April 2004

(March 2004 is here...)
Pirate BBC Essex – 'Big Lil' is Top of the Pops!

Our thanks go to Big L's Duncan Johnson for sending some lovely pictures from the greatest offshore tribute broadcast there has been for many years.

What a week to remember... Our own report and photos are here

Although the broadcast has finished, the Pirate BBC Essex Message Board is still live, here, and you can download some webcam time-lapse movies here.

Picture – © Duncan Johnson 2004

The full week's schedule for the historic Easter broadcast, is here
The one word offshore enthusiasts never expected to see used as an adjective to 'BBC' is 'PIRATE', but it has happened! The ultimate oxymoron, 'Pirate BBC Essex', a week-long Easter tribute to offshore radio to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the start of Radio Caroline, was organised by Programmes Editor, Tim Gillett. BBC Essex was perhaps not prepared for the amazing response the broadcast has generated. Thousands of text messages and knee-mails have flooded in from around the globe and nobody wants the station to end on Saturday.

'Pirate BBC Essex', with its own, specially-recorded jingles based on original jingles used by Swingin' Radio England, has successfully recreated a genuine offshore radio atmosphere aboard the LV18 lightship, on 729, 765 and 1530 MW, 95.3 and 103.5 FM and via a Net feed. (The BBC Essex web pages about the broadcast, which have received over 300,000 hits, are here.). The Net feed has been particularly popular and great credit is due to those who have maintained both the feed and the webcams.

Radio London originals Dave Cash and Keith Skues, OBKnee, were the first to sign-up as LV18 shipmates and have been aboard since Monday. Mike Ahern, Paul Burnett, Ian 'Wombat' Damon, Roger Day, Tom Edwards and Mark West were all there at the Easter weekend, with Pete Brady appearing on Bank Holiday Monday. Duncan Johnson will be visiting the ship on Friday 16th to guest with Dave Cash. Listeners can contact the presenters via a knee-mail address which has been set up for the week at essex.pirate@bbc.co.uk.

The studio equipment aboard the LV18 is similar to that used by pirate presenters of forty years ago. The Radio Essex 'pirates' use turntables, cart machines and a special reverb unit which all help to recreate that authentic offshore radio sound. Pirate BBC Essex has also been broadcasting Retro News on the half hour, featuring stories from the week April 12 – 16, 1964.

Of the thousands of requests received for offshore memories, the most popular tune has been the Big Lil theme, aka the Sonowaltz!

The station is aboard the LV18 lightship, (left) which is now anchored in the historic Harwich harbour and accessible only by tender. Harwich has its own reason to celebrate in 2004, this year being the 400th anniversary of the granting of the town charter by King James I.
LV18 is, of course, well-known to offshore fans, as she has hosted several RSL broadcasts in recent years. During the recreations of RNI, she gained the nickname, 'Mebo III' or for Knees Club members, 'Kneebo III'. The ship is being restored by the Pharos Trust, which is aiming to obtain a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to continue the expensive work.

During the week of the broadcast, an Offshore Radio Exhibition has been staged at Harwich's Halfpenny Pier, where visitors are able to make a short recording as 'an offshore DJ'. Tony O'Neil, curator of the town's National Vintage Wireless and Television Museum at the High Lighthouse, has loaned some of the museum's treasures. For safety reasons, it has not been possible for visitors to board the LV18 during the broadcast, but webcams in the Pirate BBC Essex studio have been revealing what's going on.

The patellae of Knees Club founder, Mary Payne, were proud to appear with their owner as surprise guests on Dave Cash's Easter Monday show and both Chris and Mary were filmed by BBC TV for the 'Look East' news programme.


It's very nice indeed to see that 'ex-pirates' such as Mark Roman, Brian Vaughan and Graham Webb have taken the trouble to add their own comments to the Pirate BBC Essex Noticeboard (and have made such flattering comments about the Radio London webmasters!) I'm sure they won't mind us including short quotes from their postings.


Big Lil was a kind of family, she had a personality, and you could always recognise her, and after so many years the fact that she has never been equalled or surpassed is a lasting tribute to all those who lived with her, especially the legion of fans around the world and of course to the continuing great efforts and love for "LIL" that is reflected in Chris and Mary Payne's great website.


