Here’s a little bit about my own love affair with radio, featuring an interview from local soul DJ legend Mickey Nold (and a radio show from 1972 he unearthed for us).
It was 1988, Christmas morning, and I was thirteen years old. I dashed down stairs to rummage underneath the Christmas tree, one present looked most intriguing. My older brother Ken had bought me a portable Sanyo twin cassette deck with radio, it was just before CDs became popular and high speed tape dubbing was all the rage!
That snowy winters night in deepest Herefordshire, I stumbled across the fuzzy squelchy sounds of acid house. I was about to discover the world of pirate radio!
I embarked upon journey of musical discovery, tuning into dub reggae, acid house, hip hop, electro, jazz-funk, techno and late 80s indie from illegal radio stations in Birmingham and The Black Country. I recorded endless tapes of these illegal airwaves, with the occasional smattering of John Peel playing De La Soul, 808 State and Stakker for the first time.
On the whole, the music I would tune into, was not available anywhere else, other than pirate radio stations, underground clubs and vinyl record shops.
It was this secret world of illegal radio which forged my music tastes. These sounds took me to raves and house clubs in later years, driving around the UK to seek out the music we heard on pirate radio. I became immersed in analogue music production, with record deals in Brum and London. It became the driving force behind my entire life.
But what about the people who ran these stations, what’s their story? I followed the fate of P.C.R.L. In Birmingham. Cecil Morris, the station boss had so many raids by the DTI and police. Cecil (and others) provided sweet reggae and soul music for an otherwise forgotten audience of the West Midlands.
One of the DJs and presenters was Mickey Nold who used to present a cool Northern Soul radio show.
Mickey’s story is a fascinating one, and one which I believe is worth sharing, so I asked him to relate a few memories from his early pirate radio days to accompany one of his Soul and Funk radio broadcasts from 1972.
A few words from Mickey Nold
When radio first appeared in the UK it was aimed mainly at the wealthy population and the prices of receivers reflected that, the BBC was set-up in the 1920’s to be the only broadcaster, a little like the Internet, but with only one web site available (Government set-up one).
When an Irish business man (Ronan O’Rahilly) came to the UK he couldn’t quite believe how under the thumb the UK still was and he helped set up one of the first pirate sea broadcasts in around 1964 (Radio Caroline).
Many more soon followed as teenagers were hearing for the first time to ‘good music’ being played on the radio by DJ’s that were obviously enjoying what they did. The radio signals during the day were quite weak in the Midlands due to the broadcasts being made at near sea level and well off the South Coast in all weathers.
One or two did open up off the Blackpool coast for a while but what was needed at our end was a good radio receiver or a long aerial. My school around this time was a Victorian built draft bucket with lightening conductors running down the outside walls at regular intervals, so putting a transistor radio up against one of these boosted your reception 10 fold.
A crowd would soon gather around at play time, while I listened to the music on my six transistor Fidelity Floret that my parents bought me from Mortons in Navigation Street (Birmingham) for 9 guineas (£9 and shillings), a weeks wage then!
The pirates of the day were mainly backing UK Pop groups, and Black American music that I much preferred was few and far between. So I decided to build my own radio station and broadcast my music tastes.
I used a child’s Radionic construction set and John Bull printing set to create a few business cards and I was off. From around the same time as the sea pirates started being popular I did my own broadcasts either late week nights or Sunday afternoons.
Nearly every broadcast was from an alternate venue to avoid General Post Office’s triangulation (detector vans) and I had to be one step ahead of these Government officials.
Many tricks were employed and I have lots of funny stories about them, but perhaps another time. This program here was from the end of my early radio days, some eight years after I first stated, by now I was at a technical collage with lots of people to help with radio theory and soon to be married and to settle down.
Article by Nick Byng for Grapevine Brum.