The Voice of Peace — The golden years
|Remembering the Voice of Peace (9)|
|by Don Stevens|
|There was a time when the Voice of Peace was one of the most radical offshore radio stations in the world. With its tight professional programming and its pool of experienced broadcasters, it out-performed every station in its reach. Don Stevens was one of the lucky people working on the station during these years. Here he tells his story.|
|1||Left: Don Stevens presenting his Breakfast Show
Tony's tales. When I landed in Israel on March 9th 1976 I had the privilege and the pleasure to work on this station and enjoy, first hand, the satisfaction of working with dedicated radio professionals who understood the real value and meaning of commercial radio. They went all out to generate income for Abie Nathan and the cause of peace; it was a remarkable marriage of idealism and commercialism and produced funds to help the poor and sick of the region.
|My first connection with the Peace Ship was over long dinner conversations with Tony Allan and my wife Anne at our home in North London in Autumn and Christmas of 1974. Tony regaled us with tales and stories of Abie, the ship and the Yom Kippur War, all the adventures the ship had become involved in. Tony loved his time on the ship, and his enthusiasm for the project swept Anne and me away, so much so that Tony said if the station was ever to return he would go back in an instant, would I go too? I agreed, and then, once Tony saw that Anne was okay with my being on a ship, he invited me to join Radio Caroline in the meantime ... a very clever recruiting move. Tony insisted that I could not "Boss" jock on Caroline: stick to the laid back presentation and play as many various tracks off the albums as you can. He was referring to my previous radio gigs which involved more hits every hour, two jingles instead of one, keep the voice over to less than twenty seconds while rolling the tunes back to back. It was known as a "montage of sound," we had to keep the VU-meters bouncing or we would be shown the door. I assured Tony that if I was ever invited to the Caroline, I would keep it laid back. Everyone was happy, and the Peace Ship tales continued.|
|2||Right: Robin Adcroft, Phil Sayer and Black Printz
Meeting Keith ... Another frequent visitor to the Stevens home in 1974 was a man who would prove to be the most influential person in the story of the Voice of Peace and in the life of Abie Nathan, but none of us knew it at the time. Keith Ashton had arrived in Britain in September 1974 and someone had given my name to him as a contact in the alternative radio world, and Anne and myself grew to love this outgoing bouncy guy from down under. He was like the character Tigger in the Walt Disney films, full of life, ideas, concepts and wanted to do everything at a hundred fifty miles a second. His radio credentials were fascinating and extensive including being one of the first jocks to be hired by Radio Hauraki, New Zealand's one and only offshore station and voted number one breakfast deejay in New Zealand for many years.
|Keith was unashamedly honest in that he was out to pick my brains and learn all he could about UK radio, he was a man in a hurry, the best salesman I ever met, taught me loads of techniques. Tony had no time for Keith and would not come round if he was at our home, which was every day up to Christmas 1974, by which time he was selling airtime for Radio Caroline and trying to get Capital Radio London to give him a show in exchange for advertising. They went for this in the end and gave him a Saturday afternoon slot for his "London Link" show from January 1975, uniting Australians and New Zealanders with British families and friends and vice versa, Keith sold all the spots on the show and took a commission and with four hours to fill with spots I'm sure Keith did OK.|
|Keith had heard from me about Peace and Abie — I passed on Tony's stories to him and I was aware that Keith had his options open always, but with Capital Radio he was doing very well and his show was going from strength to strength. Sadly, this all ended when Keith's Visitors Permit expired, he could not get it renewed despite appearing on page 3 of The Sun newspaper with two topless dolly birds asking for a British girl to marry him and let him stay in Britain. So in July 1975, Capital Radio lost "London Link," the host and had a major problem, Keith literally evaporated and he could not be located anywhere in London or England ... then I got a phone call.|
|At the beginning of 1975 in January, Tony told me that the Peace Ship might be heading back to sea. He thought it was in France and was at my home on the phone checking with Nick Oakley of Script Magazine for any news of Abie. She had no information but if she heard anything it would be passed to Tony straight away. It was then he told her he and I were going out to the Caroline so could she send news to the Mi Amigo. Great news, off to Caroline and maybe the Peace Ship too. This was going to be a good year, especially as Tony strongly urged me to take Drafi Deutscher "United" with me and use it as a theme on Caroline. I'd played it a number of times on the Night Service of Radio Concord and it became a favourite of his, and later, it became a firm favourite of many Caroline listeners during spring 1975.|
|3||Left: Ken Dickin
A tailor-made proposition. By the summer of 1975 I was back in London; Tony was in Amsterdam chilling out and I was at Sloopy's in Piccadilly Circus with a residency and doing what I could onshore to support Caroline. Then, my world came crashing down. The British authorities were trying to get Caroline staff to supply them with information to assist them in closing Caroline down. It was common knowledge that we DJ's were trying to get contracts with the newly launched radio stations, but the authorities would not allow this to happen unless co-operation was forthcoming. I had many job offers suddenly turned down, and in the end I was arrested and charged under the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act 1967 for my lack of co-operation. My home was searched and all my papers and documents removed. Anne was terrified and this was the start of a very bleak time for us. Thankfully, Brent Walker retained me at Sloopy's and gave me a further gig at Hackney Stadium's new night spot, but I was followed, my phone was tapped and I had frequent visits to my Sloane Square apartment from men in grey coats. My life was under a microscope and it was terrifying my family.
