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volume 9
july 2006

Carl Kingston travels back to 1977

 





  Remembering the Voice of Peace (15)
by Hans Knot
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  In 1977 Carl Kingston boarded the MV Peace. Interviewed by Hans Knot, he tells us about what happened that year up and around the off-shore radio station Voice of Peace, airing its music as well as its message of peace for the coast of Israel.
 
1 Left: Carl Kingston interviewed by Hans Knot (1978)

The memories of Carl Kingston. Early March 2006 I got a message from Carl Kingston that during that week he was 21 years on the air at the same radio station in Leeds (Great Britain). Great to work on one radio station for such a long period. But if you see the list of the many radio stations Carl worked for it's remarkable he stayed 21 years in a row at Radio Aire as well Magic 828. I met Carl Kingston for the first time in 1977 and at that stage he was working for the Voice of Peace. Let's first see what some of his memories are from his first six weeks on the ship.

  "I arrived in Israel on Wednesday February 9th 1977 and the next day on the Peace Ship. It took ages to get out; I kept thinking, looking on the horizon "where is the ship? They must have moved it" We got out there after about an hour. The tender wasn't realy a tender as such, it was a very small fishing boat. I remember I was seasick at first. We had one period we had two, five-days storms. They seemed to me the very last five days and I'm sure they did — and I was very, very sick. I was seasick, on the air, back in my bunk again, crashing out, all the time. I said to Crispian St. John: "What were the storms like when you were out on Radio Caroline in the North Sea?" He said "They were very bad; but then again at the moment the weather is very bad here." When it was warm and sunny it really was beautiful off the Israeli coast, and that was during the winter. It was very pleasant. We sat up on deck, but we found ourselves very busy with only being a few of us on board at a certain time."
  Who were on the ship at that time next to Carl himself?
  "When I arrived Crispian, Alan Roberts, Tom Hardy, Kas Collins and an Arabic deejay called Egeal were there. Alan left to go back to England. He told me he has done a lot of things in the past as well as being a relief deejay on Swinging Radio England for five days in 1966. He's done voice overs for Capital Radio, commercials for radio and television and a lot of other things. In 1977 he was 31 years of age. Kas Collins came from Holland, but he broadcasted as he was an American. He had been in the USA working for a station called KAFD. He came to Israel to do one or two things and thought: "Well, why not apply for the Voice of Peace?" And he got his job. While he was on the ship he got a letter from his mother saying that Radio Mi Amigo had contacted him to go and work for them. He'd applied while he was in Holland and he was put on a waiting-list. And his turn came up while he was out on the Peace Ship. He was a tremendously tight broadcaster, very Americanised, very slick and only 21 years of age at the time. I remember thinking he would be a very big name in radio one day. He was very, very good indeed. We got two new deejays during the first six weeks I was out there, Rick Dennis and Tony Mandell. Rick originated from Canada and worked for a station called CFER. However "he was from many stations" but that was his main claim of fame. Tony Mandell was from Radio Essex."
  How was it for Carl Kingston to work together with Crispian St. John, who he had heard on other stations like RNI, Caroline and Atlantis?
  "I was very happy to meet Crispian, actually I've always admired him from afar. Chris and I really did hit if off, we formed a really good relationship, joking and messing about all the time, really having a laugh. He was very happy in those days, was on top of the world. I praise everybody who was out there, but Crispian was really fantastic, always on top form. I think he was pleased to meet somebody who was also always joking. I think you need to when you're in a very close environment with people. You've got to keep everything lively. You just have to have jokes with people. One day we told Rick Dennis that he had to paint the transmitter aerial. Then one day we told him we were turning half of the record library into a bunk and we were also putting a toilet and wash-basin in there. And that he was going to have to move in there and sleep in there. And we would probably be nipping in to use the toilet during the night. We said all sort of things, joking with him."
2 Right: Another studio shot

Rumours about televison transmissions. What about the technical people or crew members in those days?

"Bill Danse was out there, the chief engineer. He was virtually the Captain in those days, because there was no official captain. He was more or less in charge of making sure that everything was okay on the ship. We had also Buck, an American engineer, and Ian a crewmember from England. I do remember also Peter, the Philippino; Peter the Painter we referred to him as he was always painting. From Ireland came Bill, an excellent cook and food was very good in those days. All English dishes — chicken and steak, all sorts of different things, Cornish pasties and everything. We were certainly have good food, no complaints at all with compliments to the chief!"

