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volume 7
april 2004

Rockin' and rollin' with Radio Caroline North


  Review of:
  • Robert Preedy, Radio Caroline North — rockin' and rollin'. The legendary radio station from beginning to end. Wetherby, 2004 (ISBN 1-874366-04-7).
by Hans Knot
  Just before Eastern, the postman put a nice book into the mailbox of Hans Knot. It proved to be a history of the offshore station Radio Caroline North, written by Robert Preedy. Hans Knot was quick in reading the book and now shows his appreciation.
1 From beginning to end. Just before Eastern 2004 a parcel came in with the postman and, when I had removed the wrappings, it proved to be another book from author Bob Preedy — the same who, two years ago, brought us an excellent book on the history of Radio 270. This, again, is a book on the history of just one radio station: Radio Caroline North. In the introduction to the book, Preedy summarizes the fact that in 2004, no less than four decades after the launch of Radio Caroline, the interest in offshore radio remains just as strong as it was in the 1960's. The importance of these stations cannot be exaggerated as they forced the post-war radio industry to accept the realities of the post-war world. Even the ILR, that is the commercial radio stations in Great Britain, as Preedy rightfully argues, never had the same impact on the listening public. The book is well-documented. Preedy even researched the memoirs written by Harold Wilson and Tony Benn, though — as he found out — both wrote only a few lines on this convulsive episode in British history.
  Preedy's book carries the subtitle "The legendary radio station from beginning to end." The implied reference to the station's early history has to be taken quite literally. Preedy not only describes the full history of Radio Caroline North but also informs us about the situation before the offshore stations came on the air: how the radio industry started in Europe and how continental commercial radio stations like Radio Paris, Radio Normandy and Luxembourg exerted their influences on the British listeners. He even goes in more depth by telling about the plans in 1937 to start transmissions with a number of transmitters carrying the same commercial broadcast. These plans were made by Air Time Ltd. and secretly founded by Peter Eckersley on behalf of Oswald Mosley. Mosley was head of the British Union of Fascists and it was thought that the money for this project was originating from Mussolini in Italy. Really interesting reading stuff, I must say. At the end of the introduction, on page 12, Preedy tells us that from 1958, with the coming of Radio Mercur off the coast of Denmark, a new start for offshore radio in Europe was made. Too bad that Preedy, next to his very good part about the "Air time Ltd." doesn't say a thing about that other project that didn't fail and really came on the air from a ship in international waters at about the same time, in 1938: the transmissions on shortwave 7842 kHz from "Der Sender der Deutchen Freiheits Partei" — The Voice of the German Freedom Party. There were British as well as Dutch people involved in this operation, which was on the air from a ship off the French coast. If Preedy adds some information about this project in a second edition of his book, his story really will be complete.
2 Facts and figures. The first chapter of the book describes the planning period for Radio Atlanta as well as for Radio Caroline, each with their big entrepreneur — Alan Crawford and Ronan O'Rahilly — as leader. Again a good read, including the story of the early bid for the Radio Nord ship by Crawford, which fell apart when one of the main backers pulled out of the enterprise. Why? For the answer, you'll have to read the book yourself! What follows is a well-done description on the technical details of Radio Caroline North: the studios and other technical installations on the MV Fredericia, a former Danish ferryboat and a really wonderful ship. Martin Kayne is the one who is responsible for this description. In this section, he also recalls the drills the Dutch captain gave to crew and deejays on Mondays. Of course the merger between Caroline and "competitor" Radio Atlanta is not forgotten, including the trip with the Caroline North ship from the South to the North — near the Isle of Man. Historical are the recordings in which people like Tom Lodge and captain Hengeveld — not Hangerfeld as Preedy and others spell his name — are telling the listeners about their trip to their new anchor position.
  What makes the book also interesting is that Preedy furnishes several small pieces of information to his readers that mostly have been forgotten by other authors. What to say, for instance, about the fact that one of the captains had to leave for Ramsey after he had been bitten by a dog? It is a nice detail that reminds me of that particular captain who kept his own chickens on board of the MV Fredericia. Reading Preedy's year-by-year description of the history of Radio Caroline North brings back a lot of memories as I could receive the station quite well in those days. Of course Preedy doesn't forget to write about the big influence Philip Solomon had in the history of Radio Caroline North, after Alan Crawford had left the station early 1966. Solomon even was banning Ronan O'Rahilly out of the office for some time as O'Rahilly wanted to have too much influence on the musical format. Only the information on the amount of stakes in Planet Productions, the company behind Radio Caroline, Solomon had, proves to be defective. At least, in one of their rare interviews, dating back to 1966, Solomon and his brother did mention quite other figures.
3 A wide view. The coming and going of new deejays and newsreaders figure predominantly in the book. Preedy offers his readers a wide view of the kitchen of Radio Caroline North, even giving space to Martin Kayne to tell that he really felt depressed when he heard that Ronan O'Rahilly thought he was too much a BBC announcer. The period after the MOB became act and Caroline North stayed on the air as Radio Caroline North International, is also given ample space. Here too Preedy lets some people who were working for the Caroline organisation during that period tell their own stories. Remarkable is the story of the Anglia TV crew wanting to do a television special after August 14th 1967. As they didn't want to offend the law, they hired a ship from Holland: the MV Jacomina from Flushing. And why is this so remarkable? Well, the same ship, owned by the Van Akker Company, was used as one of the tenders for Radio Atlantis in 1974 as well as bringing a new anchor chain to the Ross Revenge — one of the other Caroline ships in the mid-1980's.
  Preedy's book certainly deserves its place on the shelf of every fan of Radio Caroline and offshore radio in general. I will tell you how to order this book, but not before pointing out two small shortcomings. Page 45 offers a list of some classics which the author thinks were probably only played on Radio Caroline North. He only has to listen to some old recordings of other stations from the 1960's to find out that songs like "Red Rubber Ball" by the Cyrkle, "Time Seller" by the Spencer Davis Group, "Remember Me, I'm The One Who Loves You" by Dean Martin, "You Were On My Mind" by The We Five, and "Oh No Not My Baby" performed by Maxine Brown and Raymond Frogatt got a lot of airplay on other offshore radio stations too. The other thing: it's really a pity that Preedy does not mention any of the original photographers of the load of photos shown in the book. His argument is that the names of the authors are unknown for many photos. However, as we all know, those who are known by name, still have to be mentioned. Just a few e-mails to people in the radio world surely would have helped to enlarge the list of those who made these pictures.
  You can order your own copy of the book Radio Caroline North — rockin' and rollin' by sending € 15,- or £ 8,- to R.E. Preedy, c/o Wetherby Cinema, Wetherby LS22 4RU, UK. Of course, you can also order it at your local book shop under ISBN 1-874366-04-7.
  2004 © Soundscapes