It seems only yesterday that I refused a traineeship with the BBC to join Radio Atlanta in December 1963... It really was the best time of my life.


My greatest regret this year was not getting to the BBC Essex "happening" though I did get to the 35th Anniversary reunion and it was great to meet up again with so many old mates. People dear to my heart such as Mick Luvzit, Dave Lee Travis, Robbie Dale, John Hatt, Dave Williams, Gordy Cruise, Keith Skues and so many more.

Messages have also been received during the broadcast from Rosko, Steve Young and Mick Luvzit.
Mark's Pirate BBC Essex Campaign

Mark Keable writes:

I ran an offshore mag in the 80s, Offshore Radio Print-out, and was also good friends with the much missed Buster Pearson.
I have a small website which unfortunately, I don't get much chance to update, but it's getting quite a few hits per week.

Now I'm trying to campaign for Pirate BBC Essex to continue full time.

Warmest Regards, Mark Keable

Visit Mark's website and sign his petition here.

Ben Healy pictured with Kenny when participating in his Citybeat Offshore Radio Special, July 27, 2003.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Tosh
RIP Revival Show
The Radio London website was saddened to hear from Kenny Tosh of the sad demise of his Revival Show. The programme has constantly pioneered offshore radio and its music, neither of which is appreciated by the new station management of Belfast's Citybeat.

Kenny has asked us to add the following personal message:

Could you please pass on my sincere thanks to all who have sent me e-mails, and logged on to the show each week; I got a load of listeners from the UK and Europe. Most of all, thanks to the past offshore radio DJ's for their help - Mick Luvzit, Graham Webb, Mike Ahern, Rosko and last but not least, Ben Healy from Radio Scotland. Without their help, the shows would not have been possible. Also a big thank you to Chris and yourself for all the plugs over the three years. It was a gas to do, and I'm hoping that one day the Revival show will return.

Kenny, there are many of us who do appreciate the work you have done, and will do in the future, to keep the memory of offshore radio alive. We shall miss the Revival Show.

Comment from one of our regular US correspondents: 'This programmer obviously has no original ideas, so in lieu of creativity, he's copying bad American programming. He's following the tried and true axiom: "Change gives the illusion of progress".'

Maybe the programmer should be considering the response to Pirate BBC Essex. Most commercial stations would give a great deal to achieve that sort of audience reaction and publicity.

Bob Celebrates the Forts
Bob le Roi's April site update has a 'Scrapbook' special of more never-before published pictures from Shivering Sands in 'Sutch and City – Part 6', to celebrate 40 years of the first broadcasts of Radios Sutch and City, in May. Bob says:
With a select few of us meeting to commemorate the anniversary we'd still love to hear from you if you had anything to do with the fort stations.

"The Radio Caroline format has changed dramatically"
Hans Knot in the Netherlands, has been working hard as usual, and has produced not only his monthly International Radio Report, but also a new Soundscapes feature, which forms Chapter 10 of the series 'The Wet and Wild History of Radio Caroline', subtitled "The Radio Caroline format has changed dramatically...".

After a full three years of absence, in 1983 Radio Caroline again could be heard, now airing its programmes from the MV Ross Revenge. The ship was anchored only twelve miles away from the spot where the former Caroline ship did sink in March 1980. Though the name and location of the station were the same, the programme format would change dramatically, Ronan O'Rahilly announced to the press.

Indeed, it did change but, as Hans Knot argues, for the worse and not for the better.

Hans already has over 3000 e-mail subscribers to his International Radio Report, which is an open forum on all radio-related topics, but he welcomes any new subscribers who would like to sign up to receive it. The latest International Radio Report covers radio April Fools gags with a witty comment from Andy Archer regarding Twiggy Day's Caroline Reunion. Andy and Chris Baird also add personal memories of Carl Mitchell. Contact Hans at hknot@home.nl

Also, many congratulations from the Radio London website to Hans and Jana on their fifth wedding anniversary, March 24th!
Frostbite Down Under
In Volume 26 of Ian MacRae's on-line newsletter The Radio Wave, Ian offers his usual interesting mix of stories and commentaries from around the globe.
There are comments on the new indecency laws, how Rush Limbaug amazed everyone by taking the sacked Howard Stern's side, and a regular feature on publicity stunts that backfired, this month including a tale of frostbite in the nether regions!
40th Anniversary Remembered in Finland
It was great to hear from our old friend (and Bruce Willis look-alike!) Hans Åström, in Vasa, Finland. Hans writes:

