April/May/June is here
The archived Happenings index is here...

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Site Updates
As the Fab Forties are constantly being updated with new information, these are links to the most recent amendments.
(27/08) Berton Averre adds a new aspect to the 'Let's Live for Today' story
(03/09) SEVEN new climbers added to a 1966 Fab Forty!
All recent updates to Jempi Laevaert's Radio Caroline Charts are on the Stonewashed Index. Apologies to anyone incorrectly credited for their contribution, but contributors' names are not always clear from Jempi's notes. Please e-mail Mary if your name has been missed.
Ray Binning from Tiptree shares photos of his lovely model MV Galaxy
(Updated 03/09) The mystery of the Radio London Renamel car badge – Geoff Pearson's mini was adorned with a different version!
And now, the news...

The Ship That Rocked the World
On 'Brainstormin' With Bill Frank' on KKZZ, August 24, Tom Lodge gave a 30-minute interview about Radio Caroline and his new book – a much-expanded third edition of his earlier publication.

The publication date was given as August 19, but presumably, this applied to the USA. The book is expected to be available in the UK from Amazon.

(Thanks to Mike Barraclough)

Dan Alexander – the 'Sonovox Man'
09/10/1934 – 09/08/2010

Dan's career with PAMS of Dallas began in 1958. He lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for most of his life and worked in the jingles business till his retirement in 2005. An uncredited tribute says:

"A versatile male singer, Dan Alexander had a rare combination of solo and ensemble capabilities. He sang in the Dallas studios from the late 1950s through the 90s. Virtually every jingle singer with whom I’ve spoken says there’s no question – far and away, he was the best."

Dan will always be remembered by Radio London listeners as the voice of the Sonovox, singing the words 'wonderful Big L' and 'wonderful Radio London' over the station theme tune, officially titled the PAMS Sonowaltz, but affectionately known as 'Big Lil'. As the Sonowaltz was the last thing to be heard before the station closedown at 1500 on August 14th 1967, Dan's was, in fact, the last voice heard on Radio London.

Footage on Youtube shows Dan in later life, in action in the recording studio.

Other links: tribute from Jonathan Wolfert on the jinglemad forum; legacy.com obituary

"You Dog! You Son of a *****! You Speckled-Shirt Dog!" – Pirate Curse, 1722
Yes, Septembaaaar 19th and International Talk Like a Pirate Day (ITLAPD) is that time of year when nobody in the world needs an excuse to don their favourite Captain Jack Sparrow wig and take a cutlass into work to aid with negotiating that long-awaited pay-rise with the boss. Should you decide to amuse the aforementioned boss with a selection of gangplank gags prior to running him through, you can visit piratejokes.net or twittaaaaar. Unfortunately, they don't get much better than, 'What goes thump-thump Arr!, thump-thump Arr!? A pirate falling down the stairs.'

ITLAPD started in 2002 and gets bigger every year. Our old sea dog friends (and Honoraaaary Anaaaarrraks) The Pirate Guys, Mark 'Cap'n Slappy' Summers and John 'Ol' Chumbucket' Baur, want to know how you intend to celebrate, so they can post the details on their site. (If you are in need of inspaaaarration, visit the previous years' arrrrchives and see what has gone afore. The semi-official UK 'HQ' is here.)

No doubt there will be plenty of attempts to top the World Record of a 6,166-pirate gathaaarring set on August 6th 2010 in Hastings, but they'll all have their work cutlassed out to do it, as the previous record set in Germany in July was a mere 1,800 renegades. The Hastings record was acheived with assistance of friends from the Netherlands.

The Pirate Guys have individual sections of their site for each participating country and are particularly interested in hearing about ITLAPD events arrrrganised in aid of good causes. They'd also quite like you to buy copies of their book, 'The Pirate Life – unleashing your inner Buccaneer'. This year, they organised a competition for the best ITLAPD teeshirt and had so many entries that they picked more than one winner.

'Bootylicious – What do the pirates of yore tell us about their modern counterparts?' is a 4-page New Yorker review by Caleb Crain of 'The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates' by Peter T Leeson. The piece and Crain's subsequent blog are a mine of information on the subject of high seas buccaneering. As there were only four known female pirates, the on-board ambience of a pirate ship was, according to Leeson, "energetic and testosterone filled, probably similar to a college fraternity only with peglegs, fewer teeth, and pistol duelling". Sounds a bit like the Sixties offshore stations!

Meanwhile (with his eyepatch fixed on Hallowe'en) Tom Smith combined the unlikely themes of brain-eating undead and hook-wearing shipmates with true romance, in his song Zombie Pirates in Love.

A large number pirates of the offshore radio kind, all experts on Marine Offences, be appearin' in our special Radio London ILAPD Supplement, presented by PARROT – Pirate Anoraks Revere Real Offshore Terminology. They represent Radio Caroline North and South, City, Essex, London, 270, Scotland and RNI. We even have renegades from the land-bound Radio Luxembourg!