|Then I got this phone call: "... I have a job that is tailor-made for you, interested? Just say yes, I'll send details." "Yes," I replied. "Details with you shortly." End of conversation, but the voice was Keith Ashton and he was phoning from the other end of the universe — he was so faint — but I was curious to see what my old Aussie mate had up his sleeve. It was November 1975, and I needed a lift. Sure enough, three days later, a letter arrived, with an Israel stamp, postmarked Tel Aviv, at a neutral address known to Keith and myself, in which he laid out the details of this "Super Station" he was in operating with a format and programming style that was made for me. Good salesman Keith: my experience in working Drake format style programmes since 1969 on pirate and closed circuit radio in Britain, my knowledge and love of formats and jingle packages made me ideal for this new operation. He reckoned I was stifled on Caroline and needed to work for him on a station that played the hits and they stayed played, a station combining the best elements of KLIF under Gordon McLendon with a cutting edge Australian take on Todd Storz, makes Drake look like a beginner.|
|When he said he was reporting to Abie Nathan I was shocked. The Peace Ship, as Tony Allan had told us, was a laid back radio service, few commercials and very like Radio Caroline in the 1970's. Keith was describing a tiger of a station, Veronica/Big L/England with WABC thrown in for good measure. More music, more jingles, more commercials, more often, twenty-four hours a day, we still did have that in Britain, so Israel? I replied in a letter that Anne was keen to go back to Canada and was not keen to get blown up in Israel and sent it off before Christmas 1975, but Keith never got the letter. In the next post in January 1976, he told me more about the station, the great jocks he had, just hired a Steve Gordon and Phil Sayer to back up his backbone team of Ken Dickin, Phil Brice, Robin Adcroft and Black Printz. Why was I messing about he wondered.|
|Keith phoned too, on a safe line, and I told him about my forthcoming court appearance for Caroline. He was afraid it may result in a custodial sentence and I should get out while the going was good. I assured him that in conversations with Johnny Jason and Ronan O'Rahilly they were going to back me up and keep an eye out for me, which they did. But further charges were pending regarding Caroline so Keith persuaded me to attend court, and then, using my Irish passport to get out of the country and head for Israel as soon as possible. He would arrange everything. I agreed, and on the 9th March, Johnny Jason drove me to Heathrow Airport for the morning flight to Tel Aviv. We had a good omen: we bumped into the Loving Awareness who were off to the States to record an album. Johnny knew them, introduced me, great guys, they suggested sending the album out to the Ship, great stuff. We had a few good drinks and my adventure with the crazy world of Keith Ashton and the Voice of Peace had started on a real positive vibe.|
|4||Right: Charlie, one of the many cooks
First evening in Tel Aviv. Evening in Tel Aviv, warm wind and it was dark as I landed at about 7:00 p.m. local time. The flight on El Al had been comfortable with a level of service from the attendants I have never experienced before, or since. I had left a London bathed in sunshine, clear blue skies and 2C. The blue skies stayed with me until sunset as the Boeing 707 approached Ben Gurion Airport and a country at war with its neighbours. The crew wished me luck in Israel as I prepared to disembark. Had Keith arranged all of this? I had given no clue as to my business, but, the crew knew my destination and were huge fans of "1540" as they called it. Met by the company driver and his lovely wife, I was invited to tour Tel Aviv if I was up to it. Keith had suggested it as a way of giving me an insight into the stations reach and he insisted they make it a thorough tour. Keith would see me later at the hotel.
