My Musical Education – part 2 – Pirate Radio

Monday 25th January

I had my transistor radio and used to listen to Radio Luxembourg, but the reception was very poor and the signal used to drift in and out and I was forever trying to fiddle with the tiny dial to get a better signal.  And then the word in the playground was that Radio Caroline was on air, and I soon found it.  It was actually only a few miles away just outside Frinton, right near where I would end up buying my house.  It was completely illegal, the BBC ruled the airwaves, but the signal was brilliant and best of all they played great music all day and all night.  The DJs, now almost all household names, but little more than kids back then seemed to know instinctively what was new and exciting music.  And not only the ‘pop’ charts but album tracks and new singers and groups from America like The Byrds and The Doors and Jefferson Airplane among others.

I can remember excitedly exchanging information behind the bike-sheds at school about this or that fantastic band we had heard.  It was a really exciting time, as the sixties unfolded into psychedelia and the summer of love, new sounds were leapfrogging each other, often led by our very own Beatles or Stones or Kinks or Who or Small Faces or Spencer Davis Group and all the other great bands around.  I used to hang out with the lower Sixth form, a couple of years older than me and they introduced me to Dylan and Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte Marie, music I didn’t know even existed.  And there was also Soul music coming out of Detroit that just blew us away too.  It wasn’t long before there was also Radio London and a few other Pirate ships.  The Government quickly passed laws to outlaw them and threatened to blow them out of the water.  But what really killed the Pirate stations was Radio 1, newly created and by a stroke of brilliance employing most of the DJs from Caroline and London – there was no need for pirate radio now.  Suddenly we had the same great new and exciting music available legally on the BBC.

But I will always fondly remember Caroline, and one time especially when Kenny Everett played ‘Sergeant Pepper’ in its entirety one Saturday afternoon weeks before it would be released.  What a great time to grow up.