  Rumours were going in those days a big name in British radio would record programmes for the Voice of Peace.
  "Johnnie Walker was scheduled to do recorded programmes for the station. He first left Great Britain to find work in the USA but he got back as he didn't get a working permit at first. So he would do recorded programmes for the VOP. It was told to us that was all definitely on. At the end he got a speedy work permit in the USA and he left for California, without doing any programmes for us. programmes were very fast presented in those days, realy slightly Americanised. It was the equivalent what Radio London was in England. It was a really first class station with a very good format. Very fast indeed with links for about ten seconds. But it was amazing what you could say in those ten seconds. If you choose the right words you could say a lot. It was tremendously good to work out there; it was not the experience in broadcasting but the fact that the style of broadcasting was different. Everybody had his own personality but was different from the other ones; which was good for the station in those days. I speak with all sincerity that BBC Radio One and Radio Luxembourg were old fashioned in those days. Although Johnnie Walker never made it to the VOP we had another top deejay as Casey Kasem's American Top 40 was going out."
  Early 1977 saw also a Dutch article by Willem van de Brink in the Veronica Magazine in which he wrote that soon a television programme would start from the Peace Ship. One of the items Abie Nathan would transmit via this television station would probably produced by a Dutch production company with the aim to reach the Dutch Unifil soldiers in Lebanon. But were there realy plans for a television station on the Peace Ship?
  "We on the ship heard nothing about the planned television transmitter. I didn't see any equipment whatsoever, although I didn't really know what I was looking for. I would think that Abie had probably put that idea away for awhile. Crispian was positive that at one time Abie and Bill had mentioned a short-wave outlet, but I think they have enough problems keeping on the air on the medium wave. Talking about television, on the last day onboard a BBC Television crew came on the ship doing shot for a programme called "Tonight," which would be aired in April 1977. They filmed for about five hours and were in another nearby country. As they had some days left they were asked to search for anything interesting for the British people and so they found the radio station on a ship to make a special. They made shootings for about 5 hours and for the amount of interest they took it must be a very nice special."
  With other deejays we talked a bit about the payment compared by a normal job and they told us they got almost nothing?
  "The pay was not very good, it was about 1,000 Israeli pounds for a month. That was only about 70 Pounds in those days. The money was however enough to live comfortably for a week on shore. I stayed six week on the ship so I couldn't get anything of the money. On the ship everybody spends all their times watching television. I don't really watched television as it bored me. I went down now and again to watch the old comedy thing. I spent however a lot of time in the production studio and the library. And the latter one was very well stocked, very comprehensive. But we had to sort out something on regular base as records came in from Great Britain in great quantities and getting promotion copies instead of Abie had to buy them in those days, I had a draft of a letter out there and got about forty or fifty copies to send to Decca and others, including many small companies. There were a lot of those companies and it was quite a job actually."
3 Left: Tony Mandell some years ago

Press matters. When arriving back on land had you any idea how the listenership was?

"I spent just two days in Tel Aviv and every taxi I took had the VOP on and even the hotel radio was tuned to 1540. In all the bars and everywhere else the sound of the station could be heard. It was certainly popular and everybody that I spoke were very happy having the station as it played their type of music. When going ashore for the trip back to England Crispian St. John told me that I would miss the station as soon I was ashore and I've written him a letter stating that he was perfectly right in that as I'm missing the station and surely will go back one day."

Almost directly after Carl was travelling back to England, in Israel the VOP began regular news broadcast on the top of the hour, every hour. These were taken either from the BBC World Service or from the Israeli Broadcasting Authority. Plans were also in progress to start an Arabic newscast. News was introduced to the format in 1977 because the VOP discovered they were losing 60% their Israeli audience to the state station Keshet Gimmel on 529 kHz at the top of the hour when Reshet Gimmel were broadcasting news and they were not. Later in the summer news was relayed from Kol Israel.