|In the car, the background hum of a radio, cassette maybe of WABC, kept us company as my new husband and wife friends introduced me to their homeland — they spoke perfect English. Then, suddenly, typical Israeli, the driver cut the conversation, said how rude it was of him not to let me hear 1540, up went the volume and there was "The More Music Sound of Ken Dickin' with G'days" and "Dicko here" and a montage of sound, strewth! All of this at 10:00 p.m. at night, when European radio was winding down, I came to the rapid conclusion that I might be out of my depth; this was a radio sound like no other, big, brash and fast moving, was there time to re-board the plane?|
|The tour of the city continued, my wonderful guides suggested food and offered a western style restaurant, but I was keen to try the local food, much to the obvious delight of my new friends. I ate a hearty meal in an overcrowded restaurant and then we walked up Dizengoff to the Kikar and sampled the atmosphere. Into the car, up to Kikar Atarim, Ibn Gvirol and then to Kikar Hamedina, everywhere we went, every radio in cars, shops, wherever had 1540 blasting out. I was able to follow the programme walking down the street and I did not have a radio; it was the most intimidating event of my life. Even in the heydays of Big L you would never have that situation happen in Oxford Street, it was a revelation.|
|Finally, to my hotel, oh, and this was another surprise. Booked into the Tel Aviv Sheraton with a pool side apartment and an invite to join Keith at Schmulicks in Ben Yehuda, the favourite watering hole of all the drinking class in Tel Aviv. Keith did not stay long, told me I had an early morning departure to the ship and filled me in on my role. We discussed salary and the ongoing accommodations for shore leave which was always the Sheraton, and then he shot off to close another commercial sale — the guy was fizzing, and very pleased to see me. We met up later at the hotel bar and Keith filled in the gaps. Keith gave few details of the background to his arrival with Peace, just that he implemented the new style shows once the ship had got back from Port Said on September 22nd 1975, and he had retained the services of Black Printz, Robin Adcroft, Phil Brice, Jules Retrot, Ken Dickin and then Steve Gordon and Phil Sayer. But it was very clear that he ran the entire operation for Abie who stayed in the background and used the revenues to assist the poor and weak in the region. Keith was pleased that he could provide this service for Abie, and I was told how the money was spent and all those details. It was clear that an ideal was being served by commercial thinking.|
|5||Left: Don Stevens in action
A winning format. The format was similar to "Boss Radio" in the USA, but the pattern was a harder edged Australian product, honed and sharpened at Gold Coast Radio Queensland, 4 Double G, it was tight and ultra professional. Phil Brice and Ken Dickin, with engineer Jules Retrot from Australia implemented the whole sound on ship, so everything was geared to this product. The guys had been to Britain and thought commercial radio was a joke. This was a chance to show how real radio was: more music, less talk. And the jingles too were US with the late Bill Mitchell providing some voice-overs. Phil Brice had obtained these prior to leaving LBC Radio in London, but other jingle firms provided cuts including CPMG and TM. Advertising was mostly through Tavas, an advertising agency owned and operated by people who knew the power of US style radio. Keith dealt with them almost exclusively and they were keen to work with him. He spoke the radio language they understood and he provided a refreshing alternative to the hum drum radio on shore. Keith pointed out that the sound of the station was generating huge revenue for Abie, who, in turn was devoting these funds to all his good causes — it was a good relationship. All the major firms advertised through Tavas on the station, British Leyland was one international spot, plus Maccabiee Beer, OK Beer, Elite Foods (all the range), Osem and Dubek tobacco advertised most of their brands.
