Radio Caroline

Saturday 29th March

It is 50 years ago yesterday that Radio Caroline first broadcast, incidentally from just off the Essex coast near Walton-on-the-Naze where I live.   There a few celebrations here today, live bands promised but of what provenance I am not sure; but the star of the show will be the Honeycombs who had one hit only with “Have I The Right” way back in ’64.  The town has always been a bit 60’s and 70’s rock and roll, a biker café on the front and a rock memorabilia shop, and today (Friday) there are a lot of oldies like me wandering around.

But what was so fabulous about Radio Caroline.  It is obvious – the music.  It was wall to wall music, and it was all our music.  The BBC was very staid, it had the Light Programme which was more “popular” music but was far closer to today’s Radio 2 than anything we wanted to listen to.   The Beatles were huge and in their wake came a whole host of bands, some beat groups like Gerry and the Pacemakers, but a lot of R’n’B influenced bands like the Stones.  There was precious little that didn’t get into the charts on the BBC at all, and nowhere for new bands to get their music played.  Radio Luxemburg was the only alternative and the signal was so bad it was hard work to hear anything at all.  suddenly everything changed with so-called “pirate radio”, and Radio Caroline” was the first and the best.  First record played was “Not Fade Away” by the Stones and it got better from there on in.

The DJ’s were all unheard of, and were mostly zany characters suddenly let loose to do their own thing entirely; they included Johnny Walker, Tony Blackburn, Screaming Lord Sutch and John Peel.  The Government declared them illegal and set out to close them down and finally succeeded.  But the game had changed and they knew it.  BBC radio was changed from the Light, Home and Third to 1, 2, 3, and 4.  Radio 1 played ‘pop’ music all day and recruited most of the old ‘pirate’ D.J.s.   At last we had our music available, a whole station of it – and all thanks to Radio Caroline.  Strange to think it was only 50 years ago now, seems far longer.  By the way Caroline still lives on in the internet these days.