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Britain Radio England - Part 1

A feature on the ship bourne stations using the positioning statements "Swinging" - Radio England, & her sister station Britain Radio - "Hallmark of Quality" which broadcast simultaneously from the same ship triggered by the email below:

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Been perusing at your great website, there may be a very good reason but there does not appear to be any mention of Swinging Radio England?

I believe it was predominately an American station, but in my opinion a good lively station.

When you have time perhaps you will let me know why there is no mention of SRE please?
Cheers - Terry, Mitchell's Property

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Bill Vic, Don Pearson & Tom Danaher original board members of Radio London left shortly after the Big L launched. Disenchanted with the proposed format they went off to form Britain Radio England which came to air at the height of the Swinging 60's scene, Carnaby Street set the fashion & everyone was tuning to the buoyant Offshore Pop Pirates for music

What could possibly go wrong, money in the bank, Britain Radio England had it made?

Built in 1944 at Wheelers Ship Yard New York, reported to be a 167 foot Landing Craft in the 1960's the 562 ton vessel was in fact one of 100's general cargo supply vessels built for the US Army

These supplied the US Marine Corp in the Pacific theatre designated the AKL Class Liberty Ships, comparatively small & light ideal to deliver cargo at speed into relatively shallow waters

Decommissioned after the WW2 she worked as a light cargo vessel before being secretly fitted out as a radio ship in Miami Florida from January 1966

Above the Olga Patricia sailing to her mooring off the Frinton Essex coast now shown registered at Lloyds to Peir-Vick Ltd a local dummy company formed by William Vick in London

Early tendering the Offshore 3 arrives at the Olga Patricia

The self op' studios boasted a pair of Turntables & jingle Ad' Spot Cart' Machines, three Tape Machines & a Tape Carousel which could be run independently or during programmes

Boss Jock Larry Dean during an early Swinging Radio England programme

Fitted to a high standard the ship had a pair of brand-new Continental Electronics 317C 50kW transmitters, it was widely reported that an antenna diplexer would be used so that both services could share the same antenna system

This has subsequently been discredited, the ship in fact had two separate Cage or Sausage antennas with the 1320kc/s slung between the main & back mast & the 845kc/s from the main mast to the deck

The "first" diplexed transmissions in Offshore Radio were from Radio Caroline on the Ross Revenge in 1983

The transmitting equipment had been specified in the US & without doubt had not been fully researched for the UK proposed operations as illustrated by the following:

Specified & likely commissioned in the USA the transmitters were set to 850 kc/s & 640 kc/s

It was realised, hopefully before they switched on for UK use that both were not to the European band plan. In that they were frequencies ending in zero, all USA channels are spaced at 10 kc/s & that very near to one of the chosen frequencies was the powerful Nation Wide BBC Third Programme, operating from Daventry on 647kc/s at 150kW into a very efficient antenna

If 640kc/s had been powered there would have been appalling interference to the BBC

The 640kc/s transmitter was therefore wave changed & re crystalled to 1320kc/s, whilst the 850kc/s transmitter to 845kc/s

Tests from both Britain Radio on 227 mmw 1320kHz, & Swinging Radio England 355 mmw 845 kHz commenced on the 3rd May 1966

Due to interference to the Italians on 845 khz, there was a swap of frequencies

In fact England nudged along to 1322 kHz & after more interference complaints 1331 kHz 225 mmw announced as 227 mmw, then finally to the correct Euro channel of 1322kc/s

Whilst Britain went to 845 kc/s 355 mmw frequency then settled on 854 kc/s

With power reductions easily effected on the Continental 317 design, a reduced output was implemented in the evenings to prevent further interference

N.B If the zero-ending frequencies had been used there would have been bad heterodynes / whistles making even more interference complaints than were suffered

Even though it's now been proven there were two separate antennas supported by the big mast, it was no mean engineering feat

All these changes would have necessitated many hours of engineering effort spent isolating circuits at the base feed of each antenna to stop RF from the other system getting in & retuning

That said though the performance of the comparatively "short" antenna would have been much better at 1332 / 854 than at 640 / 845

