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volume 12
september 2009

Keith Skues renews his take on the history of offshore radio

 





  Review of:
  • Keith Skues (2009), Pop went the pirates, II. A fully illustrated, definitive history of offshore radio. Horning, Norfolk: Lambs' Meadow Publications (674 pages; illustrated; ISBN 978-0907398-05-9)
by Hans Knot
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  After fifteen years, Keith Skues has updated his massive history of offshore radio, expanding it to over 650 pages. Hans Knot here reappraises this insider's look into the world of offshore radio.
 
1

Hitting the headlines again. About a month ago the postman at the post office warned me that a big parcel had arrived, too big at least for the slot of my postal box. The parcel not only proved to be thick but it was also very heavy. It came from England and, believe me or not, Keith Skues did it once again. Yes, the second, enlarged edition of "Pop Went the Pirates" had been released; almost exactly fifteen years after the first edition rolled from the presses. And, the book is more impressive still than its predecessor, with many interesting chapters that inform the reader about the ins and outs in the history of offshore radio.

Never before was it so difficult for me to decide where to begin writing a book review. In 1994 the book "Pop Went the Pirates" was presented in the Netherlands on the Annual Radio Day, held that year in Utrecht. Some months before the official presentation took place during the celebrations of Radio Caroline's thirtieth birthday. Now, in the year of the official release of the movie The Boat that Rocked and many other events meant to commemorate the past successes of offshore radio, Skues hits the headlines again with the second edition of "Pop Went the Pirates."

2 The old and the new. My first remark literally is superficial but no less important: this time the book is printed on glossy paper — making the photo's and other illustrations of far much better quality than in the first edition. The book is illustrated with hundreds of familiar, lesser-known and unknown photographs, which alone is reason enough to buy the second edition, which is for the first 540 pages offers the same contents as the publication from fifteen years ago. My advice: just give the first edition to your son or daughter and if you don't have one, think of another member of the younger generation for whom this book will open up an important chapter of radio history.
  After looking at the illustrations, the next thing I had to do was to reread the offshore radio bible Skues wrote in earlier years and which makes its rerun up till page 540 in the new edition. It was not tasking my patience, because Skues writes well. I wish a radio church existed, because I would love to read parts each Sunday from the pulpit, week after week. After the first edition was released in 1994, there were some new initiatives like the small offshore project off of the Yugoslavian coast, as well many stations off the Israeli coast — including the Voice of Peace. Skues discusses those and also does not forget to mention the only one-weekend transmissions from "Offshore 98." Most of the memories in the book, though, date back to earlier days.
  Other new chapters recall the fact that, nineteen years after the last offshore station in international Western European waters stopped transmissions, there's still much interest for this topic among an international fellowship of radio enthusiasts. They now, of course, have access to the world wide internet, so it becomes far much easier and cheaper to get in touch with each other to communicate about their favorite medium, which was and still is offshore radio. Their doings fill some other chapters in Skues' book. In chapter fourteen, titled "This could be the last time," Skues not only memorise about the past but tells the reader about the many so called RSL-transmissions, which have been on the air throughout the years to remember the offshore radiostations which have been on the air in the past: for RNI, Caroline, Swinging Radio England, Radio London and many more. For some of these projects Skues himself was asked to do programmes and reading the chapter you can feel his enthusiasm for those golden years gone by.
  To this information Skues has added a special short interlude about offshore television stations like RTV Noordzee, airing from the REM platform off the Dutch coast, the Tower TV try-out, Syd TV as well Odelia TV off the Israeli coast. Attention is also paid to the projects off the Chinese coast and Radio New York International on the MV Sarah, way back in 1987. Nor does Skues forget to update the reader on what has happened to the good old lady, Radio Caroline, since 1994. Of course the earlier mentioned RSL transmissions were there, but also many other ways station manager Peter Moore and his team managed to bring Radio Caroline on the air on cable networks and satellite transmissions and on AM boomers in the former Eastern Europe Countries.
3 The bell of the MV Galaxy and other stories. Keith also offers us an insider view of some of the offshore radio reunions organised by people like Mary and Chris Payne and the Jon Myer of the Pirate Hall of Fame. This also opens up new information. Skues, for instance tells the story of how the former bell of the MV Galaxy was brought to the US by Ron Bunninga, the former captain's son. This happened when the shipmates from the time the Galaxy was still the MV US Density, got together for their reunion. And, just like in his first edition of "Pop Went the Pirates," Skues offers ample space to other authors to present their stories. One of those is Paul Rowley, who is responsible for the chapter "Pirate Memories from a BBC Political Correspondent." Another coauthor is Jenny Matthew, a life-long fan of radio, who wrote "From Pram to Pop."
  The book is up to date, as Skues doesn't forget this year's reunions, the exhibition on the Isle of Man as well as the release of the movie The Boat that Rocked. He will be coming to Holland again in November to the Annual Radio Day in Amsterdam, for the first time in fifteen years, to be interviewed by Tom Mulder. It will be a silenced crowd during the interview, I know for sure, as all present in the large hall will be listening to the many stories Keith Skues has to tell about his own long and wonderful career. So, to end this review I renew my bid to do readings of this book from the pulpit at that occasion. This will only happen, however, if you all order a copy of this wonderful book.
   
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