Review: "There's Nothing Louder Than Dead Air"


Anyone remotely interested in FM rock radio should give this a read. There's only three real cons to speak of that make me rate this 4 stars instead of five (I would have given it 4 and a half if Goodreads let me), so I'll get them out of the way first:

1. Blade is a DJ by trade, not a writer. This isn't to say the writing's bad (it most certainly isn't), but the chronology does tend to jump around a bit.
2. Very little time is devoted to the WQDR year; I agree with Blade that it is probably the best station that ever existed in central North Carolina and just wanted to hear more.
3. He gives high marks to Bob Dumas who is, was, and remains a complete hack; his modern shock-jock persona doesn't hold much water when I remember his "hey, call in and tell us what kind of halloween candy is YOUR favorite!" guy-and-hole show from the mid-90s, or his "just two guys" format of the early 90s. Yes, I despise Bob and his stupid Showgram just that much.

With that out of the way, this memoir effectively tells two stories: that of Blade's ascent from college radio to one of the more memorable DJs in central North Carolina at WQDR and WRDU when rock radio peaked, and the story of how terrestrial radio rose and fell into the sad, sorry state it is in now. The first story has some real pathos to it (the story of Blade's father and brother are just heartbreaking), but also some hilarious highlights that range from the almost-cliche (DJ locks himself out of the studio while getting stoned) to the sort of hilarious-in-hindsight shameful decadence that only someone with constant access to booze, drugs, beautiful women, and bands ever gets to enjoy.

The second story is heartbreaking in a different way. Blade was there for the rise and fall of FM radio as an art form (and make no mistake, at it's best it was just that) from the trailblazing free-form AOR of WQDR (perhaps the only station in North Carolina to ever play something like "Friends of Mr. Cairo" during afternoon drive), to the somewhat-safer early WRDU, all the way through WRDU's Clear Channel-orchestrated death spiral and one of the best ways anyone has ever publically quit their job.

If you want to know what it was like being there, read this book. Blade is one of the last of a dying breed who have been forced off the air in favor of jukeboxes you can't control and has a story worth telling. As far as I'm concerned, the end of Blade's time at WRDU and the firing of Jim Ladd several years later were the last two nails in the coffin.

-Matt Sides 

Review: "There's Nothing Louder Than Dead Air"