|It was clear from Keith's comments that Abie was generating enough income to keep the station operating for many years if the unexpected happened and advertising ceased. It was a fascinating introduction. Keith wanted me to do the mid-morning show, keep it tight, but slow my English to half speed — it might attract an audience whose English was a little rusty. Do a coffee break, play a couple of standards in "own choice" but generally, keep the show moving. No problems, I was happy to fulfil that role and the thought of being a Mid-East Tony Windsor or Tineke was very amusing, big black beard and shoulder length hair notwithstanding. Keith was keen to provide the secular population of Israel the product they enjoyed when they were in the States, and he showed me the huge bags of mail that had arrived at the post box; he was taking them to the office. I must confess, it was exciting stuff.|
|Early morning March 10th 1976, out from Tel Aviv Marina in an open speed boat heading out to MV Peace, formerly Cito, a favourite playground of my friend Hans Knot as a lad in Groningen. I was surprised to see, on approach, that the ship was in a very high state of repair, compared to Mi Amigo it was brand new. The ship shone like a bright light in the mid-morning sun, and the blue sky and sea set it off like a graceful Swan on a placid lake. The photo I took at that moment is still one of the best I have ever seen of the vessel, it was a perfect moment. Climbing up the ladder on to the deck was another surprise. On the Mi Amigo from Radio Caroline, because she is low in the water, you just time your jump and go across from the tender when the swell equalizes the beneath of the vessels. With Peace, no swell, the water was like glass, absolutely smooth ... but you had to climb up the almost five metre side of ship on a rickety old rope and wood ladder, great fun when it was choppy in winter.|
|6||Right: One of the many tenders
Aboard the Voice of Peace. I was greeted immediately by Ken Dickin who introduced me to Jules Retrot and Steve Gordon, and these became my firm friends on board the ship. In fact, Ken and Jules, once they found out I was Irish, were more than happy to share a consignment of Maccabiee Beer with me and bring me up to speed with the situation on ship. Jules was due to leave in a few weeks time and Ken was thinking of leaving too, Phil Brice had already departed and was at Beacon Radio in the English West Midlands, so the team that brought Israel 1540 was disbanding. I understood then, why Keith wanted me on board, to at least have one presenter in the team who understood the concept of more music radio.
|Shown the studio by my hospitable new pals, I was impressed. For the time it was a functional and very professional set-up with a huge Gates Diplomat Mixer with big pots for driving the shows. Gates cartridge machines and Gates turntables with Gates arms completed the set up, with, mercury switches which were a problem when the swell was high, and an audio rack with processor behind. The studio was freezing cold due to an overactive air conditioner, so we adjourned to the bowels of the ship, to the lounge with its huge sofa's, television and games table. I was able to renew a friendship with Bill Danse whom I had worked with on the Caroline the previous year. We used to have some stimulating discussions about many subjects, and I learnt a heck of a lot from Bill. He was proud of his work on the Peace Ship, and with good reason: he kept the station on the air when the nearest spare part was ashore; he was good at solving problems that would bring others to their knees. On the Caroline, Bill had told me a great deal about the Peace Ship and Abie from his previous tour aboard in 1973, but, the station I was listening to was nothing like the one Bill Danse and Tony Allan had spoken of.|
|The next day, on air, and Ken Dickin had spent the previous night, after his show, making up a couple of identification jingles so I may sound blended into the format. I never had to use the jingles Peter van Dam made for me on board the Mi Amigo when I voiced his "Gangboord" jingle in English. That was a shame, Peter would have enjoyed Israel hearing him. The studio was easy to use compared to the Caroline, and the only real problem was learning enough Hebrew to "hear" the outcue from Kol Israel's news which we broadcast top of the hour. Steve Gordon helped me a lot through this one, and cautioned me for false outcue which Israeli newsreaders often did to throw us. If you missed the outcue then you had a further five minutes of local news and weather for every region of Israel ... this was a massive tune-out factor for our Cyprus listeners, so ears alert. I soon learnt a lot about the station and its running in the next few weeks, the practical jokes played on each other. Fire alarms and simulated sinkings in a storm all contributed to making the Voice of Peace a great place to be, a fine crew and a great bunch of jocks. I quickly settled into a good friendship with Ken Dickin and Steve Gordon, often having a few beers in the production studio whilst Ken sorted out the weekly playlist and chart, we had our own Top 40.|
|One particular day, Ken wanted to go ashore for a break but it was going to be difficult. He had two daily shows and he was our Number One jock. Everybody in the Middle East listened to his shows and he was disappointed he could not get a twenty-four hour break. We knew the tender was due on the day he wished to go ashore at about 6:00 p.m., when his afternoon slot finished but he still had a night time slot to fill from 10:00 p.m. to midnight. So it was out of the question. Being a Caroline jock and used to the activities of the British Government tracking our movements, I suggested Ken record a set of links using his catch phrases, make a twelve or so, load them on to a cart, and I'd drive the night time show and play the cart loaded vo's between tunes. It worked a treat: Ken was in Tel Aviv and everybody thought he was aboard ship, great fun. He was in Schmulick's listening to his own show, Schmulick thought it was the sharpest trick he had ever come across, and he knew some tricks.|
