Updated November 17th 1999

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Thanks for visiting this site! The intention of this Internet site is to share with you some of the exciting sounds (and a few incriminating photos too!) that I heard on the radio growing up as a teenager in the south of England. The history of British pop music radio is well documented elsewhere, as a matter of fact, this site includes some excellent links to other radio web sites that will enhance your understanding of the history of British pop music radio.

Unlike most other countries, legal commercial radio only began in Britain in 1973, many years behind a mature and respected television market. Post war pop music radio in Britain consisted of just a couple of hours a week on the BBC plus nightime transmissions from French and Luxembourg based transmitters, taking advantage of nightime ionospheric 'skip'. This was until early 1964 when Radio Caroline and Radio Atlanta began broadcasting high powered signals from ships based just outside British territorial waters, just beyond the reach of British law.

These transmissions and many more like them continued for three and a half years until an act of law was passed to silence them. There is an excellent site at www.guernsey.net/~bebridel/ which documents these stations and there are many interesting photographs too.

Following the years of offshore 'pirate' radio, the BBC was forced to provide a 'pop' music channel to accommodate the disgruntled music fans robbed of their favourite music stations and DJ's.

The early years of 'the replacement' Radio One provided listeners with an eclectic mix of MOR, Pop, R&B and many different streams of music as the one station tried, impossibly, to replace the many that had been closed in August 1967.

Although there was a short resurgence of offshore radio in the early 1970's, it took until 1973 for the government to pass a law to create legal commercial radio. The early stations, based in the major populated centres of the UK, struggled to recreate the excitement and loyalty that listeners had enjoyed in the mid 1960's.

It should be stated for the record that these stations were launched during the dark days of the three day working week, when Britain was being held to ransom by the coal miners seeking better pay and working conditions. Advertising was notoriously difficult to attract during this period.

Nightime transmissions from Radio Luxembourg ( having now adopted the 'offshore pirate' format), remained popular as the commercial stations were unable, like Radio One, to play more than eight hours of so called 'needletime' (as in pick up stylus!) due to union constraints. The other sixteen hours were often filled with plays, other non performing rights material, film soundtracks and some very dodgy foreign albums containing English hits with no performance details printed on the labels!! It would be 1989 before this was to change due to the belligerence of Radio Nova's Chris Cary, who defied the unions and played on(!). (Something he was already well noted for!!)

During the mid 1970's radio became stale and unexciting, when compared to the previous decade where a new day often meant a new station! There was a large gap in the marketplace for locally based, music and entertainment radio but no provision in law to provide for it. It would be nearly two more decades before true expansion was to accelerate.

In 1989 the newly created Radio Authority began to licence many more smaller commercial broadcasters, but that's another story, of a 'Radio Authority' issuing licences in what has become a 'lottery', broadcasters with little or no commercial sense and big business. Even now, in 1998 many radio groups can be found all over the country waiting in line for a licence, as the machinations of expanding the commercial radio network rumble on. Many of them with never realise their ambitions.

And.... in between offshore 'pirate' radio and the late 1970's lies the story that you can learn so much about here.

A story of non subversive, disaffected, young(er!), (many professional) broadcasters who regularly defied the law to push the case for commercial radio forward.

For most of them, time was not to be on their side. Some, including myself, went onto successful careers in commercial radio.

None could be described as catalystic but the momentum behind the disorganised movement of 'pirate' radio would once again force change as it had already done in the mid sixties. History may not remember them but I will try to document some here, before they are eradicated from memory.

Presented here are photographs (to follow) of studios, disc jockeys, the transmission equipment and the amazing sounds that moved me as a teenager to become a radio broadcaster. It is, in short, a tribute to those who may or may not realise it, are remembered with affection.


This web site will be updated regularly and I hope you will become a regular visitor. Many thanks to those of you who have contacted me and expressed an interest in this site.

You'll need a free Real Audio Player and Internet Explorer 3.0 or higher to get the most out of this site. Enjoy!!


