Russian Radio

Feb 28, 2011

Some interesting sounds have been emitted by this little radio. It was purchased in time to witness the last few months of the original 60s pop pirates. It was the radio that I used to listen to the first days of Radio One and the early broadcasts of RNI. It was with me on a beach that August saturday in 1970 when RNI were boarded by rival businessmen. It witnessed the drama of the RNI fire the following year, Radio Veronica, the return of Radio Caroline in late 1972, the short-lived Radio Atlantis, the Dutch Marine Offences Act of 1974, John Peel, Pick of the Pops, the disappointing beginnings of commercial radio in the UK, local land-based pirates and so much more. It was my only radio for 10 years and in hindsight it’s amazing the variety of radio stations it managed to pick up. Most of my recordings of Radio Northsea were made using this little transistor radio.

From what little research I’ve managed to do in the last five minutes it seems this Selga 7 transistor Radio was manufactured in the USSR with mostly cosmetic differences between 1963 and 1979 at the Popov Radiotechnika plant in Latvia. Various models were produced designated 402, 403, 404 and 405. Some were in brown leather cases. I did find a fuzzy 5-minute-long YouTube video describing a model 405. Mine is probably a 403.

These radios were really sturdily assembled utilising a long lasting PP3 9v battery and the genuine leather case made them virtually indestructible. The 7 transistors were of the early germanium type and mine still work to this day. The frequency range was supposedly 1605 – 525 Khz (they actually called them Kilocycles in the 60s) which was 190m to 570m but I could sometimes pick up things even lower down the dial such as Manx Radio on 1594 Khz (188m) when on holiday. Of course it also had LW but there was never much of interest there apart from a few French stations.

Above is a similar Russian radio from the 1980s. I’m sure internally it would be almost identical to my 1967 model. At some point in the 1970s Russian radios (like Russian cars) stopped being imported into the UK. I suppose they didn’t face-lift their products often enough for the West’s liking. They just carried on churning out the same (reliable) products.

Nothing to do with any of the above but here is my Philips N4302 tape recorder ready for action now I’ve found a suitable DIN lead to connect it to my laptop.

Black Widow

Feb 25, 2011

I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless you command get got an impatience over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell questionably come further formally again since exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this increase.

This is actually one of the more “sensible” of the hundred comments that have recently appeared in my spam box. I’ve just wasted valuable time deleting them when I could have been “researching” Carol Forman (1918 – 1997) and searching for the 13 episode sure-to-be-entertaining 1947 serial “Black Widow”. She also appeared as the Spider Lady in a Superman serial around the same time and in a Blackhawk serial a few years later.

Lenny and the Squigtones are one of the forgotten Rock and Roll bands of the 1960s. Perhaps this may have something to do with the fact that they weren’t around in the 1960s?!?  Their complete recorded output consisted of a live LP, a single and an 8 track cartridge all released circa 1979. It was all their own material rather than cover versions…stuff like this. Although these recordings have never been officially released since then they are of course all over UTube. Better still, the whole LP is to be found (along with a million other sounds you didn’t realise you needed to fill up your Hard Drive/mp3 player with) at WFMUs massive storage facility.

“Lenny” was an alias for Leonard Kosnowski and “The Squigtones” were in fact just Andrew Squigman. Lenny sang and played guitar. Squiggy sort of sang backing vocals and sometimes turned to the left and then the right. Before they got their one night of fame they auditioned for a couple of talent shows at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee. At the time of their first airing these clips were seen within the most-watched TV show in America. This must say something about the state of The States at the time though I’m not sure what. Although the show ran for eight seasons I don’t think we in the UK got the chance to see more than the first four. That’s a shame. I’d particularly like to see the last season from 1982 which was set in “1967” and by which time one of the two girls who starred had left the show (but bizarrely some of those episodes, when repeated, still included her name in the show’s title).


PS: As a motto for living, “Never let your balloon land”, often used in the show seems as good as any other.