Regarding the 40 years anniversary of Radio Caroline, I wrote a small story for the Swedish-speaking local newspaper here (www.vasabladet.fi) to be published sometime during the Easter holidays. The plot is to show that modern radio as it is today and taken for granted by the younger audience, is just a result of the ground-breaking work that the offshore-radio stations made in the 1960s. I have concentrated on the history of Radio Caroline and in the story I give the credits to Keith Skues: 'Pop Went the Pirates', Chris Elliot: 'The Wonderful Radio London Story', your website (of course!) and many more websites dealing with offshore radio.

I'm looking forward to the BBC programmes from LV18 and I hope to catch some of it on MW as well, but Radio Essex on MW is very weak here. Every now and then I can hear some fragments on my Sony SW-ICF 7600 GR and on my IC-706 when using DSP and Noise-reduction.

Read Hans's story of the popularity of Big L in Finland, here.

Happy Birthday, Hall of Fame!

This is a popular time for celebrations – especially ones with a 'four' in – and April sees The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame celebrating its fourth birthday.

Somehow, there always seem to be a marvellous collections of offshore photos lurking in people's attics, and the latest HoF update includes the first instalment of gems from the photo album of Roger Scott, aka Greg Bance. The pictures date from his time with Radio Essex. Greg also appears in Jonathan's 2-page collection of personal photos taken at the Caroline 40th birthday party, March 28th. There's also a sneak preview of one of the specially-recorded Pirate BBC Essex jingles. It's voiced by an ex-Big L DJ with a DEEP voice!

Many Happy Returns
to Jonathan and the Hall of Fame, from Chris, Mary and Radio London.

Steam Radio
Amidst all the anniversary celebrations, John and Lyn Preston in Oz, drew our attention to an article on the BBC website about the Daily Mail Broadcasting Yacht. Back in 1928, the newspaper chartered the steam yacht Ceto, installed a radio transmitter, and carried out tests up and down the Scottish coast. Sadly, the venture, unlike Radio Scotland, was not a success. The full article is here.
Books published to commemorate the Anniversary

Click on the book jacket to buy Life on the Oceaan Waves

Radio Caroline North Rockin' and Rollin'
Bob Preedy's new book, tells the story of the station aboard the Fredericia and her much-loved DJs.

Particularly interesting, is a list of Caroline North 'turntable hits', which is fascinating to compare with those on Radio London's playlist.

Bob tells how, shortly after the ship arrived in the Isle of Man, "Caroline liaison officer, 28-year-old George Hare, flew in from Dublin." Chris and I were absolutely delighted to meet George at Twiggy Day's 40th Anniversary Caroline Reunion.

At the end of the history of Caroline North, Bob includes a chapter to update Life on the Oceaan Waves, his previous book about Radio 270. It includes confirmation of the little-known fact that former Radio London PD, Ben Toney, presented two programmes on 270, in May 1967!

Radio Caroline North... ISBN 1-874366-04-7 PRICE: £8.00. inc. postage. Bob Preedy, Wetherby Cinema, Caxton St, Wetherby LS22 4RU.

The Beat Fleet by Mike Leonard, published by Forest Press, March 26th, 2004
Radio historian, Mike Leonard, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the Sixties ‘pirate’ radio stations – the competition, rivalry, threats and even violence, as stations tried to capture a share of the lucrative commercial radio market, as well as the fight to stay on the air in the face of government action.

The Beat Fleet brings together all the events of four hectic years that changed the face of British radio forever.

ISBN 0 9527684. PRICE: £9.99 plus £2.75(UK) postage and packing, £6.50 p & p Europe, including Eire. Other destinations on application

Forest Press, P O Box 1, Heswall, Wirral CH60 3TH. Email forestpress@tiscali.co.uk

Sadly, we have four obituaries to add

Paul Atkinson
Paul Atkinson, of St Albans' most famous band, The Zombies, has succumbed to cancer at the age of 58. He had been ill for some time and had undergone two liver transplants.

