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volume 5
november 2002

Skuesville city limits


  Keith Skues repeats himself again on CD
by Hans Knot
  In the 1950s and 1960s deejay Keith Skues developed his own, peculiar style of presenting his programmes, using appropriate small-talk, tongue-in-cheek jokes and the same remarks repeated over and over again. The recurrent remarks, no doubt, were his characteristic style mark. They can now be heard again on the CD Skuesville, which recently has been released and is reviewed here by Hans Knot.
1 The insert of Skuesville (2002)

Half a century has gone by, it now seems to me, since I first tuned into a radio station to hear the voice of Keith Skues on our well-beloved medium wave. I remember it well, because it made me realize that there was yet another kind of deejays on the North Sea offshore radio stations, next to the fast ones who were aiming their programmes to those millions of teenagers tuning into Pirate Radio to find their own kind of music. There were also a few deejays who preferred a more easy, relaxed presentation style, fit to attract another listening public. Among them, Keith Skues was the one I tried to follow as much as possible from 1964 on; and I can assure you that I was — and still am — not the only one.

2 Skues and his colleagues really discovered their own group of listeners. Their public was formed by all those house wives, listening to the radio while doing the dishes or all those other boring daily jobs in and around the house. Just like their teenage children, they were not particularly pleased by what the BBC Light programme had to offer them, and therefore tuned into the offshore stations. Listening to the likes of Radio London and Radio Caroline, they readily found out, that these stations had something more to offer than the BBC, as indeed Keith Skues, who liked to present his programmes for just this audience. Skues approached his public with a jokingly and musically informed style, which they liked almost instantly.
3 Of course, as with the other programmes, there were commercial motives involved, as the offshore stations recognized the category of house wives as an ideal advertizing target next to the blooming teenager market. Living up to the post-war idea of the modernization of everyday life, lots of companies were eager to provide all the "modern" household products — like Weetabix and so on — that were meant to make life more easy and beautiful. The claims they made for their product often were off-the-top, but the offshore stations stood ready to aim all their curious commercials to the house wives. Next to Weetabix and its look-a-likes, there were many other household products looking for a market niche, as, of course, all those new cosmetics pretending to give women the looks of movie stars. Well, "Cardboard" Skues, do you remember the time you tried to sell the Caroline Nylons to your audience? What kind of feeling did you have at that time? And how does it make you feel now, remembering it after some forty good old radio years?
4 Keith Skues presentating the release of the Skuesville CD

"Talking about, which we won't ..." there really was a lot of products for the family at that time, that had to be positioned in the market. And, in the days of the baby-boomers there could be no better medium than the commercial radio stations. As television had not yet become a common commodity, the average listener was still more intensely involved with listening to the radio — at least in the daily hours. The sounds coming from the speaker, were not yet experienced as musical wall paper. People listened attentively and noticed almost every detail of the things the deejays told them. They also were a grateful kind of public, as they would often write to the station and the "performing" deejays. So Skues soon acquired a huge mass of adherents among the British house wives. Many of those kept following him for decades. Already at his on-stage performances in the 1960s, when Skues was working for Radio London and Radio Caroline — choose any order you like — you could find his female fans gathering in amazing numbers.

5 Born on March 4th, 1939 and so now already 63 years old, Keith Skues has been working within the radio industry within living memory. His career started in 1958 with the British Forces Network in Cologne (Köln), Germany, soon to be followed by the same sort of presenting jobs for the BFBS network in Kuwait, Nairobi and Kenya. In those years, already, radio was not the only thing in Skues' life. When you read about his doings, there always will be a mentioning of this famous day in October 2nd, 1962, when he reached, together with his team of the Royal Air Force, the top of the Kilimanjaro — just one of the legendary summits in the life of "Your's truly Keith Skues". He also started writing in those early days.
6 Even before Skues brought his jokes and his musical knowledge to the British listeners, he already was writing news messages for several newspapers in Africa like the East African Standard, the Sunday Post as well as a weekly column in The Daily Nation. These activities came to an sudden end in 1964, when he returned to his native country. Noticing the first boom in offshore radio, it seemed to him that making programs for stations like Radio Caroline and Radio London was a much faster way to become popular than on the dull BBC. So that very same year, Skues climbed aboard the MV Mi Amigo off the British East coast. A year later, after getting many hundreds of letters from his female fans, he went out to the Grand Luxy to do some sponsored programs on Radio Luxembourg. It seems, though, that he preferred the waves of the North Sea after all, because he soon left "208" to join the guys onboard the MV Galaxy, the home of the slick "Wonderful Radio London". So in 1966 he could be heard on "266".
7 Keith Skues, shouldered between artists Heather Goddard en Kevin Dean

