this is radio nowhere.

dare to be different.

this is radio nowhere.
hounds of love.

WLIR was a radio station on Long Island, right across the Long Island Sound from the town I lived in in Connecticut. It was a stronger signal across the water than the FM stations in New Haven or Westchester (seriously) and to my ears it was more progressive (which meant something like actual newer music in between the LedZepBostonForeignerStyx rotation). Of course, in NYC there were WNEW, WPIX, and WLPJ, but you know, I wanted options.

My siblings mocked me endlessly for driving with one hand on the steering wheel of my dad's old '75 Pontiac station wagon and the other on the radio buttons, switching from station to station as I drove, arguing with the DJ's and offering running commentary about what i thought of a song as I made my way up and down the narrow radio preset buttons. THUNK. The indicator would slide to the next location. UGH! THUNK. OKAY, THAT'S BETTER.

I was a good driver because I was a good driver but I was also never told to not do that, unlike a friend my age whose dad wouldn't let him listen to the radio while he was learning to drive, but that was mostly because his car was standard transmission and his dad wanted to make sure he could hear the transmission, or something.


In August of 1982 out of absolutely nowhere (at least to an unconnected 18 year old), WLIR switched formats. I can literally remember where I was and what I was doing, which was out in my parents' backyard doing some gardening for my mom. I had a boombox out on the picnic table, turned on the radio, and after the next commercial I heard... the Clash? What? Okay, this is weird, but —maybe it's possible? But the next song was the Ramones and then I was sure I had to have tuned into a college radio station or something. WLIR was left of the dial, as Paul Westerberg would later commemorate, 92.7, which is where the college stations were, and even though most of the ones in my area weren't playing alternative rock during the middle of the day.

But NO. It had happened. It was some kind of miracle. Please understand that I was one of maybe four people in my very large suburban high school that had liked punk rock and despite going to college in New York City there was still a very small contingent of folks on campus/in my class that also publicly admitted to liking "new wave," which is what you called it when you didn't want to say punk rock, because if you said punk rock they'd ask if you did heroin and killed your girlfriend or something similarly idiotic.

Back when you had to buy music to hear it, having access to radio that played any of these new bands and artists we read about was huge. Yes, Bleecker Bob was paying someone to fly to London every week to hand-carry over new singles (the first time I got to take advantage of that that was when "Radio Clash" came out) but you couldn't afford to buy everything and I wanted to hear everything. So you would make tapes of new records for your friends and they would call and tell you that they'd just bought Sandinista and could they get a copy of that Gang of Four album you had. This stuff was not at the public library.

But there was a difference in hearing your music on the radio. It became a communal experience, both consciously and subconsciously. You were sharing an experience with thousands of other people you didn't know, and were connected to them by the airwaves, by the decision to turn on that radio station at that time and hear that song. That invisible continuum was a huge part of the experience. You could always turn on a radio and listen to a DJ playing a song and you know with certainty that there was at least one other person hearing the same thing you were. It made the night less vast and endless, made the road a littler smaller, made the noises in your head —both real and imagined —less scary, somehow, because you weren't alone. This is the aspect missing from podcasts or satellite, even though they can both fill time and space, you don't have the same feeling of simultaneous connection.

In this summer of 2022 I am now hearing Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" because it was well-placed in a television show and it resonated and exploded. That song, to me, is the summer of 1985, the summer I graduated college, the first summer I lived by myself in a studio apartment in Hoboken. You could hear Kate Bush on college radio and then you could hear her on WLIR, spilling out of a car or on a radio in a store somewhere, the video was on MTV, at least 120 Minutes or late at night. Kate Bush was someone wondrous and magical, who never went on tour, whose voice sounded like nothing else, whose songs were fully formed galaxies. Hearing her on the radio, hearing that song in the atmosphere, felt like hope and potential.

When I hear "Running Up That Hill" now in the wild, it feels like some kind of singularity has opened and it is 1985 again. I can see the view of lower Manhattan from my third-floor window and feel the heat of a summer with no air conditioner and the smell of the streets in the morning when I was walking to the PATH train on the way to some secretarial job in the city. It was that moment when I was suddenly some kind of grown up human being and I was still, to be honest, kind of dizzy that it had actually happened, after years of waiting for it. The world felt like an endless fire hydrant of art and freedom and excitement and bad decisions and speedbumps and secret crushes and broken hearts. It's the aural version of smelling your mom's meatloaf or your grandma's perfume, an uncontrolled cascade of memories. I'm probably not even hearing it as much as I think I am, it's just that one unexpected exposure to something you haven't heard in eons that is tied to a specific time is an invitation to my brain to start replaying those ancient home movies and then a slow burn reigniting those feelings of possibility and potential. It's a song, just one song, and it can do all of that.

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