I don't know Stephen from Kitchener, but he just sent me a long but heartfelt and passionate email about his disdain for corporate radio and his disappointment in 102.1 The Edge.
It seems he did some Googling and came across my Edge 102 ~ CFNY category page. I think he read all 130 entries there.
Here are Stephen's thoughts. It's a fascinating read if you have 30 minutes.
Going to be somewhat of a long e-mail here. Name's Stephen, 24, from Kitchener. I've listened to radio for years, and while I would like to call myself a long time listener of The Edge, I really can't back that up. Sad to say my good musical tastes grew too late and by the time I started tuning in to CFNY, around 2003, its glory years were long past. Although one thing I can mention through reading your various articles and reading the Wikipedia page on the station – is that there are many generations of fans that "abandoned" the station every couple years to changes, etc. Everyone has a time when CFNY meant something to them, and then hated where it went, and gave up on it. However I feel I have come of the heels of the final "nail in the coffin" pertaining to CFNY's hey-days. I'm the generation that grew up with Bundell, Dye, and Bookie. I can never really call myself a big fan or listener of the station, because most of the time when I was 18/19 I listened to then new (in my area) DaveFM (which I have now grown to hate) and other stations. In recent years I've switched more to my own personal collection through an mp3 player. What radio used to have was a sense of community; everyone listening to a song at the same time around an entire city, and enjoying it. That is now lost on the iPod generation. It's good and bad in its own right. It was creepy last time I was in Toronto, I was stopped at a light and casually looking out my window to see an epidemic – almost every person that walked by on the sidewalk had earbuds. All tuned out in their own world with their own personal music tastes and playlists. This will be the death of radio in coming years, and I say that's fine with me.
Anyway, every year I usually check out The Edge's Top countdown for the year (in this case the Top 200 Songs of the Decade), and for whatever reason Martin Streek's death popped into my head again. I went to see if their memorial page was still up on the station's website, and it was. At least they didn't erase him that fast this time. I first heard of his death on the Dean Bundell show, and was pretty shocked. Of course as soon as I heard he was let go, I put two and two together quickly, although that will forever be up for debate (as to why he did it). I was too young to really experience anything relating to him (never really listened to his live shows), and also never lived in Toronto, but I did notice right away a different voice on the radio on Thursdays nights, and no 4:20 thought when Barry was supposed to be on. It would be wrong for me to say I listened to Streek a great deal, but today I really realized than damn, we lost a great personality.
So yesterday, I got largely derailed from other projects and spent a good six hours going through video clips, Wikipedia entries, news articles, and a lot of blog entries covering the subject. I originally found your Streek bits when he died, but today I found there was a lot more written about him and the Edge in general, so I got to reading. I found out a lot more today about him, the station, and also browsed other articles about the death of MuchMusic and TheNewMusic program (you know how one link always leads to another!), a show I vaguely remember being aired by MuchMoreMusic. I know I'm only 24, but my love for retro music started very early, moreover for Canadian artists that outside of Canada, are virtually unknown anywhere else. It really ticks me off more people don't know more about our music, because in this internet era bands get picked up on fast. Back in the 80s, this wasn't possible for bands like Rough Trade or Pukka Orchestra or Chalk Circle or Martha & The Muffins.
I read somewhere in the comments in one article that radio DJ's are never supposed to air the stations dirty laundry when it comes to the letting go of other DJ's. Like they are helpless, and can't say anything on the phone or in passing conversation to anyone. What tripe. There has been many times when I have suddenly discovered a morning show or people gone missing, and suddenly it's like they never existed! No one talks about it, no one replies, why can't radio just be honest? Talk about the departures. The Edge did celebrate Streek, but there was no reference that they fired him, and the casual radio listener would never know that. It really ticks me off because they kissed his ass on air, but did they actually defend him when they found out he got canned? Or did the other staff just brush it off as "business" not caring he was the last link to the old days? It's a farce, because if you as a DJ gain a fanbase in your area, people want to know what happened to you if you left. I say good luck in trying to keep peoples mouths shut now, in the age of Twitter and Facebook. I loved the juicy article on Barry Taylor's MySpace page (I miss him too). Man if there is one thing I hate, its how corporate radio has become. It's all about the mighty buck. I could rant on and on about this, but its true. I may have not even been alive when radio was actually "radio" and formats were free and it was about "the music", but I do know for sure there was such a time – when DJ's had a lot more say and stations weren't so geared to play "what was popular" or "run more ads" just to make some revenue. I don't know where my mails are, but I appreciate Alan Cross for being the only person at CFNY at the time to actually reply to my e-mails. He was Program Director back then, and I even bitched at him when the 102.1 The Edge's website got a major revamp and looked like every other radio site out there! It was days before I discovered pretty much every station around K-W, etc, is owned by the same damn company, Chorus, and it makes me sick because there is no individuality anymore. All stations have the same working and looking website, and I noticed each station boasted the same "back in two minutes" branding with their ads (which got so annoying after a while I just wish the DJ would stfu about it). It was enough to make me sick. Where do you run and hide when every station is controlled by the same higher power? If I ever do find those e-mails I'll forward them to you, as you seem to be the guy interested in such stuff.
