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volume 4
april 2001

The offshore days of Graham Gill

 





  RNI Memories (12)
by Hans Knot
Previous
  In the history of offshore radio the name of Graham Gill has become attached to several radio stations. Probably best remembered from Radio Caroline and RNI in the 1970s, Gill started his European radio career on the Laissez Faire, working for Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio. He also could be heard in the sixties on Wonderful Radio London and the middle of the road station Radio 390. Graham Gill now is retired and Hans Knot met him recently to speak about his days offshore. The interview now is published in our series of RNI Memories.
 
1 Hans: "I'll keep to the inevitable first question for an interview like this: how did you get involved with radio?"
  Brian McKenzie, Roger Kent, Rudi Kagon and Graham Gill onboard the MEBO II (1974)

Graham: "Well it started in Australia. I've been in radio for more years than I care to remember and I've retired now. It all began in Melbourne at a station called 3UZ and I began at the age of 14. In those days and in some respects today in Australian radio, you just can't get a job by going on the air like you can over here. You have to go to a radio school. In the first place you had to get a voice and to do that I went to the Lee Murray voice production school three nights a week whilst I was working at 3UZ during the day. I also went to the Vincent School of Broadcasting where I learnt the theory of music, the history of music, jazz, the pop world as it was in those days, classical music, etcetera."

  "I also had to learn how to write, read and produce commercials and act in radio plays and they were on transcription in those days. Also back then, there was no such thing as a tape recorder. We had wire recorders and if the wire snapped you just tied a knot in it and carried on. We also had to play our own records and we had to change the needle after every record because we used 78s in those days! I worked at 3UZ and then 3KZ in Melbourne. I'm asthmatic so I went to New South Wales which has a drier climate and spent ten happy years at 2RG in Grevith and MTM-Channel 9 on TV. I did 9.00 to 12.00 housewives programmes on 2RG and children's programmes on TV."
Graham Gill on Radio 390
2 Hans: "Was it there you met Alan Freeman, who also went to Great Britain and became an instant star on the radio?"
  Graham: "Yes, in actual fact, when I left 3UZ and began at 3KZ, I was Alan Freeman's panel operator. I used to play the records for old 'Fluff' and we met up again in 1966 when I decided to go on a world trip and finished up in London and 'Fluff' lived in Maida Vale. I decided that when I came to London I wasn't going to work for three weeks and have a rest and find somewhere to stay."
3 Hans: "Did you come to Europe to work?"
  Production studio on board of MEBO II

Graham: "It was in the back of my mind to do some work for a couple of years and then return to Australia. So I found an apartment in Earls Court sharing with three other theatrical gents and they all had the same manager. After about three days, their manager asked me whether I could work that night at the Wimbledon Palais comparing a show — bringing on The Small Faces, taking them off and spinning a few records in between. I didn't fancy it because I wanted a holiday but the pay was very good. So I did this, and halfway through the show I was at the bar — and halfway through a Guinness — when a guy came up and spoke to me. His name was Gordon Shephard and he was the talent manager for Radio London. He told me he liked the way I worked and asked if could I go to the office on Monday morning in Curzon Street — which I did. And the next day I was out on the boat. So I didn't really have a holiday in London."

4 Hans: "Did you know about the offshore stations in Australia?"
  Graham: "Oh yes, the two big ones, Radio Caroline and Wonderful Radio London were getting the publicity in Australia. I found Radio London was basically Australian radio adapted to the British taste and the British way of life. It was a successful format and went down very well in England at the time."
5 Hans: "How was life on the Galaxy?"
  Graham: "It was fine. It was like any other organisation. You work with people and you have your ups and downs and a few cross words here and there but mostly it was very good."
Graham Gill on Britain Radio
6 Hans: "Who was on the ship at that time?"
  Graham: "There was Mike Lennox, Tony Windsor, Chris Denning and Kenny Everett."
7 Hans: "You then went to one of the other stations on international waters?"
  Andy Archer and Graham Gill

Graham: "At that time there was no unemployment in Britain, not like was in 1980s Europe generally, but I was offered a job on Britain Radio England. I'd come off the Galaxy with Kenny, Mike and Tony on the tender and were waiting to take the train to London from Harwich. There was this big Greyhound bus at the front and this guy called Don Pierson the man behind Britain Radio and Swinging Radio England. He asked us if we wanted a ride back to London which we did and when we got on the bus he asked me whether I would like to work for him, which I told him I would."

