Thursday, January 13, 2005
I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I don't listen to the radio anymore. Not for music anyway. I'm not going to miss the station itself, as much as I'm just going to miss the idea that it was still there.
Ask any DC native over the age of 16 about WHFS. I guarantee they'll say something along the lines of "They used to be great" or "I remember when they didn't suck so bad." The funny thing is - no one can agree just exactly when they started to officially suck. Some people thought they were great up until the mid-90's. Others thought they started to suck when they sold-out to a conglomerate in the late-80's/early-90's (I forget exactly when that happened, but I fall into this category). Others thought they sucked when they moved from 102.3 to 99.1 in the early 80's, or when they moved from Bethesda to Annapolis. The only thing almost everyone agrees on is the fact that HFS absolutely sucked ass the last few years.
I discovered WHFS when I was in high school, back around 1980 or so. Reception was really poor. It seemed like I could only pick it up on alternate-Thursdays, if it was raining and the wind was blowing in the right direction. But what a godsend it was. They would play ANYTHING. They would play The Grateful Dead. They would play Minor Threat. They would play Laurie Anderson. They would play Top 40, if they felt like it. The DJs were incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about their music. They introduced my friends and I to the likes of Echo, Siouxsie, The Fleshtones, Dead Kennedys, Mission Of Burma, The Clash, Joe King Carrasco, etc. They turned me on to Captain Sensible ("He said Captain..."), Human Sexual Response and Jona Lewie. They played music by local bands whenever they felt like it - not just during "local music hour". MTV wasn't even around yet. The local rock stations wouldn't dare play that crazy punk stuff (you know - R.E.M., U2 and the like). There was no internet to find out about new bands. My friends and I would actually just hang out with a six-pack and listen to the radio all night, writing down the songs we liked so we could search out those records on our next record-buying excursion into DC or Y&T.
But things changed. In my opinion, they did the unforgivable by selling out to a huge radio conglomerate. I think it was Infinity, but I could be wrong. I'm too lazy to look it up. They fired the DJs that we had known for years. They started using playlists. They started playing stuff we could hear on DC101. They started to become just another radio station.
And it just got worse. Sure, the had their niche. They were still the only station in town that would play The Cure or Echo and the Bunnymen. The problem was that you had to sit through hours of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park to get to it. The got cocky too. They started to refer to themselves as "legendary", and "The True Alternative". Please. The "legendary" aspect of your station died 15 years ago. And in the end you were an alternative to nothing. The only thing that made you any better than DC 101 or 98 Rock was the fact that I could be pretty sure you wouldn't play any Ted Nugent. Even that would be a welcome change.
By the time they pulled the plug they were already a joke to pretty much everyone who was actually a fan of alternative music. By trying to appeal to the masses they ended up shooting themselves in the ass.
Maybe WRNR can make a move to get a stronger signal now and take over as the local alternative station. For those of you who don't know, the owner of the original WHFS (Jake Einstein) started up WRNR after he sold it. A good number of the DJs went over there. And there's always XM.
So I'm sad to see WHFS disappear, but I probably won't really notice. The WHFS I loved was already dead. Gone are the days of Weasel, Damien, Neci, Kath, Tom T and (of course) the famous Bob "Here". No more unslanted opinions from yet another editor of The Daily Feed.
Tomorrow I'll be sure to play "Party Weekend" at 5:00 in memory of the good old days.
There's a nice tribute site to the old HFS at DCRTV.
(thumbing my nose)
I've been thinking lately about going back on the air at a local college station... I used to do a few shows in the '80's. Seem to be getting the urge again. Always a diverse playlist...
I have dozens of hours of cassette tapes of the program, by the way -- I used to stick in a cassette every Saturday night when it came on.
Thanks for any leads you can give me on learning more about this program.