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Counterpunch

KNAC's Final Fade to Black

March 06, 1995|MICHAEL WOLFFE | Michael Wolffe lives in West Los Angeles and works as a news editor for a media relations wire service

KNAC is dead. Long live KNAC.

At 1:59 p.m. on Feb. 15, 1995, I was sitting in my chair at work, eyes glued to the stereo on my desk, straining to hear the dying words of a radio station. 105.5 KNAC-FM, the call letters of my youth and the soundtrack to my innocence, was going off the air (Morning Report, Calendar, Feb. 17).

The end was no surprise; the sale of the station had been announced months earlier. But it made the farewell no easier to stomach. As the last song faded and the new format began just seconds later, my nearest co-worker teasingly rejoiced at KNAC's demise until he saw that I was sincerely upset. "This station used to be my world," I explained.

KNAC went on the air in 1986 with a format of heavy metal and nothing but. I was a sophomore in high school, weaned on my older brother's Led Zeppelin and Doors records. One day a friend mentioned a cool new station down at the right end of the dial, and the rest was history. KNAC became my station. Metallica and Anthrax, KNAC staples long before they broke into the national Top 40, became my bands. I put a KNAC sticker on my car. (I had to use tape because my dad wouldn't let me stick it on the glass.) I wore my KNAC T-shirt proudly. I met the deejays at in-store appearances and clubs. I got on the air several times over the years with the station's ever-popular "KNAC kicks ass" promos.

When I went to the big-time metal concerts--Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Guns N' Roses, the legendary Monsters of Rock show--the KNAC van was always parked out front.

*

I wasn't the biggest KNAC fan, nor the most loyal. As my college years came to a close, my listening time diminished, until checking 105.5 for a good song was often an afterthought. But it always remained in my heart as a nostalgic reminder of my adolescence, and its preset button on my car radio was never in danger. Likewise, when I bought a new car a few years ago, the first batch of stickers to go up (no tape required this time) included a shiny new black-and-white from KNAC.

After I heard about the station's sale, and impending format change, I began to tune in regularly again, knowing each time that the end was that much nearer. During its last few months of life KNAC seemed revivified, determined to go out with a bang. Accordingly, I was treated to a smorgasbord of heavy metal "golden oldies" from the '80s, bands I hadn't heard in years, such as Accept, W.A.S.P. and Dio. This was great stuff, and I would miss it.

Then, inevitably, came those final moments as I sat at my desk at work, listening to the same radio I had kept in my bedroom back in high school. The last song, "Fade to Black," was the perfect goodby--the Metallica song had been played during KNAC's first hour nine years earlier, and Metallica more than any other band epitomized the KNAC lifestyle.

After the final notes died away, a deep-toned voice announced, "This is KNAC, Long Beach, Los Angeles. KNAC's Pure Rock is now signing off. Thanks for your support. You have been the greatest." Fade to black.

All is not lost. Many of the bands KNAC played are being played elsewhere, from the traditional hard rock of AC/DC and Van Halen through the grunge of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains to the new wave of punk from Offspring and Green Day. Veteran KNAC deejay Tawn Mastrey can be heard on KLSX, Long Paul on KLOS. But KNAC itself, the underdog from Long Beach with the perennially weak signal, the proud bastion of long hair and bad manners, the station with the call letters known around the world, is dead.

R.I.P., KNAC. We love you.

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