New Code

Feb 18, 2011

After nigh on 60 years the CCA Comics Code Authority seems to have been disbanded and consequently DC Comics have finally stopped showing the Comics Code Seal of Approval stamp on any of their covers and are about to adopt a new rating system that supposedly brings them into line with other media like games and DVDs. I’ve watched the old cover stamp steadily shrink in size over the last ten years until it was too small for an adult to see so I don’t think it has had the slightest effect on which comics children purchased since the 1960s or 1970s when at least it was postage-stamp-sized. I even have my doubts if comics of the recent past were ever being submitted to some shadowy outside organisation for approval anyway. Surely there must have been costs involved. It’s far easier to just print “Mature” somewhere on the cover….

The new system seems needlessly complicated to me. “E” is for everyone, “T” is for teen, and I suppose there is an “M” for mature. But that doesn’t seem enough for the powers that be. They also have to print a list of “disclaimers” describing in forensic detail the contents of the comic/cartoon/game/film concerned. “Comic Mischief” seems clear enough but “Fantasy Violence” could mean anything from Tom And Jerry getting squashed flat to a “pac man” character being “zapped” in a game.

I’m at a loss to know why there should even be an “Alcohol Reference” in a Nintendo DS game, and what on earth is “Animated Blood”?? Does it talk and jump about?

What do you think “Mild Blood” means? I suppose It’s possible to have a mild amount of blood if the hero just cut himself shaving.

There seems no end to the subtle variation of disclaimers that are used. Who on earth sits analysing all this stuff. And how long will it be before someone (no doubt in America) sues someone else because they find some violence or blood or whatever that hasn’t already been included on the list.

Here they’ve used the words “Partial Nudity” when they really should have said “Unfeasibly large breasts”.

Still, we live in a world where even watching a soap opera you “may have been affected by the issues addressed” and are encouraged to contact a help line. Perhaps I’m over-reacting. I’ll get my coat.

PS: I see that Marvel Comics continue to use their own, completely different system where A means All (when I guessed it might mean Adult), T is for Teen, PA is for Parental Advisory and MAX is for maximum sex/drugs/violence/mild blood/mischief etc etc.

PPS: This Weblog however is rated U which means it is unsuitable for anyone under the age of 50 or over the age of 60.

Have you got…….

Feb 16, 2011

When I was young, free and gormless many saturdays were wasted visiting record shops to add odd 45rpm additions to my collection. “Have you got Kevin Ayers’ After the Show?” or “Have you got The Jim Carroll Band’s People who died?” would usually be met with a blank look. Often I would visit the more specialised shops like Reddington’s Rare Records where a request for something like Johnny Restivo’s The Shape I’m in would usually be met with an affirmative.

The “thrill” of the chase has been replaced by the click of the mouse. It doesn’t take long to find that 1992 trance/dance instrumental by J.R.Hartley these days. But one aspect of “record collecting” that hasn’t changed whether you are in a shop or online is acquiring something unheard just because the title/record sleeve/price attracted your eye.

I recently happened upon the news that Gustavo Kupinski, guitarist with 1990s Argentinian rock group Los Piojos had died in a car crash in January of this year. At the back of my mind I recalled that a friend (despite not speaking spanish) once said they were in his list of top bands. I decided to investigate further. I believe their name translates as “Lice”. I don’t frequent record shops now so I’ve missed the chance to stand at the counter and say “Have you got lice?”. Their live 1999 album Ritual, now re-released as Ultimo Ritual with twice as many tracks was an eye-opener. The only way to describe it is as a cross between a pop concert and a football match. I’ve never heard a live concert before with so much audience participation. It sounds like literally everyone in the crowd joins in with every word of every single song played. You can see what I mean here whilst I return to the Amazon jungle to look for that book on fly fishing by Day V. Lateley.

More Nostalgia 1975

Feb 14, 2011

What happened in 1975? There was an oil crisis. Inflation inflated. Some things never change. On Saturday the 8th of November 1975 the weather couldn’t have been very good either. Radio Caroline’s ship the Mi Amigo broke her anchor chain, and, (most likely un-noticed by DJs/crew) began drifting ending up almost beached on a sandbank. Without any of the modern technology that would be used to get accurate bearings of their position today they were lucky that they managed to start their engine and move into deeper water.

