I feel I must disclose that probably my favorite non-jazz band, Steely Dan, recorded the sound track for this film—the title song being of course “FM.” Steely Dan–FM Theme FM the movie is about Q-SKY– the number one radio station in Los Angeles chiefly because the proverbial inmates run the asylum. These attention-grabbing radio personalities include: Jeff Dugan, the rebellious radio station manager; Mother, who is burned out from being a DJ; Eric Swan, a self-centered and self-styled romantic who wants more than just being a DJ; The Prince of Darkness, the hip night DJ; and Laura Coe, the easy-going type. The station personnel play the music they want to, only use certain advertisers, sponsoring concerts/benefits as well as some other “unorthodox” non-corporate ways to make the station their own and the best in LA. They have operated relatively autonomously, free from corporate interference for some time. However, the corporate machine is about to try to turn their No.1 position into cash. The movie centers on the inevitable battle between Jeff and his corporate bosses, who want more advertising and money at the cost of music.
The skirmish grows until sales manager Regis Lamar from corporate HQ presents him with a business opportunely to advertise for the U.S. Army using a series of cheesy radio ads. When Jeff refuses to endorse the contract, Regis takes the issue to upper management who orders Jeff to run the ads as provided by the Army and on the schedule specified in the advertising contract. Jeff takes a stand and quits his job.
In a show of solidarity with their fearless manager the remaining DJs decide to take control of the station in a sort of lock-in/sit-in/protest. They incite listeners to gather in the street outside the station and protest while the DJs play music without any commercials.
Jeff Dugan wakes up to hear the DJs take control of the station. The crowd is already present when he arrives at the station. The DJs lift him up to the second story with a fire hose as they have already barricaded the front doors. The office siege in lasts only until the police arrive to remove the staff. Not willing to go down without a fight, the DJs battle back using a fire hose and throwing tapes and other office objects at the police. The conflict is resolved when Jeff Dugan finds himself fighting a policeman outside on an overhang and saves the policeman from falling off and sees that fighting is the wrong thing to do. He calms the crowd and announces that the DJs are coming out.
Unknown to him, the company owner Carl Billings has watched from the crowd as the events unfolded. He insists that the DJs stay in the station, fires his management staff responsible for the advertising conflict, and then joins the DJs inside the station.
In addition, the film includes live appearances by Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty, and REO Speedwagon. Steely Dan performs the title theme, and Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh, Boz Scaggs and Queen also contributed soundtrack music. The film debuts several future hits like We Will Rock You (in the protest rally sequence) and Life’s Been Good integrated into the plot.
I had a really hard time getting my hands on this movie a couple of years ago, but I am glad I did. The music, sound track and real appearances by the artists themselves make this movie worth watching on its own. Unfortunately, it is hard to find and even harder to find someone who has seen it to enjoy it with. If you can, see it, if you can’t just get the soundtrack.