Recommend me some books on pirate radio

Discussion in 'music, bands, clubs & festies' started by Clint Iguana, Sep 19, 2009.

  1. Clint Iguana

    Clint Iguana not an undercover cop

    Recommend me some books on pirate radio (and DIY music in general)

    Any one able to recommend me some books on pirate radio?

    I don't mean technical books on how to do it, more histories and biographies and such like. Have just googled it and i can see quite a few that are out of print, something i can actually get my hands on would be useful.

    Mainly interested in UK, particularly stuff done for the love of music rather than a commercial venture, but anything interesting considered (have read Serbia Calling, anything like that would be awesome).

    e2a.... also interested in stuff about DIY music in general, why people do it, how they do it (stories of how they did it, not interested in manuals), what's wrong with the music indusrty etc
  2. mincepie

    mincepie Everday lurker!

  3. Clint Iguana

    Clint Iguana not an undercover cop

  4. Fictionist

    Fictionist Serving Eargasms....

    Which particular part or phase of pirate radio interests you?
  5. Clint Iguana

    Clint Iguana not an undercover cop

    Mainly interested in the DIY ethic, broadcasting music for the love of it, pumping out underground stuff that mainstream media are not interested in. I suppose this would cover a large percentage of pirates, so does not really narrow it down very much.

    Tales of jolly japes evading the long arm of 'The Man' would be good. Perhaps some stuff about how the government changed the law to try to stop them.

    Now that i think of it though, i suppose i am interested in Internet radio as well ... so long as it is underground stuff.
  6. coccinelle

    coccinelle Active Member

    Here's a piece I wrote in 2006. It might be useful

    Pirates And Propaganda

    Why Pirate Radio is not as black as it's painted!

    November 2005 witnessed yet one more blitz by Ofcom on the (predominantly London) pirate radio stations. This time, the reason wasn't the apocryphal West London pirate station supposedly disrupting air traffic control for hours. This time the reason given was drugs and guns and the unbiquitous 'links with organized crime'. The fact that most of London's pirates play black music is interesting in this respect!

    Now, we all know pirate radio stations do not pay PRS/PPL royalties but the way the UK music business (and its Press) accepted the Ofcom announcements without demur, shows how blase we have become to easy propaganda and, also, how few people currently in the music business have any sense of the history of the business and of the huge benefits pirate radio has brought to the development of independent music in the UK.

    On Easter Saturday 1964, the UK's first pirate, Radio Caroline, started broadcasting, spawning a raft (sorry!) of copycat pirate operators. And this and this alone, forced the BBC to give Britain its first pop station, Radio 1, and eight local BBC radio stations in 1967.

    In 1969, the London pirate Radio Jackie started broadcasting, followed by (1970) Radio Invicta, which started its 14 year run of broadcasting 3 hours of soul music each weekend. By '81, the appetite for soul and jazz/funk brought the London pirates JFM and Horizon onto the airwaves. The result? The boom in US soul and jazz/funk in the early 80s that led directly to the UK dance scene in the late 80s.

    By the mid 80s, a strong case was building for total de-regulation of the airwaves. In late '84, Horizon had been bust and Solar had replaced it but in late '85 it went voluntarily off-air (as did other pirates at this time) to try to qualify for a broadcast licence. Immediately, LWR appeared to serve the burgeoning house, hip-hop and street soul scene with DJs like Tim Westwood. And then, in October '85, Kiss FM (props. George Power and Gordon Mac) appeared, more 'rare-groove' and alternative club/dance in style, with its (now) famous DJs including Paul 'Trouble' Anderson, Trevor Nelson, Coldcut, Bobby and Steve, Jazzie B and Norman Jay.

    By late '86, it was clear that de-regulation would never happen and most of the stations which had gone off-air came back on. When the new Community Radio Stations were eventually licensed in '89, the government betrayal was complete as Kiss FM was the only licensed station which had any pirate credentials. All the rest of the licences were awarded to business consortia.

    But the seeds had been sown and they produced the dance and 'rave' booms of the late 80s, which led to the dance decade that was the 90s.

