Former WLIR progran director Denis McNamara is part of a...

Former WLIR progran director Denis McNamara is part of a program celebrating the legendary radio station at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.. Credit: Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame/Barry Fisch

The radio station that dared to be different is still making waves.

“New Wave: Dare to be Different,” a documentary on the long-gone but legendary local station WLIR 92.7 FM, will have a one-time screening at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in Stony Brook on Sunday afternoon. Director Ellen Goldfarb will speak at the screening in person alongside former WLIR program director Denis McNamara and former DJ Larry “The Duck” Dunn.

“It’s quite a momentous history,” McNamara, who helped produce the film, said of his old station in a recent interview. “It was really just a marvelous part of the musical culture and musical framework of this marketplace, and really put Long Island and the surrounding area on the map.”

At the dawn of the 1980s, as the so-called Second British Invasion of new-wave bands began arriving on American shores, WLIR became an unlikely beacon of the movement. Based not in New York City but in suburban Nassau County, WLIR nevertheless established itself as a gateway to America by playing early tracks from soon-to-be-massive bands like Duran Duran, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and U2. Its memorable slogan, “Dare to be Different,” served as a challenge to the classic rock orthodoxy of the fading ‘70s. As its reputation grew, WLIR became a must-visit for any new act seeking stateside fame.

Among those who agreed to be interviewed for the film: Billy Idol, Jim Kerr of Simple Minds, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, U2 manager Paul McGuinness and Cy Curnin of The Fixx.

“I can’t even go into how much help they gave getting the music cleared,” McNamara said, referring to the complicated and often expensive process of obtaining the rights to use pop songs in a film. “That’s where I can put my production hat on and say I am tremendously grateful to all the people behind the scenes.”

For Long Islanders of a certain age, the screening should be a trip down memory lane to a time when radio ruled the music industry and new bands seemed to form every day. And while the documentary is readily available to stream (it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017), it won’t come with in-person testimony from those who lived through the era.

“I’ve been in radio for well over 50 years,” noted McNamara, 71, who recently began hosting a solo show on Stony Brook University's WUSB every other Thursday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. “There’s something great about radio — driving in a car and being taken someplace else in your life for that moment in time. That’s beautiful.”

“New Wave: Dare to be Different” screens Sunday, June 2, at 3 p.m. Tickets are free with $26 museum admission and can be purchased at limehof.org.

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