| home   authors | new | about | newsfeed | print |  
volume 3
september 2000

Rare pictures from radio's past


  Pictures and documents of Radio London (1964-1967)
  by Gerry Bishop, Hans Knot and John S. Platt
  The offshore station Radio London, on air from 23rd December 1964 till 14th August 1967, was the most powerful of all the radio ship transmitters. As well as covering most of the British Isles, the sound of "Big L" was heard across large parts of Europe. The station became famous with its carefully packaged programmes named after its deejays like Mike Lennox, Tony Windsor, Ed Stewart, Kenny Everett, Tony Blackburn and Norman St. John. The 20 pages below will show you over 250 rare pictures and documents out of of the station's tumultuous history.

English Radio London: 1. The USS Density (september 2000). Radio London's ship, the MV Galaxy, was a former Class Admirable minesweeper, called the USS Density (AM-218). The ship was built in Florida in 1944, measured 184'6" feet (about 56 meters) and weighted 780 tons. Density received three battle stars for World War II service. In February 1955 Density was sold by the US Navy to be used as a Greek cargo ship and renamed Manoula. By 1964 she was impounded in Miami for non payment of harbour dues.
English Radio London: 2. The MV Galaxy (september 2000). In 1964 a consortium of American businessmen bought the MV Manoula and had the ship converted into an offshore radio station in Miami. On 22nd October the MV Galaxy, as she was now called, sailed from Miami as a fully equipped radio station for British waters. The ship was anchored in international waters in the Thames Estuary, off Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex.
English Radio London: 3. An office in London (september 2000). Radio London's managing director Philip T. Birch started an office in London and assembled an efficient sales team. Soon the station acquiered some high profile clients like Colgate-Palmolive, Heinz and News of the World.
English Radio London: 4. Formula radio (september 2000). Radio London worked on the principle that people like packaging, and used the system of 'Formula Radio' and top 40 format. The programme controller's job was to present the formula to the average British listener, and to adapt it to the public's taste. Radio London and its deejays proved that people wanted the top forty records in Britain.
English Radio London: 5. On board of the Galaxy (september 2000). On board of the Galaxy life was determined by the daily broadcasting schedules. Sometimes, however, unexpected things did happen. People got ill and lifeboats had to be called for help. One time even a fighter plane crashed near the Galaxy.
English Radio London: 6. On full power (september 2000). In February 1966 agreement was reached over the payment of fees to the Performing Rights Society. These were to be based on a percentage of advertising revenue, rising over a period of three years after which a fixed rate would be introduced. In May 1966 some 50,000 British Pounds were spent to raise the power of the transmitter to 75 kW.
English Radio London: 7. Radio London's Fabulous Forty (september 2000). A prize winning element of Radio London was the famous "Fabulous 40." This Top Forty, listing many renown as well many unknown artists and records at that time, was widely regarded as the trend setting list of the 1960s.
English Radio London: 8. Deejay's discours (1) (september 2000). The presentation of the daily shows by the deejays was a very important characteristic of Radio London. Counting them all Radio London had, at various times, 30 live-deejays. Here in alphabetical order we offer some pictures of the first fifteen 'Big L' names, from Tony Blackburn to Paul Kaye.
English Radio London: 9. Deejay's discours (2) (september 2000). And again in alphabetical order the next fifteen 'Big L' names, ranging from Lorne King to John Yorke.
English Radio London: 10. Big "L" Club (september 2000). Radio London's popularity was also strengthened by a special fan club: the Big "L" Club. Members for instance could buy T-shirts and pennants. There were more side activities: Radio London longplay records, Radio London disco's, Radio London Car Races. At one time even the rumors spoke of special Radio London record shops.
English Radio London: 11. April Fools Day 1967 (september 2000). Sometimes the deejays pulled their own jokes on the audience. On April, 1st 1967, after 9.00am the Keith Skues Show was interrupted by what appeared to be a new station, Radio East Anglia, testing. As the morning progressed the tests continued from time to time interrupting not only records, but commercials and news. It really sounded like the start of a new station.
English Radio London: 12. Thank you, Radio London! (september 2000). Taking a share in the fame of Radio London many artists seized to the opportunity to thank the station in the press or with an personal letter for the promotion of their songs.
English Radio London: 13. And thanks again ... (september 2000). And still more thanksayings to Radio London from record companies and artists.
English Radio London: 14. Memos and meetings (september 2000). From his London office director Philip Birch kept a watchfull eye on the Galaxy. When things went wrong he did send memos to correct things. This page offers a short collection of these communications between the office in London and the deejays on board of the Galaxy.
English Radio London: 15. More memos and meetings (september 2000). Yet another page of the communication by memo between the office in London and the deejays on board of the Galaxy.
English Radio London: 16. "A Day In The Life" (september 2000). When the threat of the Marine Offences Act came to the fore, Radio London was prepared to continue broadcasting. However on 28th July 1967 the following press release was issued by the managing director, Philip Birch: "It is with deep regret that, after nearly three years of broadcasting, Radio London will be closing down on August 15th." At 3.00pm on 14th August 1967, the station closed with the final record being "A Day In The Life" of The Beatles.
English Radio London: 17. After the ball (1973-1991) (september 2000). After the close-down of Radio London the deejays went their own ways. Many, however, continued their work at other stations. This page shows some pictures of the former Radio London people from the 1970s and 1980s.
English Radio London: 18. After the ball (1993-1998) (september 2000). After the close-down of Radio London the deejays went their own ways. Many, however, continued their work at other stations. This page shows some pictures of the former Radio London people from the 1990s.
English Radio London: 19. The Galaxy in Hamburg (september 2000). The Galaxy was sold to a new Greek owner and sailed for Hamburg. Here she was to be dry-docked, refitted and sold as a going radio station. However, on examination it was found that she was only being held together by her paint, so the project was abandoned. In 1970 the ship was sold for scrap and moved to Kiel. Prior to that the ship was robbed of almost anything valuable.
English Radio London: 20. The Galaxy in Kiel (september 2000). In 1976 the Galaxy found a last resting place in Kiel harbour. Here she remained for many years as a dive training vessel to practise underwater repair techniques. On April 20th 1979 the ship gave up and sank. In 1986 she was raised due to concerns about fuel leaks and dumped on dry land for scrapping.
  The text on these pages has been derived from Gerry Bishop, Offshore Radio. Norwich: Iceni Enterprises, 1975; and Hans Knot, Historie van Radio London. Groningen: Freewave Media Magazine, 1987. Copyright for the photographs: Jelle Boonstra, Theo Dencker, Boudain Dom, Chris Edwards, the FRC Archive, Freewave Media Magazine Archive, Martin Kayne, Hans Knot, Bob LeRoi, Rob Olthof, Keith Skues, Martin Stevens and Mike Webb.
  2000 © Soundscapes