into oblivion. The situation was very similar; an independent station run literally out of a home (with the transmitter tower in the backyard) served an intensely loyal fan base for many years (1984-2000.) Unfortunately, that fan base had been dwindling, because the station had started mutating into the Limp Bizkit sort of format that typifies Alternative radio today, alienating its most passionate listeners. They were sold to a local multi-station operator who claimed it was alternative while playing lots of Dido.
This time, it was Cincinatti, Ohio's turn.
Independent radio station WOXY (97X, "The Future Of Rock And Roll") signed off at a few minutes after midnight last night, with an emotional final stand featuring a few hours of music liberally sprinkled with a roundtable reminiscence by the station's airstaff. Until that point, they broadcast an alphabetical-by-song-title multi-day marathon that really showed what a legacy the station had. A casual glance through the list is a testament to the truly wide format the station had. The fact that the list I linked to was compiled by the station's fans is a testament to what it meant to its listeners. From what I could see, the station went out at the top of its game.
Ultimately, it was the all too human desire to move on to new pastures that did the station in. Doug and Linda Balogh were forty when they bought the station and put the process in motion that made it what it was. Twenty years on, however, the idea that a US$5.8 million payday was all that stood between them and comfortable retirement seems like the kind of opportunity you'd be a fool to avoid. To their credit, they let the station say its own goodbyes, unlike so many other stations whose staffs arrive one morning to find its doors padlocked (or, worse, the new staff already sitting at what were their desks.)
There's a big difference here, though. While a grass-roots "Save 106.3" website that became quite vibrant rose to the defense of FM106.3's legacy, it was quickly slapped with a cease-and-desist by the new station owners, who apparently were aghast that anyone should be allowed to say anything negative about their handling of the frequency.
In contrast, the Baloghs kept the WOXY calls, the website, the online community, and the reported 11,000 CD library. All that will be here on the web when Cincinatti wakes up tomorrow morning (though there won't be a stream to hear the music with.) Though they have fumbled significantly by not doing something (anything!) to keep the stream running on the Internet, there's still a chance WOXY's web presence will gain an audio dimension that's every bit as good as its former broadcast self.
For my part, I'll be keeping links to WOXY's continued presence up here at my site and will keep tabs on them. I'm also pumping out my own stream here which, while it really can't hold a candle to WOXY's brilliance, might serve to tide people over 'til WOXY gets back on their feet, audio-wise.
(By the way, you'll notice my attitude on this is significantly different than what you'll usually find in radio. I think letting the public know about every outlet possible for good new music only makes for a better listenership. It also forces my choices to be more well thought-out in the interest of making my own output sound better. If music's what you care about, I think you'll agree - if profit's all you care about, by all means continue to act as though you're the only radio station that ever played a record. Besides, that's why I think it's a good idea to tell people about WOXY, WRSU, 90.5 The Night, WFMU, or even John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show...and I think it's why Peel's been kind enough to mention this website on his show.)
So, to put it in "Princess Bride" terms, I think we've got a station that's only "mostly dead", just waiting for a Miracle Max to come along and breathe life into it. I have a lot of faith in WOXY's continued potential as a web-based entity, based solely on my own meager success. Though their final words, after making the first song they ever played the last one as well (U2's live version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" from "Under A Blood Red Sky") were "...and goodbye to 'The Future Of Rock 'N' Roll'", I'm not counting them out quite yet.
(Now, if only I could get my hands on FM106.3's old library...)

©2004 Sean Carolan