    The strict regime that followed the '89 community licences killed most of the 80s pirates but the dance scene in the early 90's produced new stations like Sunrise, Fantasy 98.1, Unity, and Dance FM. Then the Hardcore scene in 1992 and 1993 came with stations like Influence and Underground and the Jungle scene (around '93) with stations like Dubwise and Skyline. By late '93, there were over 40 pirate stations in London and the South East. Kool FM and Pulse FM would claim audiences of over 30,000 listeners at weekends and were the places to go for information on the scene. And all during the 1980s and 1990s, reggae music, finding most broadcasting doors closed to it, established its own industry of pirate stations.

    In the last two years particularly, Ofcom have increased their raids. 2004 alone saw 1000 raids. And when, in November 2005, Ofcom boasted of closing down the majority (57%) of London's pirates, we were expected to forget all this history. We were expected to celebrate and ignore the fact that (for example) So Solid Crew made their names on Supreme FM and Delight FM, that Ms Dynamite was first heard on Raw FM, Freek FM and Peckham's Galaxy, that Craig David and Dizzee Rascal were heard on the pirates long before they hit the licensed broadcasters.

    But more than just the history of it: the November announcement came closer to pure racist propaganda than ever before. Drugs, guns and organised crime were all indicated as reasons for the draconian sweep.

    There are an estimated 150 pirates, half of which are in London. In the November operation, 44 black music stations had their transmitters seized, including Powerjam in Battersea and Galaxy 99.5 in Peckham, as well as established stations like Vibes 93.8 and Lightning 90.8; and even Blues 94.2, which had been helping Operation Trident with its 'Increase The Peace' promotion. Powerjam DJ, Kwaku Bonsu added "It's all about them wanting to quieten us. They don't want us organising Black people. They didn't come on us so hard until talk shows came on our radio."

    Several Ofcom-influenced press reports claimed that many 'pirates' were being run by criminal gangs using radio as a front to sell drugs. One report claimed drug dealers knew a particular song being played would signal the next drug shipment. Another article claimed: “Ofcom believes cash raised through advertising events at nightclubs on pirate stations could be used to finance the purchase of drugs for sale at these events.”

    But Ofcom later admitted that none of the court cases resulting from their raids involved drugs, that there was no evidence found of guns and that guns and drugs had only been indicated by the 'intelligence' which had led to the raids. Ofcom also suggested there had been press 'misreporting' (hah!) and a spokesman added “They are illegally broadcasting but there isn’t a link with them and serious crime."

    Ofcom claims their new Community Radio licences offer a legitimate alternative to piracy. But only 2 of the 48 short-term licences awarded since June are for Afro-Caribbean stations and neither of these is for London. In addition, the licences cost £5000 for a laughably weak broadcasting radius of 5 kilometres.

    Most of the pirates closed down by Ofcom in November are now back on air. Independent UK music is the richer for it.

    (Acknowledgments to Black Information Link for the OFCOM journalism.)
    plurker likes this.
  7. Clint Iguana

    Clint Iguana not an undercover cop

    It is indeed useful. I am currenly writing something myself, focusing on DIY as a whole and realised that i had not included pirate radio. This is a great help. ;)
  8. stethoscope

    stethoscope Well-Known Member

    Excellent piece Coccinelle.

    Only stuff I've stumbled upon are:

    Rebel Radio by John Hind and Stephen Mosco:
    60's upto mid 80's - LWR, DBC...

    The ubiqitious Energy Flash by Simon Reynonds:
    Chapter on 90's hardcore/jungle pirates such as Rush and Don FM - also online here:

    On wider DIY including some pirate radio references, there's Matt Mason's recent book:
  9. Clint Iguana

    Clint Iguana not an undercover cop

    some cracking stuff there , read energy flash but come across the others.

    The DIY thing looks interesting, the only DIY book i have read before was Amy Spencers Rise of Lo Fi Culture.... any more recommendations on a similar line would be wicked
  10. butchersapron

    butchersapron blood on the walls

    Not a book but there's a cracking film Working Slowly at radio Alice written by Wu-Ming, the collective who did the book Q and all sorts of other good stuff, about Radio Alice a station that was at the heart of autonomia in Bologna and central to the 1977 events. (Free download at first link)
  11. stethoscope

    stethoscope Well-Known Member

    Dunno if anyone has seen or read this yet?