|7||Left: Stormy weather
The advertisers favourite. It came time for Jules to leave the ship for the last time, and he was due to attend a celebration party in Tel Aviv, but, knowing my birthday coincided with his, he somehow arranged for me to get an early shore leave and to go too. It was a real surprise to meet Israeli's and discover how popular the station was — I'd forgotten after my initial introduction the night I had arrived. Jules saw my surprise, and informed me that the Voice of Peace was the biggest pop station bar none, not just in Israel but in the Middle East. And why not, it was the very first format of its type ever heard outside Australia and the US. I learnt that we were so popular that BFBS on FM out of Cyprus was revamping its format, Radio Monte Carlo in Cyprus was suffering too and they began to increase their music rotation, and then the Government of Israel announced plans to start a pop service to be known as Reshet Gimel. Even Jordan Radio in English began to use English disc jockeys by April 1976, a testament to 1540's sound.
|Walking around the city and hearing the station from every shop was amazing, and I soon learnt to be careful when I spoke in public. The listeners heard us so much they could identify us by our voices. No mean feat when you consider the majority did not speak English very well, but, as a lifelong listener to Dutch radio and I do not speak the language, I was aware that they could replicate my own ability to discern Rob Out from Lex Harding or Peter van Dam. If you were unmasked, it caused a major public disturbance with everybody trying to hold you, catch your clothing, and, I love this, invite you home for a meal to meet the family and friends. It resembled Beatlemania, but the one broadcaster they all wanted to see was Ken Dickin, he was far and away the most popular talent on the station. Everybody liked his show, men and women, boys and girls. I often wonder what would have been the history of the Peace Ship, if Ken had signed on for another three months. He was also the advertisers favourite, all his slots were fully booked.|
|Good news for the projects that Abie was assisting, including the Children's Ward at Tel Hashomer hospital for sick Arab children from all around the region. While I was ashore, Abie took me to view this facility and explained to me that our overt pop service was not obviously a peace service. It was generating income for peace projects and this would have a long term benefit for the region. We were photographed with the doctor in charge for a national newspaper, but Abie refused publication rights. So I ended up with the picture. In hindsight, he was spot on, he created a mood among people leading by example and giving with no expectation of a return. Beneficiaries of this spread the word of their good fortune and encouraged our listenership.|
|Back to the ship and Abie came out too with Keith Ashton to spend a weekend on the ship and to make a couple of live broadcasts on The Peace Show. He was also keen to talk to Ken Dickin. He hoped to persuade him to stay a couple of months longer. That night, Abie had a get together with the DJ's and crew to find out how they were feeling, who was staying and whose contracts were up for renewal. I recall Abie telling Ken and Keith that he wanted a more MOR style and was insisting upon a change in format, and then he said "that's what I'd like, but I don't know a lot about radio." Suddenly Keith said something like: "Well, yeah Abie, you don't really, mate, so leave it to us, professionals, and we'll keep it right." And that stopped Abie in his tracks. The format never came under discussion again, until Keith left the station. Abie clearly failed to hold onto Ken which was sad. Steve Gordon agreed to stay on for a further three months, which was great news, but Phil Sayer had a job to start at Piccadilly Radio and was unable to be with us. Then Keith asked me what my plans were, and I agreed to stay on for another six months to maintain some continuity of the station sound.|
|8||Right: Steve Gordon, Ken Dicken and Don Stevens
Moving to MOR. Into April 1976 and the station was gaining more advertising. Tavas were really going flat out and Keith was selling like a devil. Good times, but on the horizon was the talk from the office that Abie was keen to go MOR and the Knesset had approved the immediate launch of Israel's first pop music station with a start date of early May 1976. Tavas Advertising were totally against Abie changing a successful radio station and literally handing over the market to the new Reshet Gimel. Keith agreed: it would be impossible to sell space with an obsolete music policy and feelings were running high in the office. Concern was voiced that Abie was under pressure to give the airwaves to the new service by his "friends" in Government, and it was true to say that he was very happy with the way things operated until Reshet Gimel was proposed. Tavas made it clear that if the format changed they would pull all advertising as it would be a waste of clients' money to be on an MOR service. Abie suggested that I be retained on the station right through 1976 and go on the breakfast show with a brief to keep it fast moving and Tavas continued to buy space in that show. In addition they would give him a full advert roster on the Sabbath, if the station went MOR.