Announcements of their plight began around 6pm on Saturday the 8th November with requests for listeners to call the coastguard. These requests continued for an hour or so until the ship was once again afloat, although still drifting without an anchor. With the DJ Simon Barrett getting more worried as the evening progressed it made for entertaining, if morbid listening. I fully expected that Radio Caroline would finish for good that evening, a mere 3 years after their return to the North Sea. Michael Lloyd began his evening’s programme at 10pm. Shortly afterwards he was interrupted by Peter Chicago who announced that they would have to go off the air as it was suspected that they had drifted within the 3 mile limit and could risk falling foul of the 1967 Marine Offences Act.

Here is a lo -fi recording from the 8th November 1975, beginning and ending with BBC radio news items about the incident.

Radio Caroline didn’t return to the airwaves until the following Thursday 13th of November 1975. Something must have happened on November 14th …..possibly a visit from the Home Office… that evening and the following week or so 259m remained silent.

Here is a short recording of Michael Lloyd on Radio Caroline on the 13th of November 1975.

Radio Caroline finally returned to “normal” with regular programmes from the North Sea on the 26th of November 1975. The Mi Amigo would continue to somehow weather further storms and various crisis and Radio Caroline would continue to broadcast if not quite continuously then at least reasonably regularly until March 1980 when the stack of beer cans the ship was precariously balanced on gave way and the ship finally sank.

Nostalgia 1975

Feb 10, 2011

I usually only write about stuff I like. There always has to be an exception to any rule. Here is something I DON’T like. Of course, the records were purchased unheard in the hopes that I would like them…. (But it does fit in with an earlier post…and it sorta kinda fits in with the next post to come).

When you think about it, for pretty much every single ever released, no matter how good or bad it was, someone somewhere was hoping that it would turn out to be a hit record. This could have been the recording artist, the manager, the producer, the A&R man or just the drummer’s mother. I will always remain eternally bewildered regarding the number of fantastic tunes over the last 50 years that didn’t become hits. This was often explained by a lack of radio airplay. A similar number of dire excuses for music became hits simply because they GOT masses of radio airplay.

These two singles just didn’t have the wow factor even though A Raincoat and Andy Arthurs would go on to issue better tunes later.

When “Nostalgia ’75” was released the title was meant to be ironic. Sometimes I do get nostalgic for 1975. It was a turning point career year when I almost became a journalist instead of the direction I ultimately chose. Ah well, “Today’s Newspaper is tomorrow’s chip wrapper”. Actually that phrase doesn’t really work now. I guess the last time I walked down a street eating chips wrapped in an old piece of newspaper would have been around…….. 1975…….. We’re back to “Nostalgia ’75”.

The “b” side of this single played at 33.3rpm and featured three tracks from the forthcoming “Digalongamacs” Album which evidentally in August 1975 was almost called “Macs by Graves” !!!! (They must have already taken the cover photo…)

Andy Arthurs released a number of solo singles such as this brief (only 2 minutes long!) tune from 1977.

I’ve no idea if a “typical” DJ exists any more as the musical world has fragmented into so many different genres from club djs to old men like Brian Matthew still “spinning discs” on the BBC. In the USA in the early 1960s Ted Randall knew what a DJ was (although I’ve no idea who Ted Randall was). A DJ was someone who liked girls and comics and girls (as well as golf and his wife !!).

Ted Randall – What is a Disc Jockey?

My first exposure to American DJs were the “Cruisin'” series of LPs released in the early 1970s. I avidly collected these expensive imports. Each LP was devoted to a particular year (from at least 1955 to 1970) and featured a DJ who was associated with that time period playing a selection of hits from that year. I particularly liked the comic book styled covers which looked like Roy Lichtenstein versions of Romance comic panels. The LPs featured numerous loud characters with exotic names like Russ “Weird Beard” Knight, Jumpin’ George Oxford and Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg. I never worked out if these LPs featured actual radio shows, edits from a number of shows or if they had been re-created just for the LP. They sounded authentic enough with the period adverts and jingles and much use of the echo chamber by the DJs.

Wolfman Jack was another popular american DJ in the 1960s and early 1970s. I doubt I could have coped with listening to him every evening for five solid hours. He often left the microphone open so that he could shout over the top of the records he was playing. American DJs like the Wolfman had people phoning in years before it became (over)used in this country. Then the Wolfman could shout at them too.

