When Bill Lichtenstein took part in a Q&A for his documentary “WBCN and the American Revolution” at a film festival in Oregon a month ago, the moderator was Alan Hunter, one of the original MTV VJs. At MTV, Hunter worked with the late J.J. Jackson, who’d been a WBCN DJ. Still, Hunter admitted he was unaware of the extent to which the onetime “Rock of Boston” was a leader in rock ‘n’ roll and rebellion on a national scale.
“Boston!” Hunter told Lichtenstein. “Who knew?”
Those of us who grew up on the classic years of WBCN, when chaos reigned and little local bands such as Aerosmith and the Cars took their first steps toward superstardom: We knew. Lichtenstein’s film chronicles the early years of the station, when the fights against political corruption, racism and sexism, and the war in Vietnam were as exhilarating as the era’s musical soundtrack.
After a series of screenings at film festivals from Somerville to Florida, “WBCN and the American Revolution” is set to embark on theatrical runs at several venues around New England. To commemorate the launch, Lichtenstein has assembled his biggest roster yet of the station’s celebrity alumni, from on-air talent including Charles Laquidara, Maxanne, and Steven Segal (a.k.a. “Steven Clean”) to Matt Siegel, program director Oedipus and Joe Rogers, the station’s first on-air voice when it switched from classical to rock. More than two dozen former colleagues, plus Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Lee, will be on hand Wednesday for a special screening at the Fenway Regal Cinemas, followed by an after-party at Fenway Johnnie’s featuring bluesman James Montgomery. (On Dec. 10, Laquidara will host his “First Farewell Tour,” with Lee as a special guest, at the Wilbur Theatre.)
“This sort of feels like the way you might feel about a child going off into the world,” says Lichtenstein, who was once a 14-year-old volunteer at the station before moving on to a career at ABC News. “It’s one last chance for people to get together and see each other. This is a group of people going back 50 years. We’re tightly knit.”
The film has found welcome audiences, Lichtenstein says, whether they’re ‘BCN diehards or people who’ve never been to Boston.
“I think people feel it tells a story that had been untold,” he says. “In a lot of ways it was our life, and what went on in Boston during that period.”