More Laser 558

Jul 1, 2015

What was happening 31 years ago today? It was a Sunday. From the looks of this tape I found recently in the shed (?!?) nothing very exciting was happening for me as I had resorted to listening to Laser 558. They don’t appear to have (m)any jingles yet. I believe they pretty much always played oldies on Sundays and chart stuff the rest of the week.

The offshore radio station Laser 558 officially began broadcasting from the Communicator (not the ship’s original name) in May 1984 after a few months of tests. It didn’t take too long before they had generated a far larger audience than Radio Caroline due to their very deliberate policy of heavy heavy rotation of the pop hits of the day.

Laser 558 cassette side 1

The inevitable decline began within months. By January 1985 they were experiencing generator and aerial problems. By August 1985 the government had begun a blockade trying to stop supplies reaching them (and Radio Caroline). Laser 558 went off air for good in the middle of a show on the morning of 5th November 1985.

Laser 558 cassette side 2

Laser 558 1st July 1984 5pm-5.30pm

PS: Only listen to this if you’re a fan of hissy medium wave static with some music in the distant background. I believe their output at the time was less than 16kw and my portable radio was a few hundred miles away from their transmitter. The only slightly interesting aspect for anoraks is that this was Charlie Wolf’s second show on the station. He had first appeared on air 30th June.

PPS: For the sake of accuracy I should mention that there was a short-lived return as Laser Hot Hits for 3 months in 1986 and then the ship passed through a few different owners before it was finally scrapped a few years ago.

Laser 558

Nov 1, 2012

I’m currently reading an (out of print) book which covers the beginnings and setting up of this offshore radio station in depth. It was published in 1984 when Laser 558 had only been broadcasting in the UK for a few months so it doesn’t cover the “siege” by the DTI. Laser 558 officially began in May 1984 and disappeared suddenly in November 1985. Radio Caroline soon moved in and captured the clearer (at the time) 558m frequency for themselves. (Laser would make a comeback of sorts under new owners as Laser Hot Hits for a few months in the beginning of 1986 but the moment had passed).

Lo-fi recording of Laser 558 in October 1985.

Brief audio extract of an invite to a Laser 558 party.

For more Laser etc details than you can shake a stick at there’s no better place to look than an old 1980s issue of “Monitor”.

Monitor No 27