Radio Free Boston

The Rise and Fall of WBCN

Carter Alan

Blaring the Cream anthem “I Feel Free,” WBCN went on the air in March 1968 as an experiment in free-form rock on the fledgling FM radio band. It broadcast its final song, Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” in August 2009. In between, WBCN became the musical, cultural, and political voice of the young people of Boston and New England, sustaining a vibrant local music scene that launched such artists as the J. Geils Band, Aerosmith, James Taylor, Boston, the Cars, and the Dropkick Murphys, as well as paving the way for Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, U2, and many others. Along the way, WBCN both pioneered and defined progressive rock radio, the dominant format for a generation of listeners. Brilliantly told by Carter Alan—and featuring the voices of station insiders and the artists they loved—Radio Free Boston is the story of a city; of artistic freedom, of music and politics and identity; and of the cultural, technological, and financial forces that killed rock radio.

Paper: $25.95 | E-book: $24.95
ISBN-13: 9781555537296
Pages: 352 | Size: 6.25 in. x 9.25 in.
Date Published: September 3, 2013


  • From the first note of Cream’s "I Feel Free" carried by the FM signal at 104.1 in 1968 to the final note of Pink Floyd’s "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" bringing the story to a close in 2009, Alan traces the station’s wild ride from its roots as a foundering classical music operation (WBCN stood for Boston Concert Network and employed a young Ron Della Chiesa), to its evolution into a free-form, counterculture outpost, and finally to a tightly controlled, corporate enterprise with two of its most popular, and controversial, shows emanating out of New York City. . . . The fairy tale of WBCN may not have had a happy ending, but Alan tells it with the kind of flair that does its original free-form spirit proud.

    Boston Globe
  • Incredibly well researched, deeply interviewed, and as close to being ‘down the middle’ as is possible for a writer who was involved in much of the action.

    Arts Fuse
  • Carter Alan remembers the first song he played on WBCN, "I’ve Had Enough" by The Who, from "Quadrophenia." The former ’BCN DJ and current midday man and music director at WZLX remembers much more in his recently released and thoroughly engrossing chronicle, Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN.

    Boston Globe
  • Alan’s book traces WBCN’s unassuming birth from the ashes of a classical music station in 1968, through its heyday as the ‘Rock of Boston’ in the ‘70s and ‘80s, to its demise in 2009, when, Alan writes, the station was ‘drained of its blood in the consolidated radio industry of the new century.’ To recount the story, Alan interviewed most every personality involved and willing to speak on the record.

    Boston Globe
  • WBCN-four letters that made a big difference to our U and our 2. . . . Without them taking risks on new music, I’m not sure the U2 story would have been the same.


About the Author

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