Bureau of Lost Culture

The Lost World of Pirate Radio - Part One

August 2, 2021

PIRATE RADIO first erupted in the UK in the early 1960s when stations such as Radio Caroline and Radio London started to broadcast from ships moored offshore or disused WW2 forts in the north sea. They were set up by wildcat entrepreneurs and music enthusiasts to meet the growing demand for the pop, rock and underground music not catered for by the BBC who had a monopoly on the airwaves.

Music writer ROB CHAPMAN returns to the Bureau to tell the story of this first golden age of illicit broadcasting.  We hear of the extraordinary life of pirate-in-chief Ronan O’Rahilly anarchist founder of Radio Caroline, of legendary broadcaster John Peel and his ground breaking show ‘The Perfumed Garden’, and of the oddities of life aboard the radio ships precariously sailing the airwaves.

Initially, the stations got round the law because they were broadcasting from international waters to delighted young people across the country before they ran foul of the authorities and were shut down in 1967. But their impact lived on: the government caved into youth demand for pop music with the creation of Radio 1 and many of the pirate radio DJs including Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Johnnie Walker, Emperor Rosko went on to mainstream success with the BBC and commercial stations of the seventies and beyond.

For more on Rob


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