So that story of the Smiths fan who held a station here hostage in the '80s? It's true...well, sort of

Categories: Music History


So what really happened?

According to Post, which first reported the incident that was later confirmed by Asakawa, who made reference to the arrest in his Off Beat column in Westword the following week, an unnamed eighteen-year-old Arvada man spent what police officials at the time speculated was months staking out the studios of Y108 (aka KRXY, the now defunct CHR station that used to broadcast on the 107.5 frequency now occupied by KS107), with presumed plans to ambush the station and take several employees hostage and then force them at gunpoint to play songs of the Smiths. That part of the story matches up with everything else that had previously been written.

What happened next, however, is where myth and reality seem to respectfully part ways, and the story takes on a life of its own. According to the Post, the gunman showed up at the station armed with a rifle, plus seven Smiths cassette tapes and an album, but in reality, his mettle dissolved apparently before he was able to execute his plan, and he never made it inside the building. Instead, he sat in the parking lot and reportedly asked for the police to be notified, after which he reportedly ended up turning himself in.

From the Post's article:

"A last minute change of heart apparently averted the hijacking of a Lakewood radio station but left an Arvada teenage in jail Wednesday.

The young man, 18, was arrested Tuesday evening in the parking lot of the radio station Y108 at 7075 W. Hampden Ave. after he called a station employee over to his car handed the employee a rifle and asked that police be called, said police spokesman John Hunt.

'I was going to hijack the station. I wanted to make them play some music,' blurted out the suspect when police arrived. He was taken into custody without incident and jailed under a $50,000 bond for investigation of attempted extortion and attempted kidnapping."

After some digging, we finally found a brief mention in Asakawa's column, which ran the following week after the incident. According to his account, the gunman actually made it into the station, at which point he reconsidered and turned over his weapon.

From Asakawa's Off Beat column in Westword:

"Security by Smiths and Wesson: Radio station KRXY (Y-108), the Lakewood-based Top 40 station, got a request that was hard to ignore. An eighteen-year-old Arvada man entered the station with a rifle to insist the station play seven tapes and an album by the Smiths, the now-defunct British band led by the whiny-voiced singer, Morrissey. [sic] The man was arrested after he changed his mind and gave the weapon to a station employee. He's now in the Jefferson County Jail, awaiting a psychiatric evaluation. The gun-toting Smiths fan set a dangerous precedent, using scare tactics to try and control the media. No radio station, no matter what the format, deserves that kind of treatment. But the lighter side, the fan should have known better than to request the Smiths from a Top 40 station. As far as Top 40's concerned, Morrissey might as well be a Martian. For his Smiths fix, the guy should've thrown his gun into the lake and tuned in to Fort Collins' KTCL, which plays the band in regular rotation."

In his biography, Simpson draws a loose and seemingly incidental correlation to the Columbine tragedy, which of course happened a decade later. The irony is that the arresting officer in this particular Smiths-related incident was actually a member of the SWAT unit at the time and later also happened to be one of the officers who responded to Columbine, which sits almost exactly five miles to the south, on that tragic afternoon in 1999. We spoke with the officer, and for his part, some 25 years later, he had no recollection of the incident.

Continue on for more on the story, including quotes from station employees who worked at Y108 at the time

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It doesn't surprise me that the media coverage from the time was spotty, the mainstream media was getting burned from reporting on anything with an alternative bent, of which they knew nothing about.

Case in point: Around the same time as the events in this story, one of the TV stations did a report proclaiming that there was a religious war brewing in Denver, and all of it based upon the fact that Christian Death was being sprayed on walls all over town. They quickly buried the story once someone alerted them that Christian Death was a band's name.


Nice piece of reporting.  Still, it would be nice to acknowledge that you researched a "myth" that was clearly and accurately reported on by Simon Goddard.  The color you've added is nice, but there is nothing here that adds to the basic facts as reported in "Mozipedia".  It's slightly annoying this story was brought up as an urban legend when in reality it was already adequately documented in an accessible, easy to find, mainstream resource. 



Looked at from another perspective, the anecdote about Christian Death and the story about the (non-)siege at KRXY both illustrate the state of the underground in the late 80s. Fans of "alternative music" were convinced the media ignored anything that wasn't part of the mainstream and adopted various approaches to publicizing their favorite artists. The Internet today is much fairer to artists of all stripes, whether they're popular or obscure. Yesterday's would-be criminal would, today, simply start a Tumblr. And yet only lightning-in-a-bottle web memes generate any significant publicity. Everything else vanishes into the cybersoup. The irony is that Christian Death and The Smiths have a higher profile than ever before-- no spray-paint or rifles necessary-- but it's nearly impossible for them to capture anyone's sustained attention. The guy in '87 wanted to hold up a radio station because radio stations were bottlenecks, so to speak. Now the bottlenecks are gone. Everything is networked, open, free, and accessible. Leaving the criminality out of it, which situation is really better for musicians and fans? In a small but interesting way, revisiting these stories presents a revealing contrast between old and new media. As a case in point, the plot of "Airheads" is totally anachronistic now-- it's like watching a movie about a Civil War stagecoach robbery.

dave.herrera moderator editor

@myvillainyFirst of all, thanks for reading and for taking the time out of your day to offer feedback. I do appreciate it. So, yeah, thanks.

Okay, regarding Mozipedia: We honestly weren't aware of the passage in the book -- or even the book itself -- until you mentioned it in your previous comment, which inspired us to seek out a copy at our local bookstore, to no avail. We couldn't actually find a copy in stock. 

Nonetheless, while props are clearly due to you for being an astute Morrissey/Smiths fan and more so to Mr Goddard, who, from the sounds of it, indeed accurately reported the incident, seemingly adding even more insight it seems than the initial coverage did. It may be "an accessible, easy to find, mainstream resource," as you put it, again, we didn't even know to look for it until you pointed it out.

All that said, for what it's worth, though, I should note that had we had known about this section in Goddard's book, we probably wouldn't have been as driven to do as much reporting as we have, since it would ultimately seemed like a closed file.

As for the urban myth and your pronounced annoyance: You have to know that as far as we were concerned, this was very much an urban myth. As, we initially noted, we couldn't get anybody we spoke with -- until after we found the original article and tracked down the former station employees -- to verify that A), this event actually happened, or B) to cite a credible source. So we were merely operating on the premise that it was an urban myth until proven otherwise. Heck, we lived here at the and the time and have no recollection of this happening.

Besides that, your assessment of both pieces is pretty spot on, actually. We knew it we didn't have the definitive story. As we've been researching and gathering information, we were simply sharing what we've found, and as you've rightfully observed: the additional quotes from the station employees really does just add color.

But the story doesn't end here. Rest assured, even since we posted this this morning, in the course of our reporting, we have come across some new information that's hasn't been reported that will definitely advance the story. This is a fascinating story, and there's more to it. All of what we've found since is forthcoming, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, thanks again for weighing in. Hope you return for the rest of the story.

-- dh

dave.herrera moderator editor

@myvillainy @Will_ "...watching a movie about a Civil War stagecoach robbery" -- what an absolutely great parallel to draw. Totally true.


@dave.herrera @myvillainy 

Fair enough, thanks for the reply.  I'm just trying to uphold Smiths' fans well-earned reputation as cranky, easily-provoked sourpusses.  I'm sure I succeeded.  Carry on.

dave.herrera moderator editor

@myvillainy  Not at all. I really do appreciate the feedback and the dialogue. Cheers!

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