July 3rd, 2009
On January 1, 1967, an FCC ruling went into effect that required major market radio stations — those with an FM frequency that was simulcasting their AM signal — to broadcast alternative programming at least half the time on FM. What resulted was a sweeping change in the radio business. From the late 60′s into the early 70′s, there was a shift from singles played on AM, to albums on FM.
In a way, it was timely that my family moved from Connecticut to Massachusetts only a few weeks after Herb Oscar Anderson quit 77 WABC in September, 1968, because the times had indeed a’changed. (Note: HOA’s site auto-plays audio.) Anderson was still #1 in New York, but songs such as this one drove HOA away.
“Fire”, a top 10 hit on AM radio in Sept. ’68, was the first song I heard on WBCN-FM in Boston, which had switched formats from Classical to Underground music six months prior to my arrival in Massachusetts. Four years later, in 1972, I heard a record on WBCN that had a huge effect on me. This is exactly the point where I picked it up…
… and after that bit I heard “The Argument Clinic” and I was hooked. Eric Idle’s Money song pre-dates the Euro, but it correctly predicted that “everyone must hanker for the butchness of a banker,” because that’s the world we had until last September.
That was the first time I encountered Monty Python, and I felt as though a bullet had hit me between my ears. I LOVED those guys. And I mean I LOVED them, like they were the Beatles. But I was lucky to have heard them, because ‘BCN was just about the only place where Python had a home in America at the time. There’s an excellent little documentary called “Monty Python Conquers America” that tells of WBCN’s role in paving the way for Python. I’ve stitched together the pertinent bits.
I didn’t look all that different from that young DJ in the stock footage, and I know that Gates control console well from my own radio days, but it couldn’t have been BCN’s, because it’s monaural.
Something that isn’t pointed out is that before Monty Python, WBCN had played Firesign Theatre records, and I think those guys deserve credit for creating a new generation of comedy record fans. Not only that, Firesign Theatre albums were intricate and fully produced, as were the Python records, making them eminently re-listenable, like a Rock record.