LV18 gets temporary Harwich Home
The Harwich and Manningtree Gazette reveals that historic lightship LV18 has been granted a temporary home in the harbour of her home town. The paper describes her as a 'controversial ship'. There's nothing controversial about LV18 – only about her moorings. What is controversial is the Tendring Council's extraordinary decision to hold a vote on the subject at their February meeting.

According to the Gazette, councillors' opinion is still divided over the benefits of siting the ship at Ha'penny Pier.

Kimberley's Spooky Quest
Kimberley Peters of Royal Holloway, University of London presented her study on ghosts and apparitions on the Ross Revenge
at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference on September 2.

Kimberley quizzes Roger Day during Pirate BBC Essex 2009.

"Seen any seen any spectres Twiggy?"

"Only Jack and Phil!"




The Wreck of the Mi Amigo
The edition of 'Coast' – 'Hull to London' broadcast on Wednesday, September 1st (2000 – 2100, BBC 2) included footage of former Caroline DJ Tom Anderson returning to the location of the wreck of the Mi Amigo, where he was amazed by the sonar images that produced such a clear outline of the ship. Tom broadcast from the Mi Amigo in the mid-to-late Seventies and was on board on the night she sank in 1980. (The Mi Amigo segment of the programme was posted on Youtube 03/09/2010, but may not remain there for reasons of copyright.)
(Thanks to Francis Pullen)
A long wait for 'The Face'
In Radio Times for 4th to 10th September, the 'Face behind the Voice' (page 136) is Dave Cash. He cites his 'best moment' as "Kenny Everett finally using some of our very rude spoonerisms on his TV show. They'd been written for (but banned by) Radio London." (Possibly connected to that actress called Cupid?) A very long time to have to wait to use the material!
'World's Smallest Pirate radio station'
Mark West (Wesley)'s friend Barnacle Bill set up a minuscule station.
Love Me Loo
John Lennon's toilet has sold in a Liverpool auction for a staggering £9.5k.

George David Weiss
09/04/1921 - 23/08/2010

Musician, songwriter and former president of the Songwriters' Guild of America, George Weiss has died aged 89. His writing credits included million-sellers, 'What a Wonderful World' and 'Can't Help Falling in Love', but his most successful song on Radio London was 'Stay With Me', which he co-wrote with Jerry Ragovoy. The Walker Brothers took their version (as 'Stay With Me Baby') to #4 in February 1967, while Sharon Tandy returned with her cover (as 'Stay With Me') in July of the same year.

Many artists have recorded the song. The original 1966 version by Lorraine Ellison, features in Richard Curtis's offshore radio comedy, 'The Boat That Rocked' (aka 'Pirate Radio') and the film's end-credits include a contemporary recording by Duffy.

Two-page obituary from 'the Scotsman'.

Fender Hall of Fame Inducts Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix was inducted posthumously into the Fender Hall of Fame in ceremonies in Tempre, Arizona August 13. Blues guitarist/singer/songwriter, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, performed in his honour.

Hendrix Photos
In a Guardian video feature 'My best shot: Jimi Hendrix by Gered Mankowitz', Mankowitz says, "The few photographs taken of him performing dominated the media… I just tried to give him an opportunity to give something to the camera."

Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair
Elaine Pomm writes:
I'm looking for some people who came from the London area who were in Cornwall in 1973. I've arranged a reunion in St. Ives, Cornwall, for the 4th September at 8 pm by the harbour wall outside the lifeboat station. It's for all the kids who were homeless and lived as 'hippies' there in 1973 and earlier. Anyone from the Sixties up until around 1973, who was homeless and had to live on the beaches or in railway shelters and squats in St. Ives. They came from all over the UK and abroad. I've already found over a dozen, but need to find the rest. From those I found, one is now a GP and another a teacher.

The event has been well advertised in Cornwall, in local tabloids and radio, and I've been interviewed on a few radio stations across the UK but not those in the major cities where the people I need to find, live. You are very welcome to join the reunion, if you fancy playing hippies for the weekend. elainepomm@yahoo.co.uk

Message for 'Black Armband Day' – August 14th – from Webmaster Mary Payne
Because Radio London existed for such a short time, it always amazes me that such a wealth of material relating to our favourite station is still around, just waiting to be added to the website. I would never have believed that after eleven years, I would still be adding new material, hearing from Fab Forty artists and their families, and even receiving information on additional climbers.

The Big L Fab Forty will return to Oldies Project in January starting again from the beginning in 1965.

