25 years of playing the same ten songs at Q 104.3/ Heshy Tischler/Curtis Sliwa and the Death Wish III election

A rendering of an exploded Beretta Model 10 Automatic, one of the many guns featured in Death Wish.

Q 104.3 Celebrating 25 years of playing the same ten songs

In-between the commercials and the usual Led Zep/Skynyrd/Foreigner tunes, iHeart Radio’s Q 104.3 has been airing happy birthday greetings to itself on the occasion of 25 years of playing “classic rock” (a loose, arbitrary term). It’s unclear if the station has played any songs less than 25 years old since its first decade. The winning formula in corporate rock radio is to play the same 10 or so songs ad infinitum. Why they still employ deejays at these outlets is anyone’s guess. Tom Petty had a song about this, “the last DJ,” which pretty much sums up the whole situation: “As we celebrate  mediocrity the boys upstairs want to see/how much they can’t get you to pay for what you used to get for free.”  

WAXQ actually has an interesting history. It was founded as the station of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and later had a succession of owners, including the Starr Broadcast Group. Under the direction of Starr’s chairman, William F. Buckley (yes, that William F. Buckley) the station moved away from its then-classical music format to one of rock ’n roll. In true 1970s fashion, the switchover to rock was marked with a ceremonial airing of “Roll Over Beethoven.” That’s the period when the “Q” in the call letters was adopted, short for “Quadrophonic sound,” a novelty which is aptly archaic and irrelevant in 2021. I found all of this info on the WAXQ Wikipedia page. It’s more interesting to read about the station than it is to listen to. This quote from the Wiki puts it bluntly: “In sharp contrast to their respective tenures on other NYC area radio stations, the DJs now have little creative input into what music gets played, as is common nowadays at most major-market radio stations. The playlist is narrower than that of classic rock radio stations of the past, due to results from audience research, and songs that were once staples of classic rock radio such as ‘Eight Miles High’ by the Byrds are now only played during infrequent segments…”

Happy Birthday Q 104.3! Here’s wishing you another 25 years. If we live long enough to tune in then, we look forward to hearing “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Stairway to Heaven” on infinite repeat.

Rendering of an exploded Smith and Wesson Model 10, one of the many guns featured in Death Wish.

Heshy, Sliwa and the Death Wish III election

Editor’s note: we’re coming out of yet another period of extended silence. To the end that this website was started to give us a chance to write during a grim time, our founders made a promise: we would only give space to things we found interesting, or worth reporting on (with all-too-frequent exceptions, see Q104.3 write-up above). A reader recently emailed to ask why we haven’t covered the mayoral campaign of Curtis Sliwa, or Heshy Tischler’s city council run.

Thankfully, Tischler landed dead last in his race, with around 300 votes total. He is reportedly insisting the race was stolen from him and has embraced the cause of the January 6 Capitol rioters. As we’ve been saying all along, Tischler never had mass support, even among the very conservative residents of his neighborhood. The same bully who threatens any perceived enemy with violence folded without a fight when a random stranger punched him in the head. After he was elevated by the media for his role in a mob attack on a journalist, Heshy briefly made the run of several alt-right media platforms. He was so desperate for attention, he even appeared on a Nazi podcast where callers made holocaust jokes at his expense.

He’s also up to his neck in legal troubles: Tischler recently got off with ten days of community service after pleading guilty in his role in the assault on journalist Jacob Kornbluh. But he’s still got this alleged mortgage fraud scandal involving a $650,000 collateral-free loan and, according to the Daily News, “wresting control of a Borough Park address from his sister Esther Tischler, who has Down’s Syndrome.”

Curtis Sliwa on the campaign trail is even more painful to listen to than he was on the radio. He will likely face a resounding defeat in the general election. While that’s a good thing, the bad news is he will lose to Eric Adams, who shares many of Sliwa’s views on police reform, cuts to education, and the like.

Sliwa, for his part is running a Death Wish III campaign. What is Death Wish III, you ask? I just made It up, the series never got past Death Wish II. If it did exist, it would be yet another bad 70s remake with limited demand. Death Wish, for the younger readers, was the Charles Bronson franchise in which the protagonist, a hard-working architect was continually victimized by thugs, creeps and goons. The police, handcuffed by liberal legislation, are unable to help the hero, so he takes matters into his own hand and exacts revenge. That’s Sliwa’s campaign in a nutshell: crime is out of control! The subways are overrun with switchblade-wielding gangs! The cops are powerless to help! Only one man has what it takes to fight back! Sliwa can’t take down the thugs and criminals in an election (he didn’t even do much of that during his vigilante days). What he can do is elevate the Law and Order rhetoric to the point where it plays on the public’s fear of crime.

The histrionics of Sliwa, his AM radio peers and the tabloids aside, New York City is still relatively safe. The uptick in murders over the pandemic is horrible, no one will deny that. Though, as media critic Julie Hollar explains, the 194 murders recorded in the first half of this year put the murder rate “just a hair higher than the 191 to this point in 2012—a year when murders reached a record low, and then–Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted it [NYC] as ‘the safest big city in America.’” Hollar writes: “Looking just a bit farther back, you can see that New York is nowhere near its ‘bad old days’ of crime. In 1993, the earliest year for which the NYPD provides year-to-date crime numbers, there were 718 murders at this point in the year—3.7 times higher than today.” This isn’t to say crime isn’t a serious concern for voters. Any violent crime is significant to its victims and people want to feel safe. Fixing this takes actual solutions and policy proposals that address the root causes of crime while providing communities with a sense of security. This approach is lost on nuance-free Curtis Sliwa who has nothing to offer aside from “Refund the Police!” catchphrases.

Sliwa was already a corny 70s movie remake when his Guardian Angels first came on the scene in the late 70s. Then, as now, Sliwa was more interested in publicity than combatting crime. If he needed to fake a major exploit or two—or six, that was just part of the grift. The routine was played out in no time. The Guardian Angels quickly lost the public’s trust. Sliwa never quite adapted to the times, remaining an archaic relic, similar to a staticky VCR tape of one of the more notorious NYC public access cable tv shows like Robin Byrd or Midnight Blue, where viewers could potentially see the aging red beret sandwiched on a couch between Bernie Goetz or even Donald Trump. The schtick got stale a long time ago. Unlike Trump, Curtis Sliwa doesn’t have a major network propelling him into reality TV stardom. He only has NYC Republican party boss and WABC radio owner John Catsimatidis.

So what does any of this have to do with NYC radio? Sliwa won’t be back on WABC until he loses the election He does share one important trait with Q 104.3, though: they are both stuck in the 70s and they keep playing the same predictable tunes over and over and over again.

I always preferred Taxi Driver anyway.

Bronson in Death Wish II, pushed up against a wall and not taking it anymore.

Read past Freq-Amp coverage of “classic rock” and other types of rock here. Past writings on Curtis Sliwa can be found here and coverage of Heshy Tischler is here

Return to Freq-Amp homepage.

Published by Frequency and Amplitude, an NYC Radio Roundup

Surveying what's left of the analog NYC-area radioscape.

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