Initially reaction to the programmes was good, a regular format commenced on the 18th June with Britain Radio beginning her regular format the following day

Across the water on the pop radio market leader Radio London Tony Windsor commented "Big L were unperturbed about the arrival of Radio England's Boss Jocks"

But Radio England literally set us alight with their Jingles

Lets find out & hear more from Norman Barrington:

1. When Radio England launched, several UK pirates were already well established, the leader was undoubtedly Radio London, number two was Radio Caroline. The latter which was run on a tight budget never purchased customised American jingles, but instead used home-grown groups & singers, pieces cut from current songs, together with cuts stolen from American jingle demos, and generic jingles such as those made by SESAC (e.g. This is the swinginest station in town) and NAB (e.g. Lively Companion). Radio London, on the other hand had bought the most successful top 40 package to date from PAMS of Dallas, namely series #18 ‘Sonosational’ released in 1961, (with a few series #17 ‘New Frontier’ a couple from #26d ‘The Beatles’ and one from #16 ‘The Sound of the City’). Quite a large initial package, but not enough for Big L! Their jingle repertoire was enhanced by innumerable clever edits from Pams demo reels of series #15, #16, #22, #23, #25, #26, #27, #28, and #29, (later Big L bought #31 as a top up)

  2. Against this background, Radio England chose PAMS’ series #27 ‘The Jet Set’ as it’s launch package. This was arguably PAMS’ second most successful package ever, rivaling series #18 in the number of stations using it around the world. Based on a ‘jet set’ image, of flying to exotic locations, driving fast sports cars or riding on speed boats, all the sound effects were in there, together with a robust all-male vocal line, contrasting with a fast paced, brassy music track mixed with operatic sounding Gleni Rutherford singing scat
3. Although Big L had used all the cuts from the demo, the WABC version sounds very tame, against Radio England’s version. Compare ‘Where the action is’, ‘Positive charge’, ‘Golden Classic’ or ‘Let’s Look into the Future Time’ to hear what I mean. The male singers on SRE’s version are louder, more excited, even raunchier as they sing ‘Swi-i-i-i-i-ng Radio England!’   4. US Stations had a tradition of using a superlative connected with a station name, High Flying WING, Wonderful WIL, Yours Truly WHB, Colourful KQV, are some examples. The pirates continued with this idea; Big L’s “Wonderful Radio London” logo melody taken from the already established “Wonderful WQAM”, whereas Radio England had new melody created for the ID “Swinging Radio England”. ‘Swinging’ being the US view of all things English, as in Roger Miller’s “England swings as a pendulum do”

Audio Break

The Swinging Radio England Jingles, these edits are from the WFUN Miami set originally brought over to Britain by Ron O'Quinn. With grateful thanks to Norman Barrington who produced the sequence for this article

5. But there was more to the package that that! With this series, PAMS perfected their idea of putting a station’s name on a musical pedestal, how was this done? In almost every cut there is a musical slide up before the station ID and a slide down afterwards, additionally a sound effect of sparkling wind chimes in multiple, playing both forwards and backwards, which is added over each station ID signature, subliminally creating the feeling that the station is both big and, ooh it’s magic!   6. Radio England, like Radio London was also keen to enhance their on-air jingle selection, one of their jocks, Ron O’Quinn who had worked on Miami’s WFUN had dubs of that station’s entire jingle library. Better still, WFUN’s catchphrase ‘Fun Radio’ and ‘The Fun Spot’ was perfect for editing, so we had an eclectic mix from PAMS #14 #16 & #22 with jingles like ‘It’s Blast off time on Funny Radio, we’re going into orbit” or “Fun Radio, would like to ask you, do you remember, do you remember?” or “Less Talk More Music, Less Talk More Music, The Fun Spot”. There were also packages from Futursonic & CRC, giving us “Weather Prediction”, “The Station that keeps you Informed” and acapellas like “F-U-N Weekend”, “The Boss Jocks, Bop-Bop, Play More Music Now!”, “Boss Radio!” etc. Indeed the station’s news format was a direct copy of the WFUN style. An overblown mix of big orchestrations, OTT stingers and a countdown throughout the weather, demanded a fast paced - almost hysterical, news presentation that would try the most professional of DJs!
     