Wolfman Jack on XERB Los Angeles – April 1967

Stuff and Nonsense

Feb 4, 2011

ITEM: I’ve finally begun scanning a few comics using my new super swish (and cheap) all-in-one printer. It has so many buttons, flaps and levers there’s a chance it even plays DVDs. It is so big and bulky it may also have a dishwasher function.

However the fact that the purchase of this machine was necessitated because it cost less than a set of six new ink cartridges for my old printer still irritates me. If they wanted to seriously tackle waste and recycling they really should start with electrical equipment. When I first needed to copy sheets of paper for comic sales lists I used something very similar to this at school, with the appropriate lookout posted……

ITEM:    On some other Blog they were talking about how difficult people were finding it to track down things on “Google” and similar search engines. There was nothing wrong with the search engines. It was that the users had no conception of spelling or how to search, often using text-speak or beginning with “you know” and ending with “like” in the search box itself. Amazingly many, many thousands just type “Google” into the “Google” search box every single day !!

The first of the four Atlas “Space” Annuals was the most comicy (is that even a word?) of the lot. Plenty of Space Ace stories and even a smattering (is that a word either?) of half page humour strips along with the photos and articles.

Luckily it is only 64 pages short, and a small amount of bribery has resulted in acceptable scans of all pages. Just scroll down and click on the link. Simples.

The Boy’s Book of Space Adventures 1963

A Raincoat

Feb 1, 2011

In 1975 an LP with the uncool title of “Digalongamacs” by a band with the uninspiring name of A Raincoat was released by a bunch of session musicians led by Andy Arthurs. Why they needed to risk ruining the record’s chances with a title that was a pun on those MOR Singalonga LPs of the time and why the LP cover featured such a gloomy photo of the band in a graveyard (By…graves….oh I get it now….) is lost in the mists of time. One of the tracks on the LP entitled “I love you for your mind (not your body)” was released as a single and received enough radio airplay for me to notice the band and consequently buy the LP. In the mid 1970s for some inexplicable reason I quite liked Sparks, 10cc, the Kursall Flyers etc and probably thought that A Raincoat fitted into that category. I love you for your etc etc sounded like the band had been listening to far too many Sparks records.

Andrew Arthurs released a few more records under his own name during the rest of the 1970s (often sounding like Thomas Dolby). There were also a few singles attributed to A Raincoat such as the catchy 1976 single “It came in the night”. The claim to fame of this song is that it was used in the Kenneth Anger “art”/cult film “Rabbit’s Moon” without the singer’s knowledge !! “Rabbit’s Moon” was a very odd film which mostly consisted of a spooky clown looking up at the moon. I’m not sure where the rabbit fitted in….. Odder still is the fact that although this peculiar “underground” film was shot in 1950 it wasn’t released until 1972. Then it was given a soundtrack consisting of half a dozen doowop songs such as “There’s a Moon out tonight”. Neither the Doowop songs or “It came in the night” seem the slightest bit appropriate to the otherwise silent and dated antics of two clowns, a couple of kids and a dancer. Of course all this deep and meaningful/bonkers nonsense (delete as appropriate) audio and video is sitting there waiting for viewers on Yootoob. It reminds me of nothing more than those old silent movie clips they used to show on The Old Grey Whistle Test whilst they played some rubbish track from the likes of Little Feat. Its the sort of thing you only want to see once, but it’s also the sort of thing that could crop up as a question on “Mastermind” or “University Challenge” so you may as well be prepared……

When this film was re-released in 1979 the earlier Doowop soundtrack was replaced with the A Raincoat single (played twice !!). This time the film only ran for 7 minutes instead of quarter of an hour because it was speeded up !! Despite the obscurity of Kenneth Anger films no doubt there will be more people aware of A Raincoat due to that short film than will ever have ever noticed any other A Raincoat material. Another bit of no-longer-lost Britpop history from the 70s thanks to the good old Interweb.

Although Mr Arthurs may not have had any hits he did continue recording for a while before going on to engineer and produce records by the likes of Bryan Ferry and Joe Jackson after which he emigrated to Australia where he became a lecturer.

PS: A Raincoat has no connection at all with the later group known as THE Raincoats.