WBCN and the American Revolution
How a Radio Station Defined Politics, Counterculture, and Rock and Roll
- Winner of the Silver Medal, Best Regional Non-Fiction, US Northeast, Independent Publisher Book Awards, 2022
- MHA STAR Award, Massachusetts History Alliance, 2022
- Winner of the New England Society Book Award in the Specialty category, 2022
304 pp., 10 x 11 in, 329 figures
- Published: November 30, 2021
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How Boston radio station WBCN became the hub of the rock-and-roll, antiwar, psychedelic solar system.
While San Francisco was celebrating a psychedelic Summer of Love in 1967, Boston stayed buttoned up and battened down. But that changed the following year, when a Harvard Law School graduate student named Ray Riepen founded a radio station that played music that young people, including the hundreds of thousands at Boston-area colleges, actually wanted to hear. WBCN-FM featured album cuts by such artists as the Mothers of Invention, Aretha Franklin, and Cream, played by announcers who felt free to express their opinions on subjects that ranged from recreational drugs to the war in Vietnam. In this engaging and generously illustrated chronicle, Peabody Award–winning journalist and one-time WBCN announcer Bill Lichtenstein tells the story of how a radio station became part of a revolution in youth culture.
At WBCN, creativity and countercultural politics ruled: there were no set playlists; news segments anticipated the satire of The Daily Show; on-air interviewees ranged from John and Yoko to Noam Chomsky; a telephone “Listener Line” fielded questions on any subject, day and night. From 1968 to Watergate, Boston's WBCN was the hub of the rock-and-roll, antiwar, psychedelic solar system. A cornucopia of images in color and black and white includes concert posters, news clippings, photographs of performers in action, and scenes of joyousness on Boston CommonInterwoven through the narrative are excerpts from interviews with WBCN pioneers, including Charles Laquidara, the “news dissector” Danny Schechter, Marsha Steinberg, and Mitchell Kertzman.
Lichtenstein's documentary WBCN and The American Revolution is available as a DVD sold separately.
“A fascinating journey back in time when music and radio were at the center of a movement, and an inspiration for what media can be today. WBCN holds a special place in history.”
Jon Abbott, President and CEO, GBH
“A team of young heroes, women and men, black and white, straight and gay, passionate, fearless and revolutionary, broadcast the music and ideas that shaped how every college kid thought, felt, and acted for the rest of our lives.”
Rob Barnett, former president, CBS radio programming; author of Next Job, Best Job
“As a budding broadcaster at powerhouse WBZ-AM in the early 1970s I fell for WBCN and told my boss, who said: 'FM? It'll never last.' He was right in that there will never be another WBCN.”
Robin Young, host of Here and Now (NPR)
“Living in Boston in those years, and deeply immersed in activism, it was impossible to miss the crucial role of WBCN in creating an engaged activist community, and, not least, providing indispensable information and analysis.”
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, MIT; Laureate Professor and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair, University of Arizona