Anyone who grew up on the music of the 80’s at the dawn of the MTV age were also exposed to another musical phenomenon taking place on the radio. Just outside of New York City, at a small, Long Island radio station with the call letters WLIR, many of the biggest artists from the last 35 years received their first exposure to American audience, solidifying its place as the most influential radio station in the country. In Dare To Be Different, which premiered last month at the Tribeca Film Festival, viewers are taken on a post-punk, rock and new wave musical stroll through memory lane with interviews that include many of the artists that received their first American airplay on 92.7 WLIR.
In addition to the many testimonials by the artists that were staples of WLIR during the stations mid-80’s heyday, Dare To Be Different is a lively look at the era in general. Interviews with station’s colorful radio personalities are included as well as many, many interviews with WLIR listeners who discuss in candid detail how much of their lives revolved around the radio station, many admitting that they were shocked and saddened when the station abruptly went off the air due to a long ago court decision. This is what brings a certain amount of humanity to the documentary which, nevertheless, is still packed with a lot of great music from the era.
The list of firsts is really a who’s who of music tastemakers WLIR helped break. Billy Idol, Duran Duran, Joan Jett are among the artists the station first broke, plus they were the first to play Madonna, Billy Idol, Prince and U2 (where the documentary discovers audio of the band performing at a small club on Long Island praising the station as being the first station in America to play their music, pre-Joshua Tree). Many of the artists discuss the impact the station would have on their careers and music in general. Besides the music, the documentary outlines how station employees literally had to go to JFK Airport to pick up the albums of these unknown artists being shipped in boxes, then being played on the radio literally that same day. The station became so influential, music executives in New York City would tune their radios to 92.7 (if they could receive a clear signal) and listen to the music the station played, then partially develop their A&R and promotion strategy around the artists the station played. Clearly, 92.7 had as much of an impact on music and the culture (at least on Long Island) than MTV.
Dare To Be Different is a fun, musical documentary that will resonate with music fans, especially fans of 80’s music. Even if you’ve never been to Long Island, you’ll love the interviews with die-hard WLIR fans who share their personal stories about going to the premier Long Island clubs of the time, all of whom had relationships with WLIR, plus the staggering amount of 80’s music serving at it’s score will keep you very much entertained throughout the entire 90 minutes. It pays to be different.
READ OTHER TRIBECA FILM REVIEWS:
- Whitney Can I Be Me
- Clive Davis The Soundtrack To Our Lives