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FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio Paperback – September 25, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1979, the Ramones declared the end of the century. To many music insiders, this proclamation rang true: Rock and roll radio or free-form FM that allowed DJs to select music was dead, so there was no sense in dragging out the 20th century when it had already crested. Born after an FCC ruling in 1964, free form was never as "free" as it sounded. In this affably told history of music freaks vs. corporate monsters, Neer reveals that FM was a doomed marriage of commerce and creativity. In fact, FM was molded into a competitor of jingle- and single-heavy top-40 AM radio. Suddenly, there was pressure on musicians to craft quality albums (take the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), as DJs (like Murray the K) sometimes played entire sides to compensate for the lack of advertising. First a jock at an AM college station, Neer went on to land a program directorship at New York's WNEW-FM. His 30 years there inform the bulk of the narrative, though glimpses into the evolution of other New York and West Coast power stations are offered. Readers will get an inside, but not necessarily enthralling, view of the legendary station owners and managers, jocks and rock stars of the free form era. It's important that this story be told, but Neer's voice doesn't come across compellingly on paper.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Neer began his career in professional radio during that brief, shining moment in radio history between the late Sixties and early Seventies that saw the rise of FM and "free form" radio. Much like Michael Keith's collection of oral histories, Voices in the Purple Haze: Underground Radio and the Sixties (Praeger, 1997), this work is not a definitive overview of the birth of FM radio or of free-form radio itself but is rather an entertaining, informative memoir focusing primarily on the author's experiences at WNEW-FM in New York. (Related activity at other New York-area stations and at a few West Coast stations is discussed as well.) Brief accounts of appropriate historical background are included. The countless personal anecdotes and tricks of the trade more than make up for the uneven coverage and the confusing time sequencing of chapters. This book will undoubtedly be of great interest to those seeking to break into big-time radio, particularly alternative stations, as some things never change. For larger public libraries and academic libraries supporting broadcasting programs. Angela Weiler, SUNY at Morrisville Lib.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Villard (September 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812992652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812992656
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"Something of the Night" is Richard Neer's first work of fiction, following the success of "FM, the Rise and Fall of Rock Radio", (Villard 2001), the true story of how corporate interests destroyed a medium that millions grew up cherishing.

