THE SPIRIT REUNION 2003 with Craig Beesack , Don Berns , Alan Cross , Ivar Hamilton , "Deadly" Hedley Jones , Scot Turner , the Pukka Orchestra , Nash the Slash , the Spoons , Images In Vogue , Martha and the Muffins , the Extras and Carole Pope & Kevan Staples at the Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay East), Wednesday (November 12), $65.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
it's hard to believe now, but there was a time when the Police, Depeche Mode and Duran Duran were considered too radical for broadcast on commercial radio in Toronto. That's where CFNY 102.1FM came in.
Back when all the other radio stations were playing Styx, Loverboy, Heart, Phil Collins and Toto (Do you hear me, Jack FM?), CFNY was turning then cutting-edge artists like the Talking Heads, the B-52s and Simple Minds, along with CanCon threats like Martha and the Muffins and the Spoons, into credible pop stars.
It was a programming philosophy governed by the individual tastes of the DJs rather than by focus groups.
"When we were playing all that music, everyone else who wasn't involved kept telling me that nobody wanted to hear it," recalls former director of operations David Marsden, who along with iconic DJ Don "Dr. Trance" Berns dreamed up this Wednesday's Spirit Of Radio Reunion at the Kool Haus.
"Now they tell me it's great. Either they were behind or we were ahead."
Marsden and Berns are just a few of the blast-from-the-past personalities appearing at the 80s nostalgia-fest, which brings together former on-air talent like Ivar Hamilton and reggae host "Deadly" Hedley Jones with period artists including Nash the Slash, Pukka Orchestra, Images in Vogue and the Extras whose tunes fit perfectly with the current back-to-the-80s trend.
The reunion may be timely, but Marsden insists it isn't an opportunistic cash-in, but merely a happy coincidence.
"Everything moves in cycles. Everything we were affected by during that high school period endures. It's related to so many firsts - the first time you got laid, the first time you smoked, your first joint, your first drink. Anything you're attached to during that time remains. And because music can stay in your head and doesn't have to be moved around in a truck, it's even more long-lasting."
He says the reunion was originally intended as a get-together for former staff and talent, but his determination to involve listeners - a mandate he's carried over from his time at CFNY - caused the event to snowball into a large-scale hoedown.
The maverick spirit hasn't left Marsden.
"I'm back on the air now (on The Rock 94.9), and the intent is the same - to do things nobody else is doing. You accomplish that by keeping aware of what's going on around you, having the ability to test the pulse of the city. For me, it's always about being curious. I don't ever wanna be a McPerson."