Usually, it's just me working on the updates – my husband Chris gets pretty busy with other work – so it does mean there's a limit to what I have time to do, but I always endeavour to include something special for the August 14th update. This time it's a new part of original Programme Director Ben Toney's memoirs, where Ben tells how he discovered that 'Big Brother' was watching him and he thought he might be forced to leave the country – especially after being publicly accused of plotting a murder!

Below are some of the flattering comments that Radio London has received recently.

Many thanks to all of you!

Francis Pullen, Cambridge, UK
So on Saturday at 3pm, 43 years on, we pay tribute the most professional of offshore stations – Big L. I still remember the awful silence, or rather hiss, as 'Big Lil's' Sonovox theme ended and my transistor radio seemed kind of pointless.

So, 43 years on, we should also pay tribute to Chris and Mary who have kept Big L alive in so many ways through their Radio London website - thank you both for making it the most informative, accurate and like Big L itself, professional resource on the internet.

As Pete Drummond said during the final broadcast, 'I doubt if you'll ever hear the like of it again.' Well there have been many imitators, but none that could match a station that was truly unique and of its time. RIP Big L.

Tim Charlton
I have just heard the final Fab 40 and I know how much work has gone into it and just want to thank you and Oldies Project for all your efforts.

Whilst still at school, our ambition was to work as DJs on Radio London and a lot of time was spent on audition tapes. My friend Russell and I also entered most of the competitions. Unfortunately we were both too young to get jobs on Big L due to the Marine Offences Act.

My friend has had various DJ jobs in the USA and was the first to tell me about your site.

I contacted you recently on behalf of Patrick Lyons of Nirvana and thank you for updating your site so efficiently.

The factual information on your site is brilliant. As I was around in the 60s and remember the music clearly it is good to read a site that is so accurately and thoroughly researched.

Thanks again for the Radio London site and it's great to hear the old records and jingles on Oldies Project. Keep up the good work!

Berton Averre, USA (guitarist with The Knack who had the 1979 international hit with 'My Sharona')
First of all, wonderful, fantastic, life changing... One of the great joys in my life is to track down and re-connect with great music from the Sixties. This invariably means the songs that DIDN'T become hits, because all of those songs have been played into the grave by oldies stations here in the States. For a while XM's sixties station did a commendable job, but then gave up the effort by and large.

Try to imagine my feelings at discovering Oldies Project on the web – a daily source of memorable songs from the Sixties that I have NEVER HEARD BEFORE! Picture someone for whom pop music is of central importance to his existence never to have heard The Walker Brothers' version of 'Stay With Me Baby', or nuggets like 'The Water Is Over My Head' by the Rockin' Berries, to say nothing of the Measles or Mr. Murray. It's a revelation, and one of the great features in my life now. When I'm in my car, my iPhone is my sole music machine, and it's tuned to OldiesProject.com. When I'm home I'm saving and transcribing the Big L Fab Forty and Month In The Life shows.

Thank you thank you thank you. Oh, and of course DONT' STOP! I know Pirate Radio gave up the ghost in Sept. '67... can't you go back and just start giving us '65 again? (Hopefully, we can – Mary)

Keep up the great work (please!!), Berton Averre

Dennis Straney (Radio City, Radio 270)
29/05/1939 – 01/08/2010
Dennis's former shipmate Guy Hamilton received some bad news from Australia

Fans of pirate Radios City and 270 will be sad to hear of the death of Dennis 'the Menace' Straney on Sunday 1st August.

Dennis had been suffering increasingly from Parkinson's disease and dementia in recent years, and was in a nursing home back in Australia, but as his son Gavin says, he died aged 71 without a wrinkle or a grey hair.

Dennis was a 'senior' colleague to this then-18-year-old on 270 in Scarborough, and a good friend. He was a lot of laughs, on the air and off. 

On the air of course, his smooth deep mellifluous tones charmed the pants off certain categories of listener. A menace he wasn't, although he was infamous amongst 270 DJs for the way he explained to housewives how to use the 'Gard-Stik' product: much more explicit, I think, than the advertiser had put in the instructions!

I'd been a fan of Dennis's as a teenage listener to Radio City. Meeting the great man and knowing him on Oceaan 7 was a privilege.

RIP Dennis.
Gerry Zierler/Guy Hamilton


Radio City's Ian MacRae and Tom Edwards pay tribute

I'm sorry to hear of the death of Dennis Straney.
Dennis was my introduction to offshore radio.
I had just arrived in London from Australia with the idea of looking for work on one of the pirate stations and staying in a house already rented by some Aussie girls until I could find somewhere of my own. I'd bought a National transistor radio in Aden on the trip and that now hung on a door hook in the bathroom. On my third day in the house I turned it on and someone had left it on a station which identified itself as Radio City.
At first I couldn’t believe the signal was coming from a pirate. It sounded far more professional than I expected. Probably because the DJ I was listening to was... you guessed it... Dennis Straney.
Dennis did a spot for a competition the station was running and gave the address for listeners to post entries to. I quickly scribbled it down on a piece of toilet paper and just turned up at the office next day. Finished up meeting with Reg Calvert and within three days I was working on the Radio City towers with Dennis.
We became great mates and I always admired his professionalism.
Some years later back in Sydney I was walking through a department store and heard a familiar voice on the PA. It was Dennis working as a spruiker. We briefly exchanged hellos but he was busy and couldn’t engage in a personal conversation and sadly we lost touch and never saw him again.
Why he wasn’t working on the radio I never understood, being the great talent he was.