Neer has worked in important roles at two of the most prestigious and groundbreaking radio stations in history---the progressive rocker WNEW-FM for almost thirty years, and the nation's first full time sport talker, WFAN over the past twenty five. He currently is in the final stages of preparing his next novel, "The Master Builder", featuring the same protagonist.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By lb136 VINE VOICE on October 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the hours of 6:00-10:00 a.m. on Saturdays, the tumult and the shouting pauses on New York City's sports talk station WFAN. Host Richard Neer, known to his regular callers as "The Voice of Reason," is presiding, and sanity reigns, if only for a short while.
Of course, New Yorkers have been getting up with Mr. Neer for a long time. Before his present gig as a sports talk host, the author was affiliated with the legendary aor FM station, WNEW, and it's that station's story he tells here, in his usual understated fashion.
Neer was music director, program director, overnight jock, and did two stints as the morning man in his 28 years with the station (he stayed to turn out the lights) and in that time he knew and tells us about, such legendary jocks as Jonathan Schwartz, Bill (Rosko) Mercer, Scott Muni (who he seems to admire the most), and Alison Steele ("The Nightbird"). He also knows Bruce Springsteen and devotes a chapter to him, and another to the night John Lennon died. But the heart of the book deals with dumb station managers and dumber consultants. And it deals with them better than they probably deserve: As gracious on his pages as he is on the air, Neer deals fairly even with the people who've treated him poorly.
If you've been wondering why your favorite music station doesn't seem to sound quite the same as it did the week before, you may be quite sure it's changed program directors and/or general managers. Again. And Neer tells you how and why that keeps happening. (You won't be surprised to learn that ratings and profits something to do with the constant flux.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Allan M. Sniffen on October 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Richard Neer�s book �FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio� is a book I would recommend to anyone who has an interest in New York City's WNEW-FM and Progressive Rock Radio in general. It�s a big picture story, not a discussion of minutia. If you�re looking for a compendium of who worked when at WNEW-FM then this isn�t the place to find it. Instead, Neer�s purpose is to paint a picture of what he believes built WNEW-FM, what sustained it and what ultimately destroyed it. It is a book about the forest, not a book about the trees in it.
It basically has three parts. In the first, Neer talks about getting his first job in commercial radio at WLIR on Long Island, how he became lifelong friends with Michael Harrison (now of Talkers Magazine) and how he fell in love with WNEW-FM just by listening to it. He describes the station�s genesis from the remains of WOR-FM�s foray into Progressive Radio and how people like Scott Muni, Bill �Rosko� Mercer, and Allison Steele were visionaries in creating this new format. He acknowledges listening to Top 40 radio as a young child but claims the seed for its destruction was clear by 1965. He admires people like Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie but they�re not his heroes. People like Scott Muni are.
Neer very accurately describes the musical artistry of Progressive Radio as well as the circumstances that allowed that artistry to prosper. Stations like WNEW-FM came to be in an era of political unrest (the Vietnam War) where young people were looking for an alternative to anything �establishment� and the decidedly leftward politics of most everyone doing Progressive Radio further endeared it to its audience.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Brown on December 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book about the history of FM rock radio. I live in the New York metro area and grew up listening to WNEW (Richard Neer's station) and WPLJ (the biggest competitor). So many of the characters (mostly the DJs) were familiar to me. Richard Neer does a good job of intertwining his story with the larger story of the FM radio and rock music industries. He does tell us about many of the people of the industry and sometimes it is a little much to keep track of all. All-in-all recommended for anyone with any interest in rock music or the NYC radio scene.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anthony St James on September 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I lived through the era recalled by Mr. Neer in this book. As such, I especially enjoyed his asides regarding Zacherle (a personal favorite), Alison Steele, and Scott Muni. His thoughtful, low-key manner (which these days provides a welcome respite from the styles of most of his all-sports WFAN colleagues) translates well to book form. For a 350-plus page volume, this provided a surprisingly breezy and easy read. That said, I wouldn't recommend this tome to those who didn't live in the NYC area during the 70's, or are too young to recall the players involved here. But for those who lived it, this is an informative and welcome trip back to a time when most FM radio stations were infinitely more enjoyable (for the thoughtful music lover) than the unmitigated garbage that resides on that band today.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Slokes VINE VOICE on March 18, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you grew up like I did in the 1970s greater New York metro area, you will want to read Richard Neer's memoir of life at WNEW-FM during its hard-rock heyday just for the blasts of nostalgic recognition. Radio handles like "Rosko", "Scottso", and "The Nightbird" become vivid personalities, and you are reconnected to a time when people anxiously awaited the latest Moody Blues LP. But even without such attachments going in, you will find "FM" a pretty absorbing read on many levels.

First, there's the gossipy behind-the-scenes aspect, of discovering who didn't get along with whom among a group of high-profile radio disc jockeys to whom the big shots of the day, like Led Zeppelin and Elton John, came a-calling. They called WNEW the place "where rock lives" for a reason.

Then there's the aspect of WNEW-FM's place as an oasis of free-form radio while the medium was changing all around them, a period that ran roughly from just before Neer's arrival as a weekend jock in 1971 to the murder of John Lennon in 1980. The money still came in for a while after that, but as Neer writes, the dream was over.

Finally, there's the fact Neer is a sensible, candid observer of all around him, who can describe lovingly and at some length everything from his first broadcasting experience on college radio to his initial trepidation when cornered by Jonathan Schwartz, a velvet-throated rock-jock mainstay at the time. With a voice like that, Neer thought, Schwartz had to be gay.

"I would learn later that my fears were completely unfounded, and that Jonno went through women like [fellow WNEW legend Scott] Muni went through scotch.
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