National Radio Week: First Song/Last Song

Pearl Jam's "Alive", just one of radio's first/last songs

Pearl Jam’s “Alive”, Y100’s first and last song

As part of KEXP’s National Radio Week coverage, on the KEXP Blog we will be spotlighting some of the stories and personal testimonials given by a variety of radio luminaries in interviews done with KEXP DJs John Richards, Kevin Cole, and Morning Show producer Owen Murphy. These interviews articulately explain the enduring legacy of early independent radio stations, as well as the importance of radio to shape and create a community through shared love of music.  In the words of WFNX DJ Kurt St. Thomas, “if you pay enough attention, radio will probably change your life.”

In nearly every interview gathered for National Radio Week, KEXP asked station DJs and employees what their station’s first and last songs were. Similar to KEXP’s own first songs and last songs (Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” opened and closed KEXP’s Dexter studios, and Robyn Hitchcock’s “Viva! Sea Tac” was the first song played at KEXP’s new home,) every radio station’s musical choices for these landmark moments display the DNA and ultimate goals of the station. Check out their answers below.

Mark Sovel // Indie 103.1 (LA):

We launched Indie 103.1 on Christmas Night, 2003. In the room was Mike Halloran and the program director Michael Steele. We knew we were about to drop a bomb on LA. The first song was The Ramones – “We Want the Airwaves.” Nobody knew until then what we were going to be launching. There was a lot of speculation. Across town, KROC, the corporate alternative station was heavy into nu-metal, and people thought we were going to go even heavier into nu-metal. So the shot we fired across their boughs was “We Want the Airwaves” with the Ramones. Then, Clash with “This Is Radio Clash,” then I think a Beastie Boys song. We went from there.

Shawn Stewart (Rev 105, The Mountain):

The first song I played on the radio was on Moonlight Meditations — something from Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92.

I will always remember the last song played on REV 105, because I was the DJ on air during the last hour. The last song was “Hello Goodbye” by The Beatles. The owner of the station who was selling it hated The Beatles, so it was a small send-off to him. It’s still hard to listen to.

Steve Nelson (NPR, REV 105, The Current):

On The Current’s first song:

The first song that we played on The Current was “Say Shh” by Atmosphere. Atmosphere is a Minneapolis-based hip-hop group. The entire song is about building something special in Minnesota. You don’t have to move to New York or LA or Chicago to make something great. It was a perfect song to launch with. Years later, Slug from Atmosphere was doing an interview and said that the song was a hidden track on Hidden Travels, and we [The Current] ended up essentially naming the song. We called it “Say Shh.” Before that, it didn’t really have a name. It was a perfect first song, and we were honored to get to play it.

University of Minnesota station Radio K’s first song:

One of my favorite moments in radio was when I was part of the launch of the student station at University of Minnesota, Radio K. I was the production director, which meant I made all the jingles and positioners to play in between songs. I stayed up all night making sure everything was ready to go because it launched at 6 AM. We had a big promotion from across the river from where the radio station was at 7 AM, so I wrapped everything up and got on my bike and went across the Washington Avenue Bridge across the Mississippi river. I had my Walkmen and heard the station sign on while I was crossing the Mississippi, and the first strains of The Ramones’ “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” came on, and I was like “Holy crap, we made something, and it’s out there now.”

Matt Shiv (WOXY):

Maybe it seems a little lame in 2017 to pick this song, but “Sunday Bloody Sunday” encapsulates the station. It was the very first song that played on the air when 97X was born over Labor Day weekend in 1983, and I still associate that track with our station every time I hear it.

Kurt St. Thomas (WFNX):

The first song played on WFNX was The Cure’s “Let’s Go To Bed.” I’m not sure the significance, other than they wanted to make a point saying, “Hey, we play music like the Cure.” The last song played on the station was also The Cure’s “Let’s Go To Bed.” It was a good way to close the door.

Jim McGuinn (Y100):

There is a history of Philadelphia alternative radio, and it’s all about “Alive” by Pearl Jam. It was the first song that WDRE played, which was the first real alternative station in Philly. It was also the last song WDRE played. So it was the last song Y100 played as well.

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