The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio
By Richard Neer
(Villard, Paperback, 9780812992656, 384pp.)
Publication Date: September 25, 2001
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"It was all so honest, before the end of our collective innocence. Top Forty jocks screamed and yelled and sounded mightier than God on millions of transistor radios. But on FM radio it was all spun out for only you. On a golden web by a master weaver driven by fifty thousand magical watts of crystal clear power . . . before the days of trashy, hedonistic dumbspeak and disposable three-minute ditties . . . in the days where rock lived at many addresses in many cities."
As a young man, Richard Neer dreamed of landing a job at WNEW in New York–one of the revolutionary FM stations across the country that were changing the face of radio by rejecting strict formatting and letting disc jockeys play whatever they wanted. He felt that when he got there, he’d have made the big time. Little did he know he’d have shaped rock history as well.
FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio chronicles the birth, growth, and death of free-form rock-and-roll radio through the stories of the movement’s flagship stations. In the late sixties and early seventies–at stations like KSAN in San Francisco, WBCN in Boston, WMMR in Philadelphia, KMET in Los Angeles, WNEW, and others–disc jockeys became the gatekeepers, critics, and gurus of new music. Jocks like Scott Muni, Vin Scelsa, Jonathan Schwartz, and Neer developed loyal followings and had incredible influence on their listeners and on the early careers of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Genesis, the Cars, and many others.
Full of fascinating firsthand stories, FM documents the commodification of an iconoclastic phenomenon, revealing how counterculture was coopted and consumed by the mainstream. Richard Neer was an eyewitness to, and participant in, this history. FM is the tale of his exhilarating ride.
Richard Neer started in radio while attending Adelphi University and pioneered progressive radio on Long Island after graduation. In 1971, he joined the staff of WNEW-FM and worked there as a disc jockey and programmer for over twenty-eight years. In 1986, he became a sports talk-show host at WNEW-AM. He moved to WFAN in July of 1988, where he is currently a weekend personality and pre- and postgame host for New York Giants football. He is the sports editor for Talkers magazine and appears regularly on various syndi-cated radio and television shows. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Vicky, and their willful golden retriever, Lindsay.
"Rock music had become my religion. Radio my church. And these DJs my priests, rabbis, and gurus. They would preach from the gospel of Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, the Book of Townshend, the Song of the Byrds, and the Acts of Davies. The New Testament would include Procol Harum, Them, Traffic, Cream, the Jeff Beck Group, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. After Sgt. Pepper it was the Exodus of singles and the Revelations of albums. And we listened and listened and listened and learned.
WNEW, 102.7, was our local Temple of Solomon and somehow these stations were popping up in every major city simultaneously like a planned invasion from outer space. And with them a new generation of DJs, our generation, speaking to us. Personally. Understanding as only we understood. Inspiring us, motivating us, conjuring up images and stimulating the senses as only radio can do when it is in the hands of the righteous.
And then it was over."
--from the Foreword by Steven Van Zandt