Capital Radio - Launch medley

Oct 04, 2011, 09:45 PM

October 1973. The Conservatives, who’d been broadly in favour of commercial radio were in power again; and the experiment had begun.

After the launch of LBC the week before, Capital London came on air with its ‘General Entertainment’ franchise, awarded from a choice of eight applicants by a regulator struggling with its new offspring. Even then, the IBA had to broker deals between the applicant groups to help install the best management in the right station.

The prevalent industrial climate was one of several factors which damaged the early chances of this new bairn: needletime restrictions; burdensome regulation at a launch cost of £315,000; and no AM transmitter site. The regulator, which also then transmitted the programmes, had to sling a temporary aerial between the two chimneys at Lots Road power station. Hence, Capital launched on 539m, not the eventual 194m. Remember, back then, few people were able to listen on FM, so this straggly medium-wave signal was altogether unhelpful.

Blue Mink jingles, the London Philharmonic, Richard Attenborough, Simon & Garfunkel, Birds Eye fish fingers and David Symonds using the subjunctive were to pave the way for what would become one of the most powerful UK radio brands.

Kenny Everett, Tommy Vance, Dave Cash, Roger Scott and little Nicky Horne, with hiccoughs on the opening day, appeared on the early rotas. Staff numbered 150, according to the Times on launch day, with premises costing £1m and running costs at £1.5m: 'we had the feeling millions of listeners tuned in', said the Programme Controller. There were said to be 2,000 phone calls and hundreds of telegrams. I'm not sure quite how many enjoyed episode one of the serial: 'The King and His Mistresses'. Maybe more enjoyed the 73 playlist songs, colour-coded for mood.

The music policy was to change speedily. Launching as 'popular music for adults' during daytime, it eschewed this 'hippier' music ('nothing to jangle the nerves of a parent': The Telegraph) in favour of more chart by Christmas 1973. By this time, it had also clashed with the IBA when the station decided it wanted to do its own commentary on Princess Anne's wedding: the regulator said no. Capital broadcast from Euston Tower 'The Tower of Power' for 24 years before moving to Leicester Square.

Hear here the test transmissions and reminiscences from much-loved chairman Richard Attenborough, who died on August 24th 2014, and Programme Controller Michael Bukht into the defining moment for