Ian MacRae


I remember vividly Dennis joining Radio City. He arrived at Shivering Sands Towers with his reels of jingles and we all wanted to use them of course to give our shows and the station more clout. I seem to recall we came to some kind of 'agreement' to use them. He had a distinctive style of broadcasting – sometimes quite outrageous. To me, it seemed he wanted to push the limits to as far as he could go and the listening audience loved it all.
Dennis once stayed with me at my home when I was living right on the sea front at Whitstable and neither of us could get out to City as the weather was rough. He cooked a fabulous dinner, then it was decided we would hit the town, which we did in no uncertain terms, starting at Island Wall.
A great story teller – indeed a character. That earned him the nickname of The Menace.
When City closed, Dennis went to Radio 270 and there our friendship distanced itself until now. I have often thought of him and am saddened that another one of our number has gone, but my memories of him are, and always will be, happy ones.
Rest In Peace Dennis Straney. I'm glad I was your friend.
Tom Edwards


On the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame, you'll find a definition of 'spruiker'. Another 270 shipmate Paul Burnett, who refers to Dennis as "A great guy and a real rascal,"recalls the practical joke involving a vacuum cleaner filled with baking powder that the DJs, led by Dennis, played on Neddy Noel Miller. It put 270 off the air and led to Dennis's sacking from the station.

Radio London in 1968?
Here's a blog about Radio London (Plymouth) a land-based free radio station that was around in the Summer of 1968. "The guys called it Radio London because those were the only jingles... that they had in quality."

Where's Brenda?
Heather Webber (née Hems) is looking for Brenda Cogdell (right) who was Gordon Shepperd's secretary at 17 Curzon Street.

Jenny Take a Ride

Big L founder Tom Danaher has sent some great photos from November 2009, when he took Brig. Gen. O.G. Mannon, 82nd Training Wing commander, for 'a ride' in the World War I-era Curtiss JN-4D 'Jenny'.

US Air Force publication 'Air Information and Training Command' reports:

The general got good marks from instructor pilot Tom Danaher, a veteran of World War II and Korea, who has more than 23,000 hours in the air.

"He did good -- really well. It takes a lot of guts to climb into a 90-year-old airplane with an 86-year-old pilot," Mr. Danaher said.

Full story: Mannon takes to the sky in WWI relic

Photos © Reese Inman

Tony's Not Quite Altogether Now

Radio Six International, run by our friend Tony Currie, has been webcasting from Glasgow, Scotland since 2000 and attracts listeners in 173 countries around the world. Its programming is also regularly broadcast by 18 affiliates in the USA, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Singapore and the UK.

Tony also has a new book out, 'Not Quite Altogether Now!' telling the inside story of Radio Clyde.

Peter's Radio at Sea
Photographer Peter Herring has some beautiful photos on his website and has now added some watery wireless-related pages, including a collection of photos he took aboard the Ross Revenge.
Patrick's Psychedelic Days

Nirvana's first single 'Tiny Goddess' hit the Fab Forty, having previously been picked as John Peel's climber. In a full-page feature, Patrick Campbell-Lyons talks to Radio London about this 'happening' time, offshore radio and his book Psychedelic Days.

'Psychedelic Days' Patrick (current photo, above right. Click to view large version) recounts his life in the Sixties onstage, offstage and in the studio. He knew everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Salvador Dali – and even shared a stage with the surrealist, although it would be more accurate to say that Dali upstaged everyone.

The book is available from www.psychedelicdays.com. Click on the centre picture to read the publicity blurb.

I Did It Otway (Regrets? I've had a few!)
"There are 57-year-olds with far less interesting lives" – Andrew Collins
The long-awaited book from Aylesbury's microstar John Otway has been given an excellent review by Andrew Collins in The Word magazine. (Page 96).

There's a new list of summer gigs posted on list www.johnotway.com including the Free Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival. He writes:

"I'm really looking forward to being part of the Free Fringe in Edinburgh, as well as the gigs with Wild Willy at the start of September and some great festivals.

There's going to be a band tour in the October/November period, leading up to our wonderful Dunkerque Trip on the Beaujolais Nouveau weekend."

Check out the Dunkerque page.

For more insight into Otway, photos of Abbey Road, and tales of recording The #9 Hit, visit our Otway Section.

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