There have been many books about Radio Caroline, the ship-based “pirate” radio station that brought Brits pop music in the 1960s when they couldn’t hear it anywhere else. But the new book, “Radio Caroline: Voices on the Air,” does something different from previous volumes: It documents the nearly 600 DJ voices heard in Caroline since the oceanfront began in 1964. In some parts of the UK, DAB+ and AM are listened to online, via smart speakers and smartphone apps. For the record, over the years Radio Caroline has played five ships at the studio, AM transmitter and mast. The biggest one was Rose Revenge.
The book is edited by Paul Rusling, former UK radio DJ (including Radio Caroline) and radio consultant. “I worked for both regulators and my work covered licensing, administration, engineering and programming,” he told Radio World. “I’ve owned two restaurants and pubs, and written fifteen books and many articles for newspapers and magazines – in other words, a great ex-DJ and engineer, but prefers to make a living as a poor hack journalist/writer!”
“Radio Caroline: Voices of the Air” is a rarity in any history book, an account that tries to leave nothing out while remaining conversational and entertaining. This is exactly what Russling had in mind when he put it together, after writing an earlier history of the station titled “The Radio Caroline Bible.”
“This book was written to fill the gaps in many people’s knowledge about who the voices were on the world’s most famous offshore radio ship, Radio Caroline,” he said. “Many other books about Carolyn are autobiographies of individual disc jockeys and are often self-centered, so they ignore the bigger picture. Being a former DJ myself, I focus on the bigger picture, discussing how DJs were hired, rather than personal opinions and life stories.
Paul Rusling also wants to set the record straight about what DJs actually worked at Radio Caroline and what didn’t. “There are a lot of heirs who say they worked on the ship for years,” he said. “Some of them are well-known, including a current MP in the House of Commons.”
[Related: “Radio Caroline Returns to Its Roots“]
Content for “Radio Caroline: Voice of the Air” comes from the people who broadcast it. “I’ve enjoyed having access to and helping managers at every stage of Carolyn’s history,” Rusling said. Founder Ronan O’Rahilly was a PA and ‘right-hand man’ at Oonagh Karanja for 17 years and was replaced by Ben Bode, then Vincent Monsey and more recently Peter Moore – all of whom have contributed to my research. .”
After compiling this history of the sounds of radio carols, Rusling was “impressed by the number of people who made up the group. “The number of high-profile stars and celebrities who performed on Caroline’s stations – especially in the 1960s when such notables as Kathy Kirby, Charlie Drake, Cleo Lane, Marianne Faithfull and Vera Lynn appeared on Caroline’s shows . . .”
On a larger scale, Paul Rusling’s book helps to place Radio Carol in context as a force that broke the BBC’s iron grip on UK radio and began the long and slow journey to allow commercial radio onto its airwaves.
“When I joined Caroline there was only the BBC in the UK. “There were no commercial, independent and/or privately owned radio stations, so ships like Caroline were the only way to get into radio, unless one had a plummy accent,” he said. had to listen to foreign stations such as The BBC rationed pop music for a few hours. week.”
The impact of Radio Caroline in changing this situation cannot be underestimated. The “radio revolution” it sparked in the UK for more than 50 years eventually changed the very nature of British radio. “Today, the UK has somewhere approaching 600 stations, all with no limits on the amount of music they can play,” Rusling said. “Most local stations on digital multiplexes can be heard for a few miles, but there are about a dozen ‘national’ networks. And then, of course, our world now has over 100,000 online stations and over 2.5 million podcasters competing with radio for access to our ears. Podcasts, on the other hand, are radio programs that listeners can schedule at will.
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For those who love radio history or are just curious about where we are today, ““Radio Caroline: Voice of the Air” is an interesting read and a necessary addition to any serious library. But sadly, the station that started it all – Radio Caroline – no longer wields the influence that over 50 years ago posed such a pernicious and destructive threat to the government-controlled UK broadcasting monopoly.
“Caroline is now considered a relic of radio history, except for a small group of die-hard fans who keep her memory alive,” Rusling concluded. “Although Radio Carolyn is now available on a variety of bands and appliances, the narrow ‘golden oldies’ program format she uses limits her appeal. In Carolyn’s heyday, she attracted millions of listeners whose name still evokes fond memories.
Radio Caroline: Voice of the Air is available for purchase on Amazon.com as a Kindle ebook or paperback. Members of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service can read it for free.