Various Artists - We Love The Pirates (2CD)

In these days of numerous 24 hour music radio and TV stations, the pop music fans of this new 21st century would find it hard to imagine what their 1964 counterpart had to rely on. Back then the BBC Light Programme was restricted to four and a half hours needle time per day (that means the playing of records). There was also Radio Luxembourg in the evening but the reception of that station was notoriously bad and is the stuff of legend. As the broadcasting authorities were not prepared to change that situation it was left to enterprising business men to give the kids the music service they craved.

The only way was to broadcast from offshore Britain, outside the three mile zone. The business men used shops as radio station around the coast. There were several, the most popular being Radio Caroline South and Radio London which provides the theme of this double CD set.

Radio London's co-founders, Don Pierson and Tom Dunaher conceived the idea in Dallas, Texas of bringing American style non-stop Top 40 Radio to the UK. In December 1964, Radio London took to the airwaves broadcasting from the Thames Estuary. These two discs feature 47 records that all featured on the stations Top 40 in it's brief lifespan of 2 1/2 years in which they attracted an audience of 10-12 million listeners. Featured on the discs between the records are 90 Radio London jingles, some recorded specially in the States which sound as though they come from the previous decade. The others are performed by one of the stations top DJs, Kenny Everett displaying his talent for comedy and mimicry with which he would find wider fame for in later years.

And the music featured? Well that is a bit of a mixed bad. It's obvious the compilers have been restricted by what is available by licensing to Sanctuary Records. Big Sixties artists featured are The Kinks, The Searchers, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Small Faces, an embryonic David Bowie and PP Arnold and her 1967 version of Cat Stevens "First Cut It The Deepest". But the bulk of the set is made up of "nearly made it's" like The Koobas, The Uglys, Neil Christian Twice as much to name just a few.

The story of Radio London is told in the extensive notes, of how the pirates were forced off air by the Marine Offences bill, but almost all the DJ's were recruited by the BBC to launch the new Radio 1 in September 1967, including Tony Blackburn. This collections downfall is the music that isn't represented, the pirates were very good for exposing the UK to records from the USA often weeks before they gained a UK release and none of those appear here and I can imagine those jingles getting tiresome after several listens. A collection recommended for those who fondly remember Radio London only.

Derek McCann

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