Pirate Offshore Radio

March 12, 2008

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In the 1960s in the UK and Europe the best place to hear pop music on the radio was the offshore pirate radio stations. There were quite a number of them. Most broadcast from boats anchored in international waters beyond the 3 mile limit. A few pirate stations set themselves up on abandoned estuary forts with varying degrees of success. Radio Caroline, Radio London and Radio 390 were probably the most successful commercially. Radio City, Scotland, Essex, and many others all helped to get the swinging sixties underway. The Government soon ended the party with the Marine Broadcasting (Offences) Act which came into effect August 14th 1967.

Most of the pirate radio stations were forced to close as they could no longer be supplied from the UK. Radio Caroline defied the ban for a while but faded away in March 1968. 

The early 1970s saw a fresh wave of pirates broadcasting from the North Sea. Radio NorthSea International, Radio Atlantis,  Radio Mi-Amigo and  by 1973 Radio Caroline had returned.  

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However there was one pirate radio station that broadcast continuously to the Netherlands from 1960 to 1974 anchored off the dutch coast. This was Radio Veronica.

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Eventually the Dutch government passed legislation to close down the last four pirate stations still broadcasting pop music to the UK and Europe. RNI, Radio Atlantis and Radio Veronica all closed in August 1974. Radio Caroline would defy this ban and continue for many more eventful years. (See some future blog.)

Radio Veronica secured some legal broadcasting time in the Netherlands hence this single which was released in 1975. Grunchy Granola Suite was an instrumental often played at the time.

The other side of the record is The Roaring Sixties with We Love The Pirates. This was originally released on the Marmalade record label in 1966 when fans of these radio stations in the UK were trying to prevent the closure of the pirates with protests and rallies to no avail. This record was never played on BBC radio for obvious reasons. The song was however plugged unashamedly on the pirate stations. “Record Collector” magazine doesn’t seem to value even the original single very highly, but you just try finding a copy! Personally I think any fan of catchy sixties pop music should hear it.

I am aware that this is a very simplistic overview of a fascinating and complex subject. I appreciate that people in the USA cannot begin to comprehend just how little pop music was provided by the BBC and other State broadcasters in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s and hence the importance of the pirate radio stations at that time. Why not Google Radio Caroline or Radio Sutch or Radio Noordzee and be amazed……

PS. I found this single from 1971about Radio Veronica floating around in cyberspace.