Cross explores alt-rock roots in new audiobook



Alan Cross, host of the Ongoing History of New Music


From the moment the on-air light first flicked on for him at the University of Winnipeg’s campus radio station in 1980 through his ascension to the program director’s chair at local alternative rock radio station CFNY, there has been one constant in Alan Cross’ career in broadcasting — a sincere passion for music.


It’s a passion that drives Cross to soak up as much information as he can find about alternative rock, from its roots in punk and new wave to more modern artists and innovators. Cross insists, however, his intention has never been to assume the role of music authoritarian.

“I want to be that guy on the radio that helps you look good in the eyes of your peers,” Cross told Metro recently.

So after publishing four music reference books and hosting 575 editions of the Ongoing History of New Music, Cross is back dishing up healthy servings of little known facts and tidbits for alt-rock fans.

The Alan Cross Guide to Alternative Rock, released late last year, is an audiobook based on Cross’ 2000 book 20th Century Rock ‘n’ Roll: Alternative Rock. In what is the first of a planned three volumes, Cross takes on the mission of presenting the stories of the “performers (that) have had the greatest effect on the music of today” through a much-scrutinized list of his top 25 most influential artists.

On Volume One, Cross updates his narration of the founding alt-rock artists that made the cut by profiling The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop & The Stooges, David Bowie, Jonathan Richman, Patti Smith, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash.

At nearly five hours, it may sound somewhat tedious, but Cross’ behind-the-scene detail and description are sure to pique and hold the interest of casual radio listeners as well as Converse-clad record-bin flippers.

Although it is technically a book, some listeners may be disappointed by the absence of featured artists’ actual songs. It is a simple fact of life in today’s litigious, copyright crazy music world, Cross explained.

“By the time you get through all the layers and everybody having to be paid, which they should be, it just becomes way too expensive and too much of a hassle,” he said. “It’s hugely frustrating.”

Cross’ goal is simple: He wants music fans to consider the artists presented and make their own list. “You want people to get passionate and start thinking about music in a different way — and to argue about it.”

Volume 1 fun fact

  • Workers at a U.K. record manufacturer revolted when The Sex Pistols’ single God Save The Queen went to press at their plant.