Dare To Be Different  (2017)

I know that not every industry is like the entertainment industry, but I wonder if people in other walks of life have the same longing for the past the way DJs do. One of the best parts of working here is hanging with the people who have been here forever, listening to how lawless things used to be. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and I love radio, but hearing about the freedom old DJs could have, the risks they could take, just being there at the beginning of a movement is something I wish I could have been a part of.

WLIR was a small station on Long Island that wanted to separate itself from the other rock stations in the area. In the 1970s they took a more "progressive" approach, playing deep cuts from albums, telling the on-air personalities to talk slower and take longer breaks, just do things that would make them stand out. In the early 1980s, as most rock stations were embracing "album-oriented rock", WLIR gave everyone the finger and basically became the ultimate "independent" radio station, playing new wave, punk, and alternative. From 1982 through 1987, WLIR is credited with being the first station to play dozens of ground-breaking artists, from New Order to Duran Duran to Joan Jett to U2.

The documentary bounces around from old archived footage of jocks giving a tour of the station to current interviews, talking to the people that owned the station, worked there, super-fans, and even some of the musicians who acknowledged the power that WLIR had and how it basically gave them the kickstart to their career. There are amazing stories about how the station basically gave the finger to the industry and did what they wanted - Joan Jett literally brought the master tapes of "I Love Rock & Roll" from the recording studio to play it on the air, and the record label flipped out. The record label behind Frankie Goes To Hollywood had a big elaborate plan to release "Relax" in the UK about six months before they released it in the US - WLIR played it 6 days after the UK release. The station crew would actually head to JFK airport to pick up the album imports and get them on air as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the corporate elements did come into play. As the station got more popular, it made more money, which made more people take notice. A 15-year battle with the FCC over the station's license meant WLIR's "Dare to be Different" era ended in 1987. Obviously as a person in radio, I'm drawn to a documentary like this. Even if you're not a big radio geek, there's something awesome about looking at a group of people who truly loved what they were doing, and managed to stick it to the man while doing it.

 

[Celluloid Hero] gives "Dare To Be Different" a 9 out of 10.

 

 

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