Please feel free to e.mail your comments to me at ssilby@hotmail.com. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. I would be particularly interested in your own recordings, photographs, stories, memories etc. I welcome your views on the current state of commercial radio in Britain! Also, try e.mailing your own Real Audio files and biogs. on stations! Thanks for all your positive comments to date!

Please note, the author does not in any way condone illegal broadcasting. This site is presented for nostalgic enjoyment and historical reference purposes only.

Finally, my thanks to 'Music Lovin'' Hank Hayes from the legendary offshore station 'Radio Free New York International' for his invaluable assistance in the Real Audio streaming facility that this site supports! Why not visit his excellent site for photos and recordings of great American radio. Visit RFNY now!



There is a monster site which details the history of Scottish and Irish landbased 'pirate' radio. Truly authoritative, it's a real labour of love and I am deeply indebted to my good friends Ken and Gary for their 'Radio Kaleidoscope' file. This site has recently been updated to include many new articles, photographs and Real Audio clips. Highly recommended.

A history of Irish landbased pirate radio

Scottish landbased pirate radio (Weekend Music Radio & more!)

Radio Caroline. The latest news from the world famous offshore station.

Offshore radio directory.

RBL Radio.

UK and London dance pirate radio

Todays latest radio news from Britain and the world







Following successful transmissions from Radio Free London and Radio Helen, independent operators formed an alliance that would allow pirate programmes to be heard across the London area for several hours on a Sunday. Hear off-air recordings from 1968 and read about one of the earliest landbased pirate services.


Formed to push pirate broadcasting into a new age, higher standards were required to broadcast on this early VHF / FM pirate. Many interesting new stations were heard on the legendary LTIR, read about them on this page dedicated to early FM broadcasting in the London area.


Born out a programme first heard on Radio Jackie VHF, Radio London Underground was a regular Sunday night fixture throughout much of 1972 on the LTIR. Read about this much loved pirate and hear exerpts of its programmes.


Read about the history of RFL and hear recordings of Radio Free London, the first of the landbased pirates from the late 1960's.


* Now updated with new sound files, June 21st 1998*

Possibly one of the most exciting music stations ever heard in the London area. Kaleidoscope began life in Southend-on-Sea on the East Coast of England but later the name was taken up by a group of more professional London based Disc Jockeys who broadcast each Sunday morning for over four years. Whilst London's legitimate music station Capital Radio struggled to find its feet, Phil Hazleton, Pat Edison, Tony Stephenson, Denny Tueson and others provided London with some of the most exciting radio ever heard on the medium waveband. Hear Kaleidoscope in its heyday of 1974 and read more about the station that the press said 'these guys are the people who should really be involved in radio'


*Now updated with new sound files, June 21st 1998*

One of the earliest pirates, Jackie grew from a half an hour a week to an all day Sunday service and in 1982 began what most had believed impossible, a full 24 hours a day, seven days a week service.

Radio Jackie was the first pirate station to broadcast on FM and you can hear a clip from the opening night on the Jackie page.

Also included is a clip from their 1977 marathon Christmas broadcast featuring Phil Hazleton and a photograph from our incriminating 'Pirate Gallery'!


*Now updated*

'London's newest and most exciting radio station' is how the Sunday morning sign on annoucement heralded another day of broadcasting from LMR '222'. Hear how the station sounded, with rare clips and a picture from our 'Pirate Gallery'


*Now Updated, June 21st 1998*

Enthusiastic community station that was heard every week in the East London area. Although the Police and authorities eventually silenced the station, the campaigning for a licence to broadcast lasted twenty years. Hear a clip of the station.


*EMR Now Updated, June 21st 1998*

ABCRadio, European Music Radio, Radio Zenith, The 6235 Network and more!! Lots of Real Audio.


Coming Soon!!

Kent North Radio

Radio Helen

Radio Sovereign

More Shortwave!

Your author awaits the Police (and other great music!!) at Radio Jackie. S.W. London, 1977


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