Skues cultivated his own special style — with appropriate small-talk, tongue-in-cheek jokes and the same remarks repeated over and over again — and for me it was quite clear, that he could easily outperform his colleagues, getting a better response especially from the female public: "Greetings to everyone who's celebrating whatever it is today." The British Marine Offences Law became act on Tuesday August 15th 1967 and for Skues this meant a "farewell to the good old watery wireless days." He still has his memories, though, and being interviewed on his career, he will always tell that the period on the offshore station was the most exciting time of his long career. Although over thirty-five years have gone by, he is still in contact with some forty avid fans from those offshore days. During the past few years, when there was a 28-day restricted licence broadcast under the name of Radio London, not only Skues was there to present a few hours of programs on a very low power, but also a lot of his fans — now elderly women. Skues must have been thinking: "Good gracious me," but kept face and again welcomed his listeners to his program with the words: "So a warm welcome to the program, I hope you gonna enjoy yourself."

8 Following this period in offshore radio, the BBC became Skues' next employer. He worked for BBC 1 as well as for BBC 2 and won a prestigious award for his well-informed series on the history of pop music. In 1974 he again changed job and became program director at one of the first independent local radio stations in Great Britain, Radio Hallam. Others stations followed close, including "Classic Gold". "In the meantime," Skues can be heard already for many years during the evening hours five days a week with his "Skues Clues" and his excellent music choice from his own massive archive, which are transmitted by the BBC Local Radio through the Eastern Counties.
9 During the period between 1989 and 1994 Skues also worked very hard in researching the history on offshore radio as well as writing a book on the subject, the 568 pages fat Pop went the pirates. During that period I collaborated with him tightly, assisting him in writing the chapters on the 1970s and 1980s. I soon found out that Skues is a very amiable man, whose ears are always open for other men's plans and suggestions. This also proved true, when Kevin Dean recently asked him to work together with him on recording a CD. Thirty-year-old Dean had become very impressed, while listening to Skues' programs and noticing the way he presented them in his own relaxed style — with his characteristic recurrent remarks — on a daily base. Kevin came with the idea to bring Skues' ever-repeating remarks mixed in with music — remarks like the ones I spread through this review.
10 Hans Knot and Keith Skues presenting the book "Pop went the Pirates" in 1994

As a result a CD called Skuesville was released with five tracks. Among them we find two new versions of what has been Skues' tune for many decades, "Mr. Tambourine Man". The first is very special. It is, released for the very first time — the many collectors, looking for this item for many years, will be thrilled — the original song Skues' used for his tune: "Mr. Tambourine Man" as performed by the Golden Gate Strings. The second is the original tune, with the mentioned remarks mixed in. The most remarkable track, though, is the one on which Skues tells a true story from his days with the BFBS in the late 1950s. He tells his story on the music of the old "Deck Of Cards", which has been a hit in several languages, even in a Dutch version by another deejay — Gerard de Vries with "Het Spel Kaarten".

11 By the way, Keith, if you are reading this, in return for this review I expect to receive your yearly news magazine again in January next year. For those who don't understand this last one: Skues is doing a very nice full coloured newssheet every year in which he tells us about all the things happening in Skuesville in the previous year. The sheet is decorated with a lot of very nice photographs, all showing us Keith Skues in various enjoyable moments.
  You can order Skuesville for the price of 4.99 Pound in England and for 6.99 Pound Overseas including packing and postage: KDM Productions, 25 Elisabeth Close. Lowestoft, Suffolk, England, NR232 2RE. KMD can also be reached by e-mail: kdmproductions@ic24.net. On Skues' own web site you will find more information about the man and his works.
  2002 © Soundscapes