For the better part of this decade, in my day job, I worked in the radio industry, most of it in a cluster of stations that included Canada’s renowned “alternative” station, CFNY. Or 102.1 The Edge. Or Edge 102. CFNY has known many names over the years, and seen many on-air talents come and go. Sadly, Martin Streek, the last personality from the station’s Spirit Of Radio era, is no longer with us, having passed away on July 6th, a few months after he and The Edge parted ways after 20+ years.
I didn’t know Martin particularly well, not like so many of my associates and friends who have been mourning him these last few weeks. We always said hello in the halls. We spent a Christmas dinner at a colleagues house together some years ago, where he was charming and friendly, waxing poetic about a new girlfriend. Perhaps our most personal moment came out of nowhere, when he bounded into the office I shared with the other members of the station’s writers and we wound up talking about The Clash and his first encounter with Joe Strummer. For those few moments, Martin and I talked like two people whose lives had been irrevocably changed and shaped by the music we loved. It was brief but I’ll always remember it. It meant something to me. And music clearly meant so much to him. I mean, he had a tattoo of The Clash on his leg!
I don’t know if people outside of Toronto will ever actually understand just how iconic the sound of Martin Streek was in our city. As a host of multiple club nights for years, he drew people to him. Thousands of people. Sure, club goers were also going for booze, music, and the hopes of getting laid (don’t tell me I was the only one), but ask anyone who grew up in T.O. about Martin and they’ll likely recall a night at The Kingdom on a Friday or The Phoenix on a Saturday or Whiskey Saigon on a Sunday. Nights intrinsically linked to Martin Streek.
While the world of radio is a much sadder place without him in it, Martin Streek managed to own Sunday night one last time when 102.1 The Edge/CFNY aired a 3 hour tribute to him yesterday, featuring reminiscence from colleagues past and present along with the music he loved most. And what music it was. Born Slippy by Underworld…Renegades Of Funk by Rage Against The Machine…That’s Entertainment by The Jam…Nine Inch Nails’ Terrible Lie…Jane’s Addiction’s Mountain Song…the man had impeccable music taste. It was truly emotional to experience it, and him, one more time.
Listening to the tribute to Martin Streek, to the music being aired in his memory, it’s hard not to think about how the business has changed over the years, for both the good and the bad. Veterans of the industry and old school listeners alike may wistfully dream of the return of the glory days of years past, but like Lou Reed once said, “those were different times”. Our icons are few and far between now. But I firmly believe that anybody with any musical sense that have spent their lives in Toronto were in some way touched by Martin Streek.
Now renegades are the people with their own philosophies
They change the course of history
Everyday people like you and me
We’re the renegades, we’re the people
With our own philosophies
We change the course of history
Everyday people like you and me
– Renegades of Funk, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force/Rage Against The Machines