I noticed the change when Winters came in. Oh man, you know how annoying it is when I drive to work, listen at work, drive home, drive to the mall, drive to bowling, etc, and I hear the same damn song all the time in one day! I remember days in a row where I would here the exact same promo featuring like five songs in three second segments (one of which would be the song they play next), and I always bet right what song that would play next. I grew to hate MGMT's "Kids" this way (they still overplay it!). I hated "Civil Twilight", and that new City & Color song, and several Linkin Park and Foo Fighter songs. I liked "Check My Brain" from Alice In Chains until they killed it. They completely left the first single, "A Looking In View" in the dust (7 mins long), and the third single is having a hard time because they keep playing "Check My Brain". Don't get me wrong, I like some new stuff and listen to The Edge in hopes of hearing something new I'll like (like the new 30 Seconds To Mars "Kings And Queens"), but at its peak, "Sex On Fire" from Kings Of Leon was being played more than seven times a day, and I e-mailed the Edge on it. I've mailed them several times about their playlists, never got a reply. When they made it "the 90s nooner", I thought this was a chance for them to play really "out there" stuff we hardly ever here – its almost the same damn songs I hear every two weeks! Much like the "oldschool lunch" on 91.5 The Beat, they repeat the same rap, r&b and disco tunes. Playlists are too skimpy these days (all stations), with older songs always being erased. And if your song wasn't a big "chart" topper it when it was big, chances are you'll never hear it again on radio (save for some exceptions). When I look at the old year end music lists from the 90s, some of the stuff you never heard anymore on The Edge! 1980's stuff these days on The Edge? Forgetaboutit. (Last time they played old stuff was when they did a Top something Canadian countdown). There was a time when that stuff was new and "the now", but now you hear some of that really old stuff on variety stations and such, deemed for much older audiences. A song like "High School Confidential" or "Echo Beach" or "Nova Heart" has a greater meaning and value being played on The Edge…when you hear it on some retro mix station with "softer" or more "mainstream" hits, it doesn't make the song even sound as edgy as it used to, compared to the rest of that other station's playlist. It loses its meaning. I hope you know what I mean. Some of The Edge's classic playlist is considered "retro 80s oldschool" for parties and such, not "ground breaking" and "new" like it was. And even now, those retro stations like DaveFM (who changed their format to all rock now, like we need another 35-55 demo rock station in these parts), don't even play a lot of 70s/80s Canadian songs anymore (because they aren't "rock")! There was an entire period from 2003 till 2008 when a lot of older Canadian stuff still got airplay (on a lot of stations not just DaveFM), and now I find the dates on some of my Canadian mp3's to be from a time when radio played (and I discovered) a lot of good music, because when I look at these files names, I realize NO station ANYWHERE is playing this stuff anymore. Its long forgotten, save for Youtube.
I laughed when I read Barry got in shit for "talking too much about music". Are you serious? It's a radio station! And of course I was appalled to see "Top 40 with Grunge" mentioned. As if The Edge only ever played stuff past 1990…well now I guess that is true…as they almost never play stuff from the 1980s. By 2010 standards the 80s are as ancient as the 70s, leaving the 90s and early 00s to nostalgia over. The same thing happened to 91.5 The Beat here. It started off as a real R&B rap station, but after that "didn't work", they went to Top 40 shit. I really wonder who is to blame. The corporate companies, or the brain dead young kids these days that really don't know shit about GOOD music. I'm so glad I strayed from the "pack" at an early age…then again, I still think pop music from my day was better then the auto-tune no talent hacks of today. The Edge has lost its identity, and the current company is succeeding in making it another mindless station that will please "casual" fans of radio. It is conforming to "the system" it once rebelled against. I wtf'ed when I first heard AC/DC and Guns N Roses for the first time earlier last year. Seriously? Old rock and hair metal? This isn't 107.9. And even IF The Edge plays a lot of Canadian talent, its overshadowed by mega popular bands like Green Day, Linkin Park, and Foo Fighters. We will hear these bands forever until the day we die, lets hear something else! I keep finding old CFNY CD's from the 90s at Value Village, I wonder if I should have picked them up now! So I can learn more about what the station was back then.