  Negative publicity for the station was to be found in the English language edition of the Jerusalem Post, which also appeared in the better bookshops in Holland and Great Britain. May 11th 1977 the newspaper reported: "Middle East peace crusader Abie Nathan has been barred from leaving the country after Treasury officials claimed his floating radio station owed the state 7.6 million Israeli Pounds in income taxes." Nathan had told that he had received a court order through the mail barring his from leaving the country. "I'm glad that they think I'm a big business, but my ship is a non-profit organisation." The officials however had other ideas about that and stated that taxes were owed for the period 1974-1976. As an answer to that Abie declared that he started airing commercials in 1975 to keep the Voice of Peace afloat and he gave all the profits to Jewish as well as Arabic charities. He also told that the tax authorities had charged him for an amount of 2,5 million Israeli Pound for the period the ship was laid up in Marseille in 1974." It must be seen as another attempt from the Israeli government to make it difficult for Nathan and his Peace people to run a radio station with the aim for Peace.
  However Abie came positive into the press again, weeks later. In June 1977, the Israeli ship "Yvniel," while sailing in the Indian Ocean, took on board 55 Vietnamese refugees. When Abie heard about this he immediately started an appeal to raise money to fly them to Israel from Taiwan. During the next month we saw the moment Bill Danse leaving the organisation to return to his home in Holland. Bill had been the chief engineer through all her adventures, sailing with her from Amsterdam to New York, way back in 1969 and also from New York to Marseille in 1973. When the VOP was off the air he was loaned for two periods to the Caroline organisation, as they were temporary without a transmitter engineer at the time. Bill Danse really get the VOP on the air. However his voice was never heard on the air he was responsible as "Bill Benson" for many hours of continuous music in early hours. Bill was replaced by Mike Galloway, who was responsible for getting for the first time in the stations history a signal on shortwave. On August 12th in Benfleet the signal was heard in the 48 metres band (6245 kHz). Later that year it was officially mentioned a 5 kW SW transmitter was on the ship and following reports from Sweden Calling DX another frequency was tested (6240 kHz) in October 1977.
  August 15th 1977 the magazine "Broadcast" reported that a survey revealed 23 million Middle East listeners for the Voice of Peace. That would mean that 25% of all inhabitants from the target countries would tune in to the programmes. "The figure is estimated for an area stretching as far south as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, West to Egypt, North to Cyprus and East to Iraq." The highest amount of listeners, following the magazine, could be found in Egypt, where 11 million people would turn on the station regularly. Of course to be honest, these figures were not from this world. Anyhow the listeners that tuned into "1540" (1538kHz was the real frequency from mid 1977) could enjoy a very good team of presenters including Crispian St. John, Peter Quinn. Mark Hurell and Tony Allan.
  Almost forgot to tell that Carl came back to Israel as at the Monitor office a postcard arrived marked 4.5.1977 stating: Tel Aviv, the Sea Front. "Arrived OK. Weather fantastic. My friend Tony Britten is OK here, been a bit seasick but he's staying. I go out to the ship later today. All the best, Carl Kingston." The next we heard was again with a postcard from Eilat — General view at night. 23.6.1977 "Tony and myself are on a week's shore leave and we have flown to Eilat to work in a disco of a five star hotel. Accommodation in the hotel and meals and flights are free, can't be bad. Weather is fantastic and RNI is still testing."
4 Right: Summer is here

A marvelous time. The remark on RNI is about the former Radio Northsea radio ship, MEBO II, which was in 1977 anchored of the Libyan coast transmitting for the Ghadaffi State broadcast company, with at least two former VOP men aboard: Robin Banks and the Australian guy Jules Retrot.

Many years later the official Voice of Peace LP was produced by Mike Kerslake but there were plans for an earlier production. Carl Kingston knows more about that: "It was in the summer of 1977 that Crispian and I had started doing things for a Voice of Peace Album. Crispian gave me some tapes and next I spent a lot of time making recordings and editing things together. I thought if I got all the material together it might get things moving along. I had them all ready to bring back to England to Mike Baron from Music Radio Promotions, through Maggie Stevenson, to make the Peace Ship Album. Then I got it all to the office and Abie said: " Oh, you can't take them yet, I've got to listen to them." So obviously that put a halt on things and so we had to wait years before another LP on the VOP was produced."

  Indeed there was a close relationship between Crispian St. John and Carl Kingston way back in 1977. When leaving the station for the second time in a year Crispian stayed on the Peace Ship as he was very happy out there, but he became a bit sad when Carl was leaving again. Carl about that moment: "He didn't say goodbye as he knew we would all be back together again at one stage. We had tears in our eyes. We had a laugh in our last programme and I'll tell you what we did. We fixed Crispian's jingle. He was getting so fat in those days so we nicknamed him "Chubby." My last programme was from six to nine, the Breakfast Programme. Then at nine we had the news and after that finished we played always two jingles. One which told you that we were the Voice of Peace followed by a deejay promo. He thought "Crispian Saint John" would come, but as I was responsible for feeding the machine "Chubby St. John" followed. It was really funny as everybody in the studio, who watched my final minutes on the VOP, laughed. This was, except one, who just looked. It was very nice because we were supposed to stick to the format but we broke it. Lucky enough Crispian thanked me for a marvelous time, opening his programme with Cliff Richard's "It's all over."
   
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