7. But back to Radio Caroline for a moment! Tight for money (as always!) & a pirate in every sense, they couldn’t believe their luck when Radio England began on-air testing. Perhaps because they were so thrilled with their brand new package, they made the serious mistake of playing out all their jingles in the clear between records and announcements. The transmission quality was above average with a wide bandwidth allowing Caroline to record almost hi-fi copies of absolutely everything, then edit them into existing material, et voilá! a free new package for Caroline “Fun Radio! It’s agreed. Yes indeed, number one”   8. By the time SRE was on air for real, many listeners thought they stole their stuff from Caroline instead of the other way round. This left poor old SRE to go back a buy a new package. Perhaps PAMS #29 “Radio au Go-Go” would have made a good follow-up, but with less money to spend now, they went to cheap n cheerful Spot Productions buying ‘Thatman’ – Batman to you and me, but Thatman on the lyric sheet to cleverly avoid royalties due to the writers of the famous TV theme tune.
Listen again, can you hear them sing Batman or Thatman?

     
9. Swinging Radio England DJ Larry Dean pictured above, had worked on WPTR in Albany, a station that also had the Thatman package, so perhaps he made the choice of SRE jingles? Either way, this was an opportunity to get some free jingles for the DJs on the station so the original WPTR DJ's names were kept & the SRE Jocks renamed accordingly, perhaps it was Larry who suggested the jock names too?   10. That Radio England was ultimately unsuccessful is of course history, certainly the US style clashed with mainstream British culture, in a way Radio London had managed to avoid. But the jingles were classic Americana, and certainly fueled my interest in US Radio, helping me to understand, by comparison with Radio London, how jingles can be re sung, re -lyricked, and the concept of variable melody line ID logos added, over pre-recorded music beds, as perfected by PAMS of Dallas

Norman Barrington, January 2006.
nb@normanb.net

The News Studio on the Laissez Faire commisioning the Collins Mixer

Johnny Walker about to throw Phil Martin a light

Note bottled milk, wax paper packed white cut loaf & the jar of Marmite

Contrived pose of Jocks Colin Nichol, Phil Martin, Graham Gill & Johnny Walker relaxing on the aft deck

Crew quarters & conditions on the ship were reported to be very good with much thought going into the design

This feature continues in Britain Radio England - Part 2 with more details on the ship & the short lived Radio Dolfijn (Radio Flipper) Radio 277 & the MoR station Radio 355

Plus hear a WFUN News Jingle Package, reference the Norman Barrington contribution paragraph 6 above

Grateful thanks to Martin Stevens, Norman Barrington & David Porter for their valuable contribution to this feature

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Superb feature, feel sure ship had two ariel's - Leon

"This has really touched me, what a fab' commemoration of one of the best 60s offshore stations!" - Keith

"Thanks a wonderful surprise feature!" - Look Boden Radio 227 Holland

By the centre a grand piece - Arthur

Just a note to say how much I'm enjoying the feature about SRE, certainly one of the best, if not the best 1960's offshore station

Larry Dean was my favorite jock, tight with great production skills. SRE was light years ahead of what was happening at the time

I listen to a lot of British radio & with a few exceptions, in my mind they are all a bad copy of Lazer 558, Atlantic 252, & of course the Grand daddy of them all, Swinging Radio England

Today's radio can just about do the slogans, but lack the pace & fun element that made stations like SRE great a sound that even now would knock the socks off what's currently on the dial in Europe

Looking forward to Part 2!

Warm Regards - Steve Marshall

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For the range of documentary CD's in the Offshore Radio "Roaring 60's" collection, the Sealand VCD, books, & a video on the Army & Navy Forts go to Offshore Shop

For boat trips by Barge or fast RiB during the summer from Herne Bay & Whitstable in Kent to see the sights of the Thames Estuary & North Kent Coast see Boat Trips


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