When Fearless Fred came in and I saw Bookie get bumped to late nights, and considering how long Bookie has been there, I would not be surprised if he was handed an envelop too. Such a cold way of doing it, too. Like for Streek – 25 years, no goodbye party, just "fuck you", you're on your own. I can't stand Fearless Fred's voice. He sounds scatterbrained, cocky, childish and I agree with people calling him the poster boy for the literal and figurative death of quality radio. I had a good laugh that you and I shared the exact same mind on who he sounded like – the stoner/slacker character Jude from 6Teen. I sometimes forget its Fred and think it's that character's voice actor. Fred himself does not have a good voice for radio. Some are made for this profession, others are not. I cringe listening to him, but I have no other good radio anywhere else, save for Conestoga College 88.3, but for a year now their reception has been garbage even in local areas and I don't know why. To quote someone in the comments, "Terrestrial radio in North America (and maybe elsewhere too) has for decades been on a path to commercialization, homogenization, calcification, whatever descriptor you like." That is so terribly depressing. Radio once meant so much to one generation, and now it just means "sell-sell-sell" more products. 102.1 The Edge really needs a spin-off station for its older fans. I believe something of that nature would do well considering the large CFNY fanbase.
Mr. Taylor says that he and Mr. Streek made it clear around the office and on the air that they were not happy with the decreasing diversity of the music they were being asked to play. It was a long way from the mid-eighties, when, under Mr. Marsden, listeners were promised $1,002 if they noticed the same song being played more than once in 24 hours. The official limit now is 7 times in 24 hours.
Wow, compared to how it is now, this seems so unreal. Back in the days before online listings too!
From what I've gathered on Streek, he was very passionate about his work and I'm sure thought he would spend all of his days at The Edge. I could not believe he got a tattoo of them on his glute. Some people may deny the fact his taking his own life was solely related to his job, but damnit, I believe a good portion of it was. Could you imagine, during a worldwide recession, at a job you had for 25 years where you thought you had job security and were "up in the totem pole", you get let go just like that? Not even a heartfelt goodbye, just gone. Erased from the website and memory and kicked in the ass. "We got what we wanted out of you for 25 years, now you don't fit the bill for the current times, see ya!" *door slam*. I bet he file horrible, like no one even cared or acknowledged his years of service, a job he had right out of high school. Suddenly at 45 you are left without an income.
"You're the only person who ever interviewed me for a job," he said. "I don't know how to interview for a job."
Poor guy. And he was still active, even up to the point of his "demo". I wish I knew what went on in his head in those two months. As you stated, "his state of mind had him convinced he'd be better off dead. At the end of the day, this is the shittiest fact of all." Too true.
In closing, I'd like to mention after reading all of what I read, I have a real dislike for Ross Winters. And I was actually surprised he replied back to me in July when I ranted a long e-mail to him about Steeks death. I went on to say I was pissed they let go two great DJ's, and straight out said he took his own life because he got canned, and asked if he meant anything to "you people". I told him you should feel ashamed, and honestly said with the downfall of terrestrial radio, I only listened to the Edge for its morning show. It is true, after getting fed up with local stations and this station, since April 2009 the shop I work in has switched over to my iPod, and its a lot more satisfying making a playlist for the shop putting on songs people want to hear (uncut and uncensored too). I stated I wouldn't listen anymore after Streeks suicide, but I admit I still do, but hardly as much as I used to. I stated the quality of the station had been going down for years, and went worst when Cross left. I also mentioned he was getting rid of DJ's because they were too old and said I bet Bookie is next, but I could be wrong on that one. I said I may have considered a career in radio but after seeing the bullshit The Edge became, I'd reconsider. It's all about turning a profit, not about the music, etc. And after these events, seeing your station as a cold, heartless place that does not give two shits about their important employees. What he said:
Hi Steve, thanks for your email, you make a lot of comments on things that you really don't know about, and unfortunately I can't comment on everything. This is a very tough week at the edge. You can bet that the edge cares deeply about its people.
I don't know how much of that he made up, or how much is heartfelt, after reading everything I have read. Keep up the great work on your blog!
If you have something you want to get off your chest, send it to me at mike (at) torontomike.com and with your permission I'll post it on your behalf... assuming it's from the heart. Thanks, Stephen, for sharing.