WBUR

WFNX Remembered: A Final ‘Brody Beat’

Editor’s note: For 13 years, WBUR host Sharon Brody worked at WFNX-FM. With word that WFNX has been sold, she offers this personal reflection on the independent rock station.

Is it the end of the world as we know it? No.

(Sharon Brody/WBUR)

Do I feel fine? Not remotely.

WFNX has been sold to Clear Channel, adding another nail to the nail-riddled coffin of independent commercial radio.

But this isn’t just any ol’ alternative music radio station going under. This is my WFNX.

WFNX was my womb, my church, my club, my asylum.

What do I do with the memories wrapped up in a crazy life that no longer exists? Same as we all do when we stare at, say, the parking lot that used to be our childhood home: We reminisce our way back into what used to be.

The hollowness I feel now at the demise of WFNX is a reflection of the depth of emotion generated by the radio station/lifestyle/friendship-incubator/creativity mill/roller coaster/grad school that was WFNX in its most influential years.

WFNX was not governed by ratings — we had none. We were not ruled by money — we had none. We could pretty much do anything we wanted, and we did.

But let me not navel-gaze. My feelings are chicken feed compared to the passion felt by fans back in the day. Hordes of people would twist and turn their radios and antennas to wacky angles just to try to get that 3,000-watt signal of bliss. Hordes of people would show up, of course, at the epic concerts. But hordes of people also flocked to the dinkiest and most farflung station promotions to get nothing but a bumper sticker and a smile. These were some pretty damned loyal hordes.

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t meet folks swearing that if it weren’t for WFNX they could not have made it through high school. They say they felt saved by the mere awareness that somewhere in this difficult world they had kindred spirits tuned in to 101.7.

Take that, Arbitron. Try buying that, Clear Channel.

I worked at WFNX in one way or another from 1984 to 1997. On my first day, I thought I’d never go back. The commute was rotten, I doubted this position really made sense in my grand plan to write award-winning novels, the station equipment was archaic and malfunctioning, and fergawdsakes the building itself was not only breathtakingly decrepit but also smack dab in the dreary center of Lynn Lynn city of sin.

By my second day, I was hooked. It was like being in a Mickey Rooney movie — let’s put on a show! in the barn! — only with way more scenes of other characters smoking pot on the roof and watching punk bands rip the vinyl couch to shreds with pocket knives.

My job titles included news director, features editor, morning drive news anchor, essayist, feature reporter and more. But never mind titles. My role was nerd. I will never pretend I was one of the cool kids at the coolest music hangout in town. No rewriting history. I was square, through and through. Apparently, I also was just odd enough that I fit in, in spite of myself.

And pretty much from the start, I loved the place. Oh, I wailed over the lack of pay and the lack of benefits and the lack of hot water in the bathroom sink. But kvetching is my hobby. A kvetcher kvetches. Even then, I knew the freedom we had was a rare and beautiful treat. WFNX was not governed by ratings — we had none. We were not ruled by money — we had none. We could pretty much do anything we wanted, and we did.

For me, that freedom meant launching a daily interlude called “The Brody Beat.” Social commentary, obscure news explorations, unhinged meanderings, political rants, juxtopository thrills and nonsense. I figured I’d mess with that for a while and move on. Thirteen years later, I got to the part about moving on.

Moving on is one thing; it turns out escape is not an option. Even now, after all these years, it’s not uncommon for somebody I’ve just met to squint at me and ask, “Wait… Sharon Brody? Of the ‘BRODY BEAT’? No freaking way.”

Every freaking way, indeed. And I mention that as a testament to the hold of WFNX on its audience. People listened so often, and so closely, with such devotion and joy, that to this day they can quote to me actual lines I tossed off and forgot long ago. It’s scary, almost.

As the failed novelist I cheerfully am, I think I’ll wrap my memories around a literary conceit. WFNX was the little engine that could. Chugging up the mountain with the mantra of “I think I can I think I can I think I can.” And now that the final page has turned, we hear the echoing song of “I thought I could I thought I could I thought I could.” And you know those good little boys and girls on the other side? We delivered them some awesome s***.

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  • J__o__h__n

    WBUR should bring back the Brody Beat.  I really enjoyed it. 

  • Smiclops

    The last man standing has fallen. In the words of Jack Bauer: DAMMIT!!!!! Die clear channel……just die already

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5EUG56QZCONSY7NZTFUY3VJM5M Susan

     Beautiful piece. You got it exactly right. I got teary reading it.