|Ken Dickin by now had departed and Steve Gordon and myself maintained the station sound, nothing appeared to be changing and then with the launch of Reshet Gimel only a days away, Keith left the station and a few days later Crispian St. John arrived from London to implement the MOR format. This resulted in Tavas Advertising informing Abie that they would only book spots on breakfast and on Shabbat, when Israeli radio did not run commercials, thus implementing what must have been a cut and dried deal. It was great to see CSJ out on the ship but it was so unfair to him that the office told him how we must implement the MOR format as the station needed to be successful.|
|Years later when Crispian was at Metro Radio Newcastle, we used to meet up at my house. He would dine with us and it was clear to Crispian pressure was being applied to Abie. As he had been brought out to fill Keith Ashton's shoes, he carried out Abie's policy and did the best he could. With the MOR sound active and breakfast using the old style, it was a constant source of friction on board. Abie had not made CSJ aware of the instructions I was receiving via Motorola radio from shore, which was to adhere to the normal format. Poor old Crispian and myself were placed under awful pressure and I offered my resignation to Abie, which was not only refused, but he insisted I undertake to guarantee doing another three months right up to November 1976.|
|9||Left: Abie Nathan, Robin Adcroft and Jules Retrot
Tara Jeffries. One of the more unusual recruits to the ship, who did not arrive through Broadcast Placement Services, but from Steve Allen at UBN, was Tara Jeffries — our first female broadcaster — who arrived aboard in late Spring, mid May 1976. Tara was an accomplished broadcaster for UBN and wanted to work on an offshore radio station, but preferably a station like The Voice of Peace, a station with a mission. For Tara this was a great adventure and an opportunity of working in a new and fresh environment with a group of idealistic young people. I mention Tara because her story is unknown, but her name is well known in association with the Peace Ship. Tara did not stay long with the station and eventually left Israel and took up a broadcast position back in England. Her departure from the station was a loss in many ways to the audience and to Abie, though at the time he could not see that. As a young woman arriving on board a radio ship with a very strong male culture life was never going to be easy. If she had joined when Ken, Phil and Keith had been around, her time would have been easy — these were radio folk who had worked with female broadcasters before. Her easy on air manner may not have fitted in with the style of that period but she would have found the company very pleasant.
