Besides Caroline and London there were a multitude of other stations on the medium wave from various sites around the British coast. Most of them were in the Thames Estuary, some on old wartime forts, some on ships. The others covered Yorkshire ( Radio 270 ) and Scotland ( Radio Scotland ). Thanks to Paul Amos for the clips.
A Radio City Jingle.
First we visit Radio Sutch the fort-based station set up to promote the career of Screaming Lord Sutch ( the famous politician! ). It started broadcasting in May 1964 on 194m from Shivering Sands fort. Unless I am mistaken Radio Sutch pioneered the use of forts as Radio stations. Basically it was an amateurish outfit with a weak signal, I remember a visit to Essex where the main stations were booming in ... Radio Sutch was not very strong even there!
Here is Nick Carey? wishing us all a good morning with what appears to be some crappy organ music in the background...
By September 1964 Radio Sutch had been replaced on Shivering Sands by Radio City on 238m, a much better run station with a good signal. It was run by the infamous Reg Calvert whose shooting in a dispute over the station precipitated government action against the pirates... well it didn't help their cause!
In this clip we have the inestimable pleasure of hearing a snatch of She-Boom by the "very popular" Dianne Feraz and Nicky Scott... who?? Surely not a paid-for plugging scenario? The jock is Ian Macrae with "the hits of the day", they loved their catch-phrases back in the sixties!
Meanwhile on the nearby Red Sands fort, Radio Invicta started testing in June 1964. By July they had a regular service on 985kHz with a good signal into London and the South East of England.
After some truly tripe-tastic music we hear the mid-Atlantic DJ introducing "Strictly for highbrows".... What a pity we don't get to hear it, it's obviously my kind of programme!
After much drama and a change of identity to King Radio the troubled station finally rose from the ashes as radio 390 featuring "EVE the woman's magazine of the air" and an "easy listening" format. The signal was excellent leading the way for the lower frequencies in the medium wave to be used by the pirates.
This chap sounds a bit errr, how shall I put it.... camp! If I remember rightly this seemed to be a feature of the on-air presentation of 390 during the day. Things did get a bit more manly in the evenings with R&B and stuff!
In November 1965 Knock John fort was brought to life as Radio Essex with middle-of-the-road music for the local area. Quite professional sounding for a small outfit.
The smooth-sounding presenter here is David Sinclair (thanks to Bob LeRoi for the ID).
The original Radio Essex!
In 1966, legal battles ensued over whether the fort really was in international waters (as with the other forts). Undeterred, the station was refitted, more powerful transmitters were installed and it returned to the air as BBMS.
Here is a midnight close-down announcement by Richard Palmer, the captain of the fort. Streaming BBMS------ Download and play link for BBMS.
By December 1965 the pirates have spread North. Radio Scotland braves the weather and starts broadcasting on 242m from a horrible old hulk called the Comet. This engineless ship was anchored off the East coast of Scotland near Dunbar and was a pretty uncomfortable place to broadcast from! Later they towed the thing round the North of Scotland to anchor off the West coast near Troon, hoping to get a better signal into Glasgow.
This is a not-very-Scottish-sounding jock encouraging the listeners to pay-up and join the Radio Scotland "Clan", and why not?
We can't leave Radio Scotland without hearing the Radio Scotland song.... oh those happy memories!
Radio Scotland's lovely song...
Yorkshire, being the centre of the known world, felt that it should have its own station and Wilf Proudfoot was the man to get it organised. Radio 270 broadcast from the Oceaan 7 off Scarborough and proved to be very popular in the North East of England. It was quite a good signal in the midlands too. I remember the first day it started, Radio London (Big L) had just decided to make a frequency change from its usual half channel spacing at 266m to 270... coincidence? The result was a horrible beat note between the two stations and Big L returned to 266 within a day or so.
Here is Brendan Power giving us a typical East-coast weather forecast....
The Americans saw the potential of commercial radio in Europe and wanted some of the action. In May 1966 the Laissez Faire arrived off the Essex coast direct from Miami where it had been fitted out to broadcast two stations at once. Britain Radio on 355m went head to head with 390 as an easy-listening station whereas "Swingin" Radio England on 227 was aiming for the Big L top 40 audience. Neither were entirely successful and the stations eventually changed identity several times. Radio England did have the distinction of being the first broadcasting home of Johnnie Walker.
Only jingles I'm afraid.
Britain Radio... cool.. Radio England... hot!... ish
Some of the information for this page was gleaned from the late Stuart Henry and Mike von Joel's book "Pirate Radio then and now" published in 1984. If you discover a remaindered copy somewhere buy it, it's a useful if not entirely accurate book!
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