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


Okay, now that we know what, we should probably ask Y:

In the more than two decades that have passed since this incident happened, things have obviously changed dramatically. For starters, with the vast array of listening options these days from Internet streaming and iPhone apps to satellite radio and terrestrial radio (not to mention Spotify and Pandora), it's hard to imagine that it would even occur to anyone to attempt to pull a stunt off like this one.

Besides the fact that most stations these days are mostly inaccessible, ensconced and fortress-like in nondescript mid-rises in densely populated commercial areas rather than some converted house studio in the foothills, accessible to anyone with a gun and an ill-conceived plan, a takeover plot such as this would ultimately prove to be exasperating. These days, the playlists are completely automated, so it's not exactly like the DJs are sitting around spinning records.

We caught up with several former Y108 employees, and each person we spoke with seems to have a different recollection of the events of that day. Jim Prain, general manager of sales, even remembers the kind of weapon the kid had. "It was a small armed, single-shot, bolt-action 22 rifle," he recalls, noting that he knows this because he had one just like it as a kid. Mark Bolke, meanwhile, remembers returning to the station and seeing the guy in the parking lot, not yet arrested, and Bolke says he stayed inside for safety.

Out of the DJs we reached out to -- Dom Testa, Dave Otto and Michael Moon, all of whom were very well known and well regarded on-air personalities in Denver at the time and are still working in radio, here in Denver and in different parts of the country -- none were on the air at the time, but they each remember the day the incident happened.

"Truth be told, I was away from the radio station at the time it happened, but I did return about an hour later," writes Testa, now co-host of the long running Mix 100 morning show with Jane London. "The disturbed young man never entered the building. Our receptionist told me that he was detained in the Y108 parking lot while police were summoned. I'm pretty sure that he never made it inside.

"I also believe that he never actually threatened anyone with a gun (if he even had one), but mostly spewed nonsense, including his passionate request for The Smiths," his note continues. "Perhaps he SAID he had a weapon. Hey, in those days we had our share of interesting folks listening to the station...and we didn't even PLAY The Smith's, for crying out loud."

Testa concurs with Asakawa's assertion about KTCL, but also thinks that "the better option for a Morrissey fan at that time would've been 'BCO," he points out. "I suppose Boulder would've been too far of a walk, which is too bad, because I'll bet my friend Ginger would've at least dropped in 'How Soon Is Now' just to placate the poor dude.

"This is one of those legends that bloats with time," Testa concludes. "It's morphed from 'detained in the parking lot' to 'held hostage for four hours at gunpoint.'"

Indeed, but until we get a chance to read the full police report -- which we've requested and should hopefully have in our hands later this afternoon -- we can't say for certain exactly what happened that day. But keep an on this page for an update, most likely on Monday morning, when we'll post a full rundown of the arrest report.

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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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