|As it was, she joined when the British guys were the mainstay of the ship and they brought with them the 1970's attitudes of young lads from the London of the time. Tara, who was a sincere and gentle person, had difficulty settling in almost immediately, the lads were unsure of how to deal with her; she was, after all a well-educated and well-travelled young woman, a major problem for most lads of the day.|
|I spent many hours over the weeks talking to Tara, making her feel comfortable and trying to get her to settle in, but she made it clear to me that she felt she was not welcome on the vessel. To make matters worse, we had some late spring swell and the ship was riding high out of the water, and Tara suffered from bad sea sickness. She was keen to go home, things were not as she expected, and despite my urging her to stay a bit longer she made plans to leave. Steve Gordon too made every attempt to settle her in, but we both understood that she was not at ease. When she did broadcast she adapted well to the self operated studio and she had a wonderful microphone manner and a superb voice full of honey, as listeners to LBC would testify. In her last couple of weeks, the weather got better and Tara seemed to be okay as photos of the time testify, but, she went ashore for a break and eventually I heard she left for Britain to resume her career with independent radio.|
|More staff joined but now these were exclusively drawn from the UK radio market and most were provided by Broadcast Placement Services, an agency owned and operated by Maggie and Tony Stevens from Hampstead, London. Newcomers included Norman Lloyd and Gavin McCoy and Kenny Page who was clearly influenced by Kenny Everett and a host of other old friends. Phil Mitchell and Kelvin O'Shea came out too, guys I'd worked with in London. Talk between tracks increased and the overall sound was very middle of the road with all output strictly controlled, causing revenue to drop and listeners tuning in to Shosh Atari with Tony Fine and the gang over at Reshet Gimel. Gimel played the hits we had played only weeks earlier and the commercial spots were loaded, to me it made very sad listening.|
|10||Right: The only one available photo of Tara Jeffries (middle)
Back to London ... By late November 1976 my contract was coming up for renewal and Abie asked me what my plans were for Christmas. Was I going to stay with the ship? We had a good long conversation about the station and my time on it, he told me Keith Ashton had abandoned him in his time of need and ... this was typical Abie, he was great at getting sympathy, loved his style. As I was on my last shore leave I was invited to dine at Abie's new apartment in Tel Aviv with his friends, and so I had the opportunity of meeting a number of very interesting people who gave me another insight into the Peace Ship and how it was viewed in Israel. Clearly, the station was seen by a number of these folk at the party as an anachronism, a museum piece playing music for a minority market, poor Abie with friends like these.
|After everybody left, Abie and I had a drink with a couple of ladies and talked about the future. I was keen to see England for Christmas and Abie was insistent that I remain in Israel, at least until January 1977. I offered to return at the beginning of January but this was not agreeable and so the evening ended on a sour note. Next day in the office, Abie gave me extra cash to enjoy myself so I headed off to my girlfriend's home in Holon and I had a good shore leave. But this was before mobile phones and I was not due back to the office for three days, unaware that Abie wanted me back on the ship. When I returned I was despatched to the ship straight away and a day later a television crew from Japan came out and filmed the ship and my live show. It was a great piece of promotion for the station, and Abie had an opportunity of showing the crew around the ship. He was so happy, best I'd seen him for months, and he also made a special Peace Show for them. So somewhere in Japan is an extremely interesting film.|
|My final day and I left the ship, said goodbye to all and sundry, got to the office and Abie was in a funk and refused to see me. The staff explained he felt let down by me, I should stay on longer, but I was mystified, as were they by this sentiment. The reason for his irritation became clear in January 1977 by which time I was back in Israel as a private visitor. The staff wished me well, I picked up my return ticket and went off to Holon to be with my girlfriend and her family and seven days later in late November 1976 I flew to London with my girlfriend.|
|What happened next was interesting and explained Abie's mood. January 1977 saw me return to Israel as a private visitor, my girlfriend finding Britain and its people too cold for her taste. She left and returned to Israel on New Year's Day. I followed her out two weeks later for a brief visit and to make sure she was okay. She was fine, but our relationship was a thing of the past and her thought was to move on, but as a goodwill gesture, she showed me a copy of LahiTon, Israel's national pop magazine, and translated for me the results of the Annual Readers' Poll of favourite disc-jockeys carried out in November 1976 and I was voted by the readership as Top Foreign Language DJ, and in the Top 10 of favourite National broadcasters. Big surprise for me especially the publication of this poll had only just been released the previous week so it was hot news. Ronit, my girl friend was very perceptive and suggested that maybe this readers poll was the reason for Abie Nathan's strange behaviour prior to our flight to London a month earlier.|
|11||Left: Steve Gordon, Don Stevens and Crispian St. John
And back again to Tel Aviv. During that first week back in Tel Aviv I just socialised and relaxed a little with friends, popped around to Tavas and was approached with an idea to act as station manager and restore the old sound. Abie, I was told was unaware of this plan, but he would be told if I got on board, I could not see how this idea would fly as Abie was committed to the low key approach to radio. I had tried to phone Abie to let him know I was in Tel Aviv, but the office staff clearly did not pass on the message. Thanks to Tavas I was connected to Ian Wiener at CBS Records Israel to assist them in launching the new disco concept in the country by helping with releases and advising on the construction of night clubs with full sound systems and lights. I was also contracted to provide the start-up shows too once the projects were open. I also presented a Top 40 show with Eli Israeli on Israel Army Radio using English and Eli in Hebrew — it was a great idea. Unknown to me, Abie was trying to contact me, but after the Army Radio appearance Abie would avoid talking to me even at Kikar Atarim for Israel's Independence celebrations when the Mayor of Tel Aviv announced our names in the same breath and Abie barely acknowledged me. He was upset and probably felt I was against him. Abie often felt this way, but a year later, and Abie sent a message to me.
