The ’60s and the the ’70s were formative years for many of us. A must-see film recently illuminated these decades through the lens of the story of WBCN, a.k.a. The American Revolution.
Perhaps I need to point out a couple of facts—one here, one in the final paragraph below. In the seminal year of 1968 I was a college junior. I wasn’t a WBCN listener, although I was very much aware of it, mostly because some of my friends and at least one roommate listened to it. Bill Lichtenstein’s film manages the tricky task of integrating the politics and culture of the day with the technical details of how a radio station was created on a shoestring budget.
I kept expecting to see some of my friends in the shots from 1968 and 1969—no, not that kind of shots, I mean photographic shots—but I didn’t, even in the scenes from the famous Harvard protests and occupation. The closest I came was in the interviews with figures like Danny Schechter (the “News Dissector”) and Michael Ansara—no, not that Michael Ansara, I mean the SDS leader.
What we have here is a magnificent documentary about a radio station, artfully intertwined with a study of what the ’60s were all about. (As I’m sure you know, when we talk about the ’60s, we don’t mean 1960–1969 but 1964–1975 or thereabouts.) If you were alive then, watch this film! If you weren’t yet alive then, watch this film!
The other fact that I promised above is this: in a sense I was in the ’60s but not of the ’60s. Technically I lied when I said I didn’t listen to WBCN, for I did listen to it back when it was “Boston Concert Network,” playing classical music rather than the rock-and-roll that it later became famous for. I was never in the counterculture, though some of my good friends were. I suppose I was on the outside looking in. Do I regret that? No, not really. The ’60s and early ’70s were still a formative time for me, even if I was mostly a bystander.