In late April, a nice guy named David reached out to me on Facebook. He introduced himself as the owner of Fantoons. I was very familiar with his company's work, and was delighted to chat, but I couldn't imagine why he'd be contacting me. Then he told me: Fantoons had been tasked with doing the official video for the Rush song "Spirit of Radio," on the 40th anniversary of Permanent Waves. It was envisioned as a tribute to radio, which had been so important to the guys in Rush when they were growing up; and of course, radio had played an essential role for the band later on, when I introduced "Working Man" to the WMMS audience in Cleveland in the spring of 1974.
But what surprised me was when he said he wanted to include me in the video, in cartoon form. I must admit I've never been in a cartoon before, nor did I ever expect to be. But the story of radio, the story of Rush, and the story of how various American radio personalities fell in love with their music, all told in animation, sounded like a fascinating project. And that is how I came to be in the video, along with some other wonderful folks who were also important to Rush's success. David told me he was worried that I wouldn't like how they drew my character, but I wasn't at all concerned. I figured that the folks at Fantoons were professionals; and however it looked, it was still an amazing opportunity. I mean, how many of us get to be in a music video-- as real people or as cartoons?
Since the video came out a few days ago, the response has been overwhelming and totally positive-- as I knew it would be. I've said on more than one occasion that Rush fans are like a big, extended family. The members of that family may differ in their politics, or their religious beliefs, or their hobbies, but the one thing that unites them is their love of the music of Rush. Since the band retired, and since the tragic passing of drummer Neil Peart, any new opportunity to discuss all things Rush is especially welcome. Thus, this video could not have come at a better time. Fans loved the song, they loved the animation, but above all, they loved getting together online to reminisce.
I've probably talked about the video with several hundred fans, thanks to social media; everyone seemed so grateful for that video, and it evoked a lot of memories. We remembered the times we saw the band live, the times we watched or listened to them being interviewed, the Rush-themed events we attended... And for a little while, in this very chaotic and uncertain time, there was nothing but kindness and friendship. And yes, there was "the freedom of music."
Sad to say, the great radio stations like the ones the members of Rush grew up with, and the ones where I introduced their music for the first time, are (for the most part) not what they used to be. Many are gone, victims of media consolidation. Many have changed formats and no longer play any music. Some do still play it, but only a very restricted playlist. And a few still keep that spirit alive, still broadcasting radio that is live and local, radio that is a companion for the audience. I miss being on the air. I miss breaking new artists. But I remain profoundly grateful that the Canadian band whose music I debuted in 1974 became my friends, and that the fans they inspired with their songs are still inspired (and inspiring a new generation of fans). I never expected any of it to happen. And yet, it did. And even now, the spirit of radio, and the love of Rush, live on.
I grew up in the DC area in the '70's-'80's when DC101 ruled! They introduced me to the "band of my life" when Spirit of Radio was on rotation. Back then, radio was practically the sole source for band news, tour dates, upcoming album release dates, etc. I too miss those simpler times.ReplyDelete
Love the post and all the positive feedback you've been getting. I just wanted to offer one clarification. The Radio personalities in the video include two appearances by David Marsden, Canadian Radio legend and member of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. David was the Program Director at CFNY 102.1 "The Spirit Of Radio" when Rush released the song and it was that station that inspired Neil Peart to write the lyrics. Originally that connection was kept secret so that other stations wouldn't have a reason not to air the song, but now it can be shared, as it should be. Hey, you can't have a Rush story without a Canadian connection, eh?
Hope you are well and thanks for sharing your story.
Of course! I guess I was just focusing on the US part of the story. I often discuss how a Canadian record promoter, Bob Roper, sent me the album in the first place-- a fact I mention in many interviews about how I first discovered Rush's music in early 1974. Meanwhile, I hope you will use your platform on social media to give Dave (a very good guy, btw) some appreciation. He deserves it!Delete
btw, I worked for David at CFNY in '84. It was a college co-op stint but I was there and one very awesome Saturday morning I got to be part of the "Jocks Off" Saturday programming where off-air staff would come in and host half an hour each and play whatever they wanted. I finished my little moment by playing The Spirit of Radio ON The Spirit of Radio and I even hit the first post without a clock!!! Talk about a moment. 36 years later it is still one of my proudest moments from my broadcasting career and that's saying something because I did some crazy stuff in my day. lol Oh, the stories we could tell, eh? Thanks for letting me share that one.Delete
Donna, First, thanks, for EVERYTHING! Second, what existing radio stations would you recommend?ReplyDelete
I find there are still some stations across the US that are live and local and play a wide range of tunes-- 91X in San Diego is a good example. There are also some good stations on satellite, and even a few college stations that are fighting the good fight!Delete
And there is 93.3 WMMR in Philadelphia! 52 years on the air as a rock station and they are all Rush fans...Delete
Donna, I've just watched it. I can only say: Awesome!!!ReplyDelete
When I watched the video for the first time I was thrilled to see your likeness included in the video. How do you feel about the way Fantoons portrayed yourself?
I was surprised at how they did it. I think they used some old photos. They didn't have me wearing a hat (which I asked them about-- I usually wore a cap, and the color always matched what I was wearing), but they did have me wearing headphones. I can't complain-- I thought it was kind of cute, actually.Delete
Donna. Politics and greed killed and homogenized radio. Bob Dole, after his many flights on the Clear Channel private jet, championed the bill that allowed large corporations to own many stations. This made all cities sound the same and gave more power to the record companies and radio stations, taking the creativity away from artists. And then the internet killed them all.ReplyDelete
Don't even get me started. There was a push from congress, as corporate donors cultivated various politicians and got what they paid for. It all began with Reagan agreeing to end the Fairness Doctrine in the early 80s; and things went downhill from there. Media consolidation cost many of us (including me) our jobs, when six giant conglomerates were allowed to buy up so many stations and eliminate the local talent to "save money." And the role of Clear Channel (and its ties to the Bush Administration) has been eloquently discussed by many writers, Eric Boehlert among them.Delete
Thank you for sharing the rest of the story! It was a much needed surprise. I thought they captured your spirit, and bright personality.Delete
Hi Donna, you look great in the video! WMMS in the 70's was as good as radio ever got. BTW I scored a Rush/Fly By Night 2 LP set that you had signed from an internet auction site. You wrote "sorry I broke this record", and the guy said he didn't understand as he claimed it wasn't broken! Guess he didn't know his Rush history. Ha! All good things to you, bbqReplyDelete