|The rest of 1977 was a great year for me in Tel Aviv and I was making public appearances up and down the country in various night clubs and even appeared many times with Reshet Gimel's Shosh Atari at Le Club in Tel Aviv. I was under a contract with Sheraton and ran my own shows at The Forum Palace in north Tel Aviv. The disco boom was helping me a great deal and as the disco star rose so the Peace Ship declined. In January 1978, I was performing at a venue and Abie was a guest. He approached, asked if I was well and if we could meet up. I readily agreed to see him at his office at a time of his choosing. We met a few days later and Abie suggested I would enjoy going out to the ship and host a daily disco radio show, very avant-garde idea for any radio station and for Abie Nathan a stroke of genius. He wanted a typical disco show, as if in a club, but with commercials if he could get them. And he would expect me to present the breakfast programme too and he thought he had a regular commercial sponsor. I loved the idea. Abie said it would help him, so we agreed I would go out in ten days time which gave me enough space to recruit jocks to cover some of my contracts which were not "name" critical — they only wanted disco service. The project was a success and we ran it for three months, playing all the latest dance hits from Europe and the USA which I obtained from my own finances directly from overseas. We played full length mixes too, including the full fifty minute mix of "Romeo and Juliet" by Alec R. Costandinos and a host of other great tracks. Abie's idea was that the listeners could organise dance parties around the radio schedule.|
|We had run party nights before on the ship. Phil Sayer and Ken Dickin used to do a Friday night party show in early 1976 and it was a huge success, but it was geared to a radio audience. Abie was trying to create a new type of radio and it appeared to be working, but it really needed a local disc jockey, if nothing else. Reshet Gimel had created a market for Hebrew language DJ's playing Western music. As my three months was coming to a close Abie and I discussed the future of the show, would I continue? I said it really needed a local guy to move this to the next stage. I had attracted a good audience of Israeli's who could afford to travel and spoke English and knew disco in the West, but a local jock could spread the net wider. Eventually, after passing the show over to UK DJ's, Abie hired Gad Biton to run the show. Gad was well known to me on the night club circuit. It was a stroke of genius: he built the audience up to significant levels during 1978 and early 1979. With Gad Biton our second Israeli broadcaster, joining Reuven Levi who broadcast intermittently from 1975 through to the 1980's, the Peace Ship had a chance to finally reach a new market.|
|12||Right: Don Stevens
Would I ever return ... Abie and I remained in contact right through until 1980 when I left Israel to return to Britain. I also provided some logistical support during that time. When the money began to run out and Abie was unable to accommodate DJ's on shore leave, I extended the use of a spare room in my apartment to anyone who wanted it. Abie took advantage of the offer, but the guys hardly stayed as they had girl friends and such like to be with. Abie drove me mad asking for various DJ's and I could not tell him where they were, and I had to cover for them. "Sorry Abie, he is in the room with a girl," "No Abie, they have just gone out." Stuff like that, good fun. I met a number of the ship's crew at this time including Kas Collins, who was a really good jock and succeeded in attracting the biggest audience for any Peace Ship show since 1976. But, he too left, sending me a lovely card from Cairo and then he went back to Europe. Steve Marshall joined, a real soul man, his knowledge of soul and R'n'B was second to none, and I renewed an old friendship with Keith York from my Dynamite 235 and Radio Concord days.
|As September 1980 drew in, I went to see Abie to let him know I was leaving Israel and heading back to Europe, I went to wish him all the best for the future. We agreed that maybe our relationship over the years could have been better, to the benefit of the Peace Ship, but, we admitted that we are both stubborn and we laughed at that. Abie, ever the man with an eye to the future, asked me if I would ever return to help him if he was in need. Clearly, I said it was no problem, you call, and I'll come if I can be of help. Abie shook my hand and I thought that was the end of me and the Voice of Peace ... Well, that's what I thought ...|
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