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volume 9
july 2006

From Australia to the Mediterranean


  Remembering the Voice of Peace (11)
by Phil Brice
  Australia delivered its share of the host of disck-jockeys that filled the offshore radiostations of the 1960s and 1970s. Some Australians even found their way to the Mediterranean to work for the Voice of Peace. One of them is Phil Brice, who here conveys his experiences aboard the MV Peace.
1 Left: Jules Retrot and Phil Brice

The story of Phil Brice. During the sixties we saw already that some people from Australia, with a background in the radio industry, thought to search for more in Europe. A few of them, like Alan Freeman, got a job on Auntie BBC while others tried to get one in commercial radio. As commercial radio could be heard only from international waters from radio ships it had to be stations like Radio Caroline, Radio London or one of the many others. Tony Withers, a.k.a. Tony Windsor, is maybe the best known Australian and Graham Gill (who worked on several offshore radio stations in two decades) is another one. In the mid-seventies of last century also Australian guys found their way to the Mediterranean to work on the Voice of Peace. One of them is Phil Brice, who wants also to share a few of his memories with us.

  "I was a twenty-five year old deejay/journalist/commercial producer and working in London in late 1975 at LBC, the London commercial news station, as a commercial producer. I'd arrived from Australia eighteen months before in Great Britain. My last stint in Australia was on the Gold Coast in Queensland at a station called 4 Double G. I was the morning show deejay. Two of the guys I worked with there were Ken Dicken, the station's drive time deejay, and Jules Retrot, the station's chief engineer. In London late 1975 they were sharing a house with me.
  "Ken came home one day with a newspaper advertisement. The Voice Of Peace were looking for deejays and engineering staff. I felt I needed a change, and the other guys did too, so we told them we wanted a job. After some time we'd received a letter from Keith Ashton, who was working for Abie Nathan, telling us we were hired. I knew Keith, as I was producing ads for him while he was working at Capital Radio in London. He asked me to bring whatever music and production pieces I could with me to Israel. I contacted Bill Mitchell, a famous London voiceover, American and of Jewish parents who had an amazing velvet bass voice. I told him about the Peace Ship, and he agreed to do a series of indents for the station: "We are the Voice of Peace" etc. These identification spots were played; I believe almost to the end of the ship's broadcasting life in 1993."
2 Right: Phil Brice

Starring Charlie, Bill and Ken. Phil also wrote down some memories from the time he was on board the radio ship and the people who worked there:

"First I want to start with my memories about Charlie. He was the French chef on the ship and it was rumoured that he was a French Foreign Legion deserter. Charlie spoke no English at all, except the line. "Me kitchen, you studio!" to any deejay who tried to raid the fridge late at night for a few fried eggs. Although from French his kitchen work was not what you expected, Charlie's cooking was terrible, everything was always covered in oil. Indeed not to our liking so we were always hungry. As he didn't allow us to come into the kitchen we got to get our food from somewhere else. The only other alternative was to open one of the thousands of cans held below deck. These cans had been donated by an American food company. The only problem with the cans was that they had no labels, so you had to hope what you were opening wasn't pickled gherkins.

  "We docked with the ship at Haifa harbour to bunker and on one of these occasions Charlie had no passport, but he was allowed on-shore by the police for a day. Something Abie had arranged for Charlie. He returned late that evening very drunk and was caught by one of the guys, just before he stepped in to the ocean instead of the tender.
  "Then I want to mention another guy, Bill Danse, the Dutch chief engineer. Bill did an amazing job keeping the station on air considering his problems. Arcing static electricity was all over the ship. We had a very old transmitter, which was bought second hand in the USA, and what seemed to be an even older generator. Bill helped us out of problems as much as he could.
  "Then the great sound of the station, and how popular the VOP was. We had a More Music format, similar to the one Ken Dicken and I had used way back in Australia. Ken was the star on the station. The word "Ken" meaning "Yes" in Hebrew so "Yes" Dicken. We were always being invited to visit listeners on shore. Ken and I were on shore together with Jules in Tel Aviv. When Ken was invited to a party, we decided to go along as well. We took a cab, but it had to drop us off some way from the address because the streets around the apartment were packed with cars. We soon learned that all these people were jammed in to the apartment to see the Voice Of Peace deejay Ken Dickin. We couldn't move. It was an amazing night."
3 Left: Phil Brice in 2005

A captain and his ship. "And, then — last but not least — there was Don Christie, the English captain. He really liked a drink. This mainly because of his frustration of being the captain of a ship anchored most of the time. He listed his address as care of the Hotel Bellevue, Antibes in France. None of us knew where he got his alcohol from either, but we thought he had a deal going with one of the tender boatmen. He was always in a very bad mood and swearing most of the time. Luckily enough he spent most of his time in his cabin.

"We had the so called "Mercury" switches on the turntable. They would turn off when the ship swayed too much. Then they would slowly take off again when the ship was more level. And there was the too tiny production studio with a four track tape machine, tiny desk and mike. Voicing close-mike all the time due to the roar of the generator on deck. I voiced the "We are the Voice Of Peace, on 1540 kilohertz" identification used with Junior Campbell music on the hour. This spot was also used for some time after I left the station.

  "Of course there was more on the ship than presenting programmes and searching for food as Phil Brice recalls: "Sitting in the galley and reading a book while the Peace programme with Abie droned on in the background was a nice interruption of the day. There were a lot of great people during the period I worked on the Peace Ship: Phil Sayer, Robin Banks and the unbelievable Black Printz with a show that had to be incomprehensible to most of the Middle-East. Also we had Stevie Gordon and Elsje and her boyfriend, with their bikes on board. Just dropped in to help wherever they could. It was a Dutch couple Willem and Elsje Frericks. Their address in my book is Watergangseweg Amsterdam Noord. As I remember, they were cycling around the Middle East, heard the station, and called into the office in Tel Aviv volunteering to help on board. I remember that Elsje was a very attractive blonde. Interesting when she was the only girl on board."
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