Tuned In

Tom Snyder, 1936-2007: Punk Rock Talk

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Tomorrow show host Tom Snyder died this weekend at age 71. Snyder’s heyday was before my time–at least, before my staying-up-past-midnight time–so I’m not going to pretend to have extensive, fond memories of the man who pioneered the late-late night talk slot before David Letterman.

But the few times I did catch Snyder’s show was toward the tail end of his run, when Tomorrow was one of the few TV venues for new wave, and especially punk, around the beginning of the ’80s. Snyder may not have meant this to be the capstones of his obituaries, but I’ll remember him for the appearances of The Clash, Public Image, Ltd. and The Plasmatics–most of which I didn’t even see, but heard about from classmates with bleary eyes and more elastic bedtimes.

It’s hard to appreciate now that seemingly every cultural resource is a download, a channel flip or a YouTube link away. But in a time when pop culture was more tightly circumscribed–when subcultures made it into small towns like mine through snowy broadcasts and photocopied ‘zines–Snyder and Tomorrow made TV just a little more weird, and for that my preteen self thanks him.

Other people can memorialize Snyder’s interviews, but I’ll salute him–and the also late, great Joe Strummer–here.