8 Hans: "So you weren't under contract and could move freely between the stations?"
  Graham: "Oh yes, no problem. Consequently Britain Radio England became Radio Dolfijn and Radio 355 which I was on as well. Then I was offered a job on Radio 390 — Your British Family Station. That was also very good because it was on a fort and they had the most wonderful English cook called Geoff who used to make the most wonderful Sunday roast dinners."
9 Hans: "Wasn't this the station where you really fitted in with your voice and presentation?
  Graham: Possibly. I think out of all the other stations I think Radio 390 holds some very special memories for me. We had a free hand with our programming and the only thing you had to remember was my accent which 35 years ago was a really strong Australian accent. When Peter James called me into the 390 office to offer me the job, he asked me if I could speak with a more posh accent! Jack McLaughlin was there, Paul Beresford, Roger Scott [Greg Bance] who is doing a lot of commercials on Super Channel and Sky satellite lately. After the closure of Radio 390 I was going to go back to Australia."
Graham Gill on Swinging Radio England
10 Hans: "Wasn't it true that there were some terrible programmes on Radio 390? Especially the horoscope programme?""
  Graham: Yes, Eve — Women's Magazine on the Air! She used to give some lousy horoscopes ..."
11 Hans: "How was it scripted?"
  Tony Allan and Graham Gill

Graham: "It was all scripted and it came from the office in Victoria, London. When it came out we had to read it as it was. In fact, most of the programmes on Radio 390 were scripted and I remember I got a rap from Peter Jones. They asked me to do a country-style programme and I did it one week and the following week it was done by David Allen, who now works for an easy-listening station on the multiplex digital network. He always did it with a script and I did it in a more up-market disk-jockey way, but the people on the office didn't like the way I presented it, so in the end he took it over and did it all himself."

12 Hans: "What were conditions like on Red Sands, the home of Radio 390?"
  Graham: "Very good. Wonderful heating, warm good beds, no rocking about ... Not that I was ever sea-sick, of course, and also it was a week on, week off."
13 Hans: "What happened after the introduction of the Marine Offences Act in August 1967?"
  Graham: "I had a letter from my mother who married a Dutch emigrant after my father died, when I was 13. She asked me to call in and told me I had some relatives in Schiedam, near Rotterdam, from her second marriage and that they wanted to see me. I stayed there for a week and was walking round one day and needed the men's room and came across this place called The Birds Club which hadn't opened at the time but was being renovated. As I came out of the men's room this man asked me what the hell I was doing. I told him that I had been spraying my potatoes. Of course he didn't know what I meant and I told him that I was just a disk-jockey from Radio London and that I was on my way out. Suddenly this voice shouted me over who turned out to belong to John Rosinger, who at the time was a very famous Dutch film director. He asked me if I would like to work for him and he wanted me to be his entertainment manager. I had to book the artists, put them on stage and act as a disk-jockey at the weekends."
Graham Gill on Radio Caroline
  "In those days I had my own office in Project Promotion which was John's office, and was in charge of booking all the big acts at the time in Holland such as The Tea Set, The Motions, The Blues Dimensions, The Soul Machine, etcetera — and they were all lovely to work with. After six months of that, the manager of the club, Peter Maartens suffered a heart attack and they changed over management and I thought it was time to move on. Another guy called Koen Bakker came in and wanted to manage me and take these half hour package shows of artists around Europe. So we did Belgium, Germany and Holland and I did this for about six months. In 1972, Radio Caroline was starting again and I ran into Chris Carey and finished up on the MV Mi Amigo for Radio Caroline and after that RNI."
14 Hans: "Was there a big difference between the Mi Amigo and the MEBO II?"
  The MEBO 3, a small boat used on the MEBO II for short trips

Graham: "Oh definitely. Life was more luxurious on the MEBO II but, on the other hand, the Mi Amigo had all the Guinness and the tins of sardines that I like very much on toast. All of us disk-jockey's were as thick a thieves and we went off the ship and got together in little small boats and drank together. Of course, all of us had girls names. I was Griselda, Andy Archer was Agatha, Brian McKenzie was Brenda, Keith McLaughlin was Jessie and Bob Noakes was Roberta. About midnight a sailing boat would come over from Radio Caroline with a plastic note from Andy Archer which said: 'Dear Griselda, I know you're out of Guinness. I've sent you some sardines as well with some Melba toast — love Agatha.' The next day we'd go over to them with things which they didn't have. It was a happy existence."

15 Hans: "I once talked to Cliff Richard and he said he knew you very well and that you also like Dutch eels?"
  Graham: "Yes, Cliff is an old chum of mine and when we were both working our paths seldom crossed, but occasionally we'd get together and I'd have a few beers, but he never drank except orange juice. The other deejays on Radio Radio London were a bit jealous of me because I knew him very well and especially when I received a Christmas card from him. It didn't go down too well."
16 Hans: "In 1974, you went back to Radio Caroline?"
  Graham: "Yes, I was there until the Dutch version of the Marine Offences Act and I was able to carry on for a short time by doing my programmes in Amsterdam, where I did record them in a local recordshop."
Graham Gill on Radio Northsea International
17 Hans: "You never had any problems with the authorities?"
  Graham Gill and Hans Knot

Graham: "Up to a point. We used to send the tapes out but then it got a little bit hot because I was told that, if I didn't stop, I could get into trouble. I didn't fancy spending any time in jail, so I had to stop. From that moment on I went to work for Radio Netherlands World Service. I carried on working until 1984 when I retired, as I felt I had done enough."

   
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  The sound fragments on this page are copyrighted. They are used here according to the rules of fair use and academic quoting. Take a look at the index of RNI Memories for other installments of this series.
  2001 © Soundscapes