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U2, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Blondie, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Clash, The Cure: Over half a billion records sold but you may never have heard of them if not for a small suburban radio station on Long Island, NY: WLIR. In August, 1982, a small group of radio visionaries knew they couldn't compete with the mega-stations in New York City. With one brave decision, they changed the sound of radio forever. Program Director Denis McNamara, the 'LIR crew and the biggest artists of the era tell the story of how they battled the FCC, the record labels, mega-radio and all the conventional rules to create a musical movement that brought the New Wave to America.
I was 15 in 1979 and this was my music growing up so I feel like I understand the history reasonably well. The Cure, Split Enz, Adam & and the Ants, The English Beat, and Devo were at the center of my music world. This documentary doesn't make a lot of sense to me, or at least the spin on how amazingly groundbreaking it was. I'm sure this radio station was a big deal in Long Island, but it just seems really late to the party to me. They make a big deal about being so influential and how MTV could barely have existed without them, but WLIR didn't even change format to New Wave until August 1982 - new wave (and MTV which started a year before WLIR) was well established by then. I listed to KROQ's New Wave format in Los Angeles for many years before WLIR even changed format to New Wave. This is from Wikipedia (about KROQ): "By 1980 the station had fully committed to a post-new wave modern rock orientation." And they say "post-new wave" because they'd been playing New Wave since 1976 and by 1980 it was about time for post-New Wave - WLIR didn't even start playing New Wave until 2 years after KROQ went "post-new-wave." Not exactly groundbreaking from my perspective. I can see looking at some old playlists that they were playing some New Wave songs before the format change, but definitely mixed in with plenty of Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen.
I don't think the documentary knew what it wanted to be. If it wanted to be about the politics and staff of the Long Island radio station, that part of the story doesn't seem very interesting unless you lived there at the time. If they were going to tell a story of a groundbreaking New Wave station, they should have made it about KROQ. If they were going to tell more of a New Wave story, then WLIR could have just been a small segment in the latter part of the documentary.
I will say that the interviews with the Dave Wakeling, Thomas Dolby and others were worth at least fast forwarding to get to, but I can't really recommend the documentary itself. I'm giving it a 5 for probably being interesting to a NY audience and for getting to see some artists on camera that I haven't seen for many years.
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