November 1, 2016
Roland C. Pearson, better known in Free Radio circles as “Buster” (1928-1985) was the man responsible (with help from others) for the fascinating publication known as “Monitor”. Begun in 1972 as coloured foolscap sheets, by the early 1980s it had progressed into an A5 booklet format. Always crammed with information about Offshore Radio these news-sheets have become even more interesting as time has gone on.
There were 37 issues produced. (Update: I’m informed there were actually 38 or even 39 issues. Looks like they didn’t bother sending me the last ones!). Join me in my Time Machine as we revisit the first three issues published in those interesting times of 1972 and early 1973.
PS: Monitor 01 was typewritten onto white foolscap paper. Monitor 02 was typewritten on dark blue foolscap paper. Monitor 03 was typewritten on multi-coloured foolscap paper for the full psychedelic experience. Do you remember typewriters? If you didn’t clean the keys regularly some letters got a bit clogged up with ink. My antique machine would make neat little holes whenever I used the full-stop key. Foolscap paper is longer and thinner than A4 which made copying these newsletters a pain. I apologise if some pages are difficult to read. Fuzzy typewritten text on blue paper doesn’t make for the greatest readability. I guess I could have spent a week or two tweaking things to improve them, but hey I’ve got a life, so they are what they are.
May 1, 2016
Radio Northsea International broadcast from International waters via the Mebo 11 from 1970 until August 1974 (with a break between September 1970 and February 1971) on a variety of Medium wave frequencies at first before settling on 220m. They also broadcast on FM to Holland and often on 49m and 31m shortwave to the rest of the world. Interestingly, in 1972 and 1973 the daytime shortwave broadcasts on Sundays were in English supplied by the DJs on board, whilst 220m medium wave carried Dutch programming, only some of which was live. The rest of the Dutch daytime shows consisted of tape recordings prepared earlier on land as often happened with Radio Veronica. Evenings on 220m Medium wave usually reverted to live English speaking DJs from 7pm or 8pm onwards.
There are many many hours of recordings of RNI available around the Interwebs. If you click here or click the image below you can hear a recording of A.J. Bierens on RNI on 49m Shortwave that I made on my (t)rusty Philips reel to reel tape recorder on a Sunday morning circa 1972.
After August 1974 The Mebo 11 moved to the Mediterranean Sea and apparently ended it’s days being “used as target practice by the Libyan Navy in the 1980s and sunk in the Gulf of Sidra”.
May 1, 2016
It was said five years ago that books would be obsolete in five years. I always thought that would be somewhat premature. Books are still being produced, although in smaller numbers than they used to be. In very small numbers regarding the two books I feature here!!
As the chart book says “Printed and Published by Amazon” I presume copies are only assembled as and when someone actually orders a copy. This book fails to address the main question I wanted answering. How and by whom were the Radio Caroline and Radio London charts compiled? Did they refer to charts published by the BBC/Musical Express/Melody Maker or just ask the DJs for this weeks favourite tune?? Or were records included in the charts by more sinister means? Perhaps money changed hands for the promotion of certain singles? It had happened in the States in the 1950s and it has been said that one of the main reasons Ronan started Radio Caroline was to give greater exposure to his roster of clients.
I’m bemused by the vast differences between the Caroline and London charts through the mid 1960s. For example in April 1967 there are only a handful of songs (seven!!!) that feature in the top 30 of both charts. If you listened only to Radio London you would be exposed to dozens of songs that never graced the Light Programme or Radio Caroline.
In this book “Prince” Michael gives a fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to his whole family squatting on an ex-Navy fort three miles out to sea for decades. Perhaps if he hadn’t been a mere 14 at the time, with the Government fearful of potential negative publicity, they may have been removed by military force in 1968 and the Principality of Sealand may never have been created.
October 1, 2015
Although it seemed to be for a much longer period when I was a youngster, the 1960s offshore pirate radio station Radio 270 was only on the air from June 1966 until August 1967. As was usually the case Radio 270 was more accurately to be found on 269m in the medium wave. Anchored 3 miles off Scarborough, it had a catchment area covering Yorkshire, the North East and into the Midlands. As perhaps the smallest pirate radio ship at the time being on the Oceaan 7 must have been pretty uncomfortable out there in the middle of the North Sea. One of the few “benefits” of being small was that when larger supplies such as diesel oil and water were required the ship just upped anchor and sailed into port (Scarborough or Bridlington) to re-stock in comfort. Presumably they had to cease transmission whilst they were within the three-mile limit though?
The station proved to be popular and reasonably successful and was one of the handful of pirate stations that would continue to the bitter end of midnight August 14th 1967 which was just before the Marine Etc (Offences) Act became law.
October 1, 2015
Well, some of them anyway………..
July 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.
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.
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.
October 1, 2014
The first half of the recently published book “Far out at sea” covers old ground about the history of offshore broadcasting from the 1950s to 1972. Then there is a an account of how the almost-scrap Mi Amigo returned to the North Sea in 1972. Then finally a few chapters about that brief period from July 1973 to February 1974 when Radio Caroline changed it’s name (and format) to Radio Seagull. They actually only managed to broadcast for about 3 months of that period due to the numerous aerial and generator problems that beset the ageing ship. Radio Seagull was in spirit (and briefly, people) a continuation of the bonkers (in a good way) Radio Geronimo.
PS: The rest of the book concerns the revival of Radio Seagull in name and format from a boat in 2003. So there is a (Dutch) incarnation of Radio Seagull broadcasting from a boat (mostly in harbour) via the Interwebs (and sometimes MW) this very minute. They say:-
Radio Seagull plays the best Progressive Rock, the coolest Album tracks and the finest Alternative music we also feature specialist music programmes which include Blues, Vintage Soul, World Music, Smooth Jazz, Country and Americana.