    I've so far heard good reports both as a history of Kiss and rise of 80s/90s London inner city pirates - expect it will have a business rather than music leaning but its on the order list anyhow. I've always been of the hope that Gordon Mac et al might one day write 'the book' but so far its not to be.
  12. butchersapron

    butchersapron blood on the walls

  13. ringo

    ringo Macaroni cheese controller

  14. blossie33

    blossie33 trailer trash

    I bought the Tape Crackers dvd a few weeks ago.
    It's very interesting but more from a listeners point of view - rather than from any of the crews.
  15. DaveCinzano


    Not great, and very much focused on a certain kind of American political radio station.
  16. DaveCinzano


    If you wade through the Squall website on the Internet Archive there's some decent articles on music + politics pirates.
  17. stethoscope

    stethoscope Well-Known Member

    I've hardly put this down since I got it this week - far from the dry business read I thought it would be. It really is required reading if you want to read at least one persons account who was there of what happened behind the scenes of Kiss as a pirate and into the early legal days.

    It's also the most comprehensive thing I've ever read that covers the history of black/dance music pirates especially London through the 80s - Invicta, JFM, Solar, LWR, the government and pirate radio, etc.

    Didn't realise (as least from the perspective of the author), just how early some of the internal fighting and rot set in at Kiss after it went legal. RIP Kiss.
    cupid_stunt likes this.
  18. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    ringo likes this.
  19. stethoscope

    stethoscope Well-Known Member

    I was going to get that, but the only place I've still seen it available is direct from the publishers at £30!

    Adding to this list, London's Pirate Pioneers is about the best read and history I've seen on the subject for years (as posted about here).
    cupid_stunt likes this.
  20. cupid_stunt

    cupid_stunt Dyslexic King Cnut ... the Great.

    One of the operators of one of London's more interesting pirates from the 70s is almost ready to publish his book about it.

    Radio Concord was an anarchist station that transmitted from squats, they used to feature the Squatters Estate Agency which listed properties ripe for squatting, promote free festivals, and other alternative causes & stuff.

    Should be a good read, I'll post when it becomes available.

    Another good read is - Radio Jackie - A Very English Struggle - covering their pirate days.,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

    Other good reads:

    KISS FM: From Radical Radio To Big Business:
    The Inside Story Of A London Pirate Radio Station's Path To Success.

    London's Pirate Pioneers: The illegal broadcasters who changed British radio.'s+pirate+pioneers

    Offshore pirate books:

    Loads available from the Radio Caroline webshop, mainly about Caroline - I have most of them! :oops:
    Radio Caroline web shop READ

    I would recommend, in order:

    When Pirates Ruled the Waves by Paul Harris - it's covers the 60s & 70s stations, could do with being updated to cover the 80s stations.

    The Last Great Adventure for Boys - by Radio Caroline’s Bob Lawrence, upset a few people for being so honest about some involved in the station, and what went on behind the scenes.

    Ships in Troubled Water
    by Radio Caroline's Nigel Harris


    My Memories of a Dear Old Lady - by Albert Hood

    Pirate Gold - by Brian Lister

    Although Caroline started as a commercial operation in the 60s, when it returned in both the 70s & 80s it was more to do with being rebels, and for the love of radio & the music. It only survived by hiring out airtime to others - Dutch & Belgian stations, and religious broadcasters - normally on the second & third transmitters, whenever they were down to just one, it would be Dutch or Belgian stations during the day, religious crap from 6 or 7pm for a couple of hours, and Caroline late evening & overnight.
    planetgeli likes this.
  21. skyscraper101

    skyscraper101 0891 50 50 50

    cupid_stunt likes this.
  22. cupid_stunt

    cupid_stunt Dyslexic King Cnut ... the Great.

    That looks interesting, and should be in my collection. :thumbs:

    Currently unavailable on Amazon, but a second print edition is out soon:
    BOOK: Rave Diaries & Tower Block Tales by Uncle Dugs - £20

    skyscraper101 likes this.
  23. cupid_stunt

    cupid_stunt Dyslexic King Cnut ... the Great.

    It's out of print, but another good read (well for me) is Radio Blaa Blaa - the history of pirate radio in Waterford, Ireland - I was there for a few years in the 80s, but was still surprised to see a photo including me on the back cover, and a couple more inside. :oops:

    Selling the Sixties: Pirates and Pop Music Radio - I found interesting, I discovered it's actually written by the brother of an urbanite, following a PM conversation, but I'll not mention his username.,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch
  24. dialectician

    dialectician The Main Enemy is at home.

  25. Nigel

    Nigel For A Degenerates' Workers State

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