Paul first met Rod Argent at the age of 14, at St Albans School Music Club. He confessed that the Zombies' initial repertoire consisted mainly of "Shadows' numbers and lame instrumentals"*

Though the Zombies failed to follow their success with 'She's Not There' in the National charts, their singles appeared many times in the Radio London Fab Forties and their music was always pioneered by Kenny Everett.

Paul Atkinson was in London in 1998 to participate in the Zombies Reunion at the Jazz Cafe, Camden Lock. In January 2004, a dinner was held in Hollywood in Paul's honour, where, although frail, Paul joined the Zombies on stage.

Of the recording of 'Odessey and Oracle', Paul said, "That was a fantastic summer. We had these wonderful songs, we rehearsed them all very carefully and we went into Abbey Road to record. My memory of that is the best of any of our recording sessions."*

(thanks to Mike Terry) *Quotes from: 'The Zombies – Hung Up on a Dream' by Claes Johansen
Johnny Bristol
Soul singer, writer and producer, Johnny Bristol died in Michigan on March 21st, aged 65.

It was Johnny who spotted Jnr Walker and the Allstars and recommended them to Harvey Fuqua, who signed them to his own Harvey label, which was eventually taken over by Motown. Johnny, who was at one time married to Iris Gordy, co-produced with Harvey, their hits, 'How Sweet it Is', 'Pucker Up Buttercup' and 'What Does it Take'. 'Pucker Up Buttercup' was chosen as Mark Roman's climber.

Johnny was producer and backing-vocalist on the Supremes' 'Someday We'll Be Together'. His best-known solo hit was 'Hang on in There Baby'.

Alistair Cooke
Alistair Cooke, whose weekly 'Letter From America' ran on the BBC for more than 50 years, has died in New York. He retired from the Radio 4 programme only weeks before his death, at the age of 95.

Letter From America was first broadcast in 1946 and ran continuously for more than 2,500 shows, making it the world's longest-running radio programme.

Jan Berry
Jan Berry, of Jan & Dean, died on March 26th, shortly before his 63rd birthday. He had never fully recovered from a serious car crash, which happened when he was twenty-five.

Jan and Dean did not find huge success in the UK, but their singles 'I Found A Girl' (Nov '65), 'Popsicle' (Aug '66) and 'Yellow Balloon' (April '67) all charted in the Radio London Fab Forty.

In a touching website interview, Remember Me When I'm Gone, (dated April 2003) Jan said:

"To all of our fans out there, you're a big part of the light at the end of my tunnel. Thanks for being there. I wouldn't be here without you."

(thanks to Trevor Bailey)

Montréal, My Home Town!

Canadian radio personality and bilingual voice talent Marc Denis who wrote from Québec to tell us about The 98 CKGM Super 70s Tribute Page, has sparked off fascinating memories from Radio London fan, Keith Milborrow. The promised full story is now in Mini-memories, while Marc's own story of his broadcasting hero Roger Scott, is in Otherwaves.

Marc said:

"Although 980 CKGM hit the airwaves in the city in 1959 and still flies today as sports-talk 'Team 990', this page sets out to salute 'CKGM Super 98' in its heyday: January 1, 1970 to December 31, 1979.

I had the immense privilege and pleasure of being part of this radio rocker in Montréal from June 10, 1974 weathering the times and changes until September 5, 1980 as the bilingual Marc 'Mais Oui' Denis, aka 'Marc in the dark'."

Although Marc's excellent site naturally focuses on the decade which means the most to him, he also includes a CKGM General History section. This contains an MP3 of a tune of which will be extremely familiar to Radio London listeners, but with somewhat different lyrics. Yes, it's 'Montréal, My Home Town'! 'Montréal', having three syllables, doesn't fit the tune quite as well as 'London'. Listening to this version, you can't help thinking that PAMS writer Euel Box, must have been struggling at times to come up with appropriate lyrics to suit so many different cities. Montréal is apparently the place 'where life's so gay' – which meant nothing other than 'happy and carefree' in 1962, when the song premiered on CKGM! The vocalist was Terry Lea Jenkins.

Also in Marc's history section is a clip of the late Roger Scott from his CFOX days in 1969, when John and Yoko were staging one of their 'bed-ins' at Montréal's Queen Elizabeth hotel. Roger was one of the CFOX 'live from the bedside' jocks who added his voice to the recording of 'Give Peace A Chance'.

Click the logo to visit The 98 CKGM Super 70s Tribute Page.


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