As I write this, Boston’s iconic, trendsetting alternative rock station, WFNX 101.7 FM, is no more.
When the station went on the air in 1947 as WLYN, it broadcast a programming palate of simulcasting its sister AM station with the same callsign on AM 1360, then originated its own programming at night after the AM went off the air at sundown (an AM-FM combo broadcast standard until the mid-70s). Upon the convergence-birth of Los Angeles’ alternative rock station KROQ (the home of Rodney Bingenheimer; his career chronicled in The Mayor of the Sunset Strip) and MTV in the early ’80s, the station came to drop its variety-ethnic programming in 1981 and began experimenting with new wave music in the evenings.
By 1982, WLYN became known as “Y-102,” one of the first full-time new-wave rock stations in the country; a station sale in 1983 resulted in the format remaining, but birthing a new set of call letters — WFNX — until another station sale in 2012 to Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) resulted in an automated format flip to an “Adult Hits” and a new set of call letters: WBWL (a common practice — live to automation — in these digital times).
The first song WFNX played under its new, full-time alt-rock format was the Cure’s “Let’s Go to Bed.” In August of 1991, with buzz on the group in full effect, DJ Kurt St. Thomas gave the then commercially unknown Nirvana their world broadcast premiere of their new album, Nevermind, from start to finish — and we all know how that album turned out.
At that point, WFNX became a trendsetter of the alt-rock community, giving the first national airplay to the top-selling bands The Darkness, Franz Ferdinand, Florence and the Machine, Hawthorne Heights, and Jet, just to name a few. When the station when off the air in 2012, they went off with the song that started it all: the Cure’s “Let’s Go to Bed.” Nirvana’s first major, mainstream concert appearance beyond the college-rock club scene was for WFNX’s annual anniversary party in August 28, 1991.
To call St. Thomas — as do Beatles historians with New York DJ Murray the K as “The Fifth Beatle” — the “fourth Nirvana member” (or fifth, if you count the late addition of Pat Smear of the Germs as a second guitarist during the In Utero years), is no understatement.
By 1996 Kurt St. Thomas transitioned into filmmaking. Along with fellow WFNX DJ Mike Gioscia, they made the 1999 black and white film noir Captive Audience. The film dealt with the odd, symbiotic relationship between an overnight DJ and a gun-toting intruder at the station. Winning several international and domestic film awards, St. Thomas and Gioscia were encouraged to shoot a more adventurous feature production.
Recruiting John Doe of X (Border Radio) as their star, The Red Right Hand is a horror film that begins in 1963 as it follows five high school friends forced to relive a terrifying secret at their 15th high school reunion in 1978. Also released to video under the titles Above and Below and Jon’s Good Wife, the original title was taken from a Nick Cave song.
As with most of the Troma Entertainment catalog, don’t let the logos from The Asylum deter you from spinning the DVD, as the studio only distributed the film; they were not involved in its production.
Is it “The Creepiest movie since Rosemary Baby!” as the DVD box claims? No. And The Asylum marketing department has a lot of balls making us thing we’re getting a film that matches the majesty of Roman Polanski. However, St. Thomas and Mike Gioscia have crafted a solid mystery drama rife with blackmail, murder, private demons, and rattling bones: all the plot points you expect in a noir.
St. Thomas would later work at the KROQ, the L.A. rock station responsible for birthing WFNX; while there, he came to produce the long-running specialty show “Jonesy Jukebox” for Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle). He and John Doe are currently in post-production stages on their latest effort — and St. Thomas third feature film overall — D.O.A: The Movie, with co-star Lucinda Jenney, who we last saw in Rob Zombie’s 3 from Hell. A noir homage, it concerns Frank Bigelow (John Doe), a Florida private detective hired to follow the ne’er-do-well husband of a St. Augustine socialite. The spiraling double-crosses ensue.
Even though The Asylum made the VHS and DVD widely available in the marketplace — I’ve seen it numerous times on rental and retail shelves, cut-out bins and second hand stores — they’ve opted not to offer it as an online stream. There’s not even an online trailer or clips to share. But if you Google it, you’ll readily find VHS and DVD copies in the online marketplace.
We’ve since done a “John Doe Week” tribute in December! You can visit this recap/round up for those film reviews.