  • linderrrrr

    you hit the nail on the head – from one FNX alum to another – you took so many words out of my mouth, but articulated them better than I ever could

  • BruceMcD

    Every “reflective” news article I’ve seen on the WFNX sale has been
    written by someone young enough to be my frickin’ kid. Until now. My
    former WFNX colleague, the immortal Sharon Brody, goes all pitch-perfect on their, err, tails…

  • ruby

     

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    -So eloquently put from one WFNXer to
    another.  Forget about the pay, it was the friendship, the kindred spirits
    who understood the music and lifestyle we all lived.  We all got it and the listener’s of Boston
    and all the artists that walked those hallowed halls did too…

  • Roubina Surenian

    So eloquently put from one WFNXer to
    another.  Forget about the pay, it was the friendship, the kindred spirits
    who understood the music and lifestyle we all lived.  We all got it and the listener’s of Boston
    and all the artists that walked those hallowed halls did too…

  • Wymer

    Stands. Applauds. Smiles.
    See you at the Irish wake we’re throwing, SharBro.

  • Joelle Hochman

    Bring back the Brody Beat!!!!!

  • MG

    Fantastic Sharon! The drones at clear channel can have their money but they’ll never have the cache that was FNX. Thanks for having it, and thanks for sharing it.

  • Lcarl

    Funny, pungent, spot-on, irreverent and chill-bump-inducing with nary a hint of special pleading. Perfection, Sharon Brody.  Let’s hear more from you!

  • Marc “Dark” Alghini

    You were the first nerd I ever met, I miss you!!

  • Boy Troy

    Here’s to Sharon Brody, the most wonderfully brilliant and passionate of all the voices that echo in those hallowed halls, and the undeniable leader of every single one of us nerds who thought they were cool.

  • Francesbarrie

    And we certainly did what we wanted….there is so much to be said for living under the radar. Thanks to WFNX, I met you, my friend, and for that I am truly blessed. Fantastic essay as always!  I do love the idea of the Brody Beat being revived on WBUR…..that would make so many people smile.

  • CKennedy1

    Perfectly stated Sharon!  You’ve echoed the sentiments of all of us former FNXers.  That’s why I loved listening to you in the past and still love listening to you.  You were one of the folks who made FNX special (and now WBUR).  Thank you.

  • Tony Vitale

    I was one of those announcers who was pleased to play “The Brody Beat” as part of my airshift.  I never wondered or worried before I hit the play button; I knew that it would be interesting and exciting.

  • Wes Junior

    Sharon Brody was the conscience of WFNX.  No one cared and fretted as much about every second of airtime. She was always prepared and ready when it was time to “Go!” She single-handedly staffed a news department covering crucial current events and providing election coverage.  Election coverage!  At a rock station!  And it was prescient.  And accurate.  It mattered to her.  And she communicated that passion to the ‘FNX listener.  She’s underutilized at WBUR.  

  • Cbriggs23

    Sharon, this is so moving and funny and poignant. I’m tearing up. You have always been a beautiful and pithy writer. And you nailed it. Thank you for giving me my first radio job at ‘FNX. Thank you for mentoring me and teaching me how to cut and splice in 1986! I think you need to transcribe your Brody Beats into a collection of essays, and there’s your book. Or write/voice the narrative for the documentary that’s being made.
    Brava. Admiring you always, Carolyn.

  • Varjak

    That’s why I love whenever I hear your name on WBUR I think of WFNX!

  • Tylerico Stickolini

    Oh yes Sharon, once again you’ve turned words into pictures.  You challenged me and made me laugh and scowled at me and made me think, and most of all, you helped me build a home.  And everyone’s else’s story is a little different, but we all agree, having the Brody Beat on WBUR would mean that the seed you planted at FNX was valid and thoughtful and reflected your unique view of the world, the nation, Boston, and the people next to you on Storrow Drive, stuck in traffic.  Sha-Bro, you’re a Boston treasure.  So don’t ever leave.  FNX was our playground.  Now we’re all grown up.

  • M.A. Ed MGT

    Sha-Bro.  Yes, the Brody Beat ought to turn up on BUR, because the unique view on the world that you have is a need tonic for us troops.  You’re a quirky girl, and one who one day, made me laugh so hard I thought I would pass a lung.  It was a fake Molson commercial we were recording, and I had an image of it in my head.  But you took that idea and brought it to life in a way that cracked me up beyond words.  In your article here, you’ve turned words into pictures, capturing that insane slice of life known as FNX.  Toil on, oh radio survivor, and do it for all of us who dug your humor, and for those who never knew it before, but can find it now with an open heart and mind.
    Hey, you’re on the radio lady, that’s mighty cool.

  • Alex

    FNX–it was radio, RADIO, dammit. The kind of radio that is now dead, long before Clear Channel even thought about killing it. It was there before the Internet, and Soundhound, and Pandora, and iPods. It was *interesting*–it was fascinating. It wasn’t a program, it wasn’t a playlist, it was PEOPLE playing cool stuff, and…

    I was there. Not at the station, on the other end of the airwaves. I knew exactly at what part of my drive the signal would fade in and out, and when I crossed that imaginary line, I was there.

    We were there.

    And thank you, Sharon, for being there.

  • Caryn H.

    What a great snapshot of a truly great, trailblazing time. You brought me (and no doubt countless others) right back into the wonderful thick of it all. Thanks Sharon!

  • m.c.

    Thank you Sha-bro. An entire generation of north shore kids grew up with WFNX. This is a tough day for many. May you continue to get many more “No Freaking Ways.”

  • Abigail Beshkin

    WFNX introduced me to Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, The 10,000 Maniacs, and, of course, Depeche Mode. I especially loved the Brody Beat, because it made me feel so grown up and in-the-know. In fact, the Brody Beat is the first place I ever heard the phrase “going to hell in a hand basket,” and as a teenager, I thought it was hilarious. The fact that I, almost 20 years later, got to WORK with Sharon—let alone count her among my friends— still blows my mind!

  • FNXer

    Great piece. I was an FNXer for several years and its great to hear the stories from friends, but also from people whom I never met, but can so closely relate to.

  • MarcDarksBroIL

    Beautiful. Loved FNX back in the day. –Marc Dark’s brother-in-law and Bostonian back in the day.

  • Michael Scannell

    loved you then,  love you still… Sad at our loss

    Your Co-worker, friend and fan!

    .Michael Scannell
    WFNX feature Writer
    WBCN
    Sound Investment Studios
    WGBH
    Planetran
    Silk Purse Ventures

    FNX built Careers!

  • Bowser

    A fitting eulogy, ShaBro. Thanks for being you!

  • Mark Nickerson, East Lyme, CT

    First WBCN goes…and now FNX?  This Bostonian living in Connecticut has very few reasons to ever go back.  

  • Jonesy

    Great piece. The Brody Beat was one of my favorite features. That and the antenna acrobatics every year when I changed dorm rooms. 

  • Barbara

    please write the book Sharon.  I’ll buy it!

  • Writhand Py

    Clear Channel? CLEAR CHANNEL?

  • http://twitter.com/sullivanbc Brian Sullivan

    I found WFNX in the early 90s. Sometimes my ability to listen was dependent on the weather. I discovered some great music and culture through FNX. Thanks Brody and your colleagues from Lynn! 

  • Linda Twiss Gioscia

    A great tribute to a great station, well said, Sharon!  The ‘staring at the parking lot that used to be our childhood home’ got me choked up! 

  • Mimiroughton

    Someone below mentioned that Sharon Brody should write a book on the subject of WFNX.  I second that!

  • Jen Strong

    The first time I heard you on ‘BUR, I thought your voice sounded familiar, and then you gave your name and I thought, “OMG!!  It’s Sharon Brody of The Brody Beat!!!”  Now every time I hear you on ‘BUR I think, “I remember when she was ‘FNX.”

    I never got to any of the station promos or concerts or called in, but I loved WFNX all the same.  Whenever I see a car with an ‘FNX bumper I smile and feel a kinship to the car’s owner.  And, yes, I was one of those people who was thankful I had WFNX during high school.

  • Ava

    I loved ‘FNX and I was a huge fan of The Brody Beat.  Like other commenters here I would be thrilled if Ms. Brody were able to bring it back on the air. I would even become a regular, rather than a sporadic, contributor to WBUR.  Barring that, a book about WFNX’s heyday would be really welcome.

  • Litekeep

    I am sad about FNX.  SharBro, you rocked at FNX because you were just like them, different!  You got it!!  You belonged.  Thank you and all your friends. 

    Today, besides WBUR, I listened to
    FNX because it mattered.  Now it will be gone.  That’s just sad.  As a kid who grew up on Long Island and moved from LIR land to Phoenix Radio,  it was so good.  And now both are gone.  So sad.

    But I have to say,  the frequency goes
    to Clear Channel?  Really?  That is so ironic.  Its like Jesus selling out to
    Judas…  I’m left scratching my head.

  • Clyde Outlaw

    Worse, he sold it after WFNX existed for 29 years and 3 months, which is a round numbers violation. WFNX should be forced to stay on the air until April 11, 2013 to make it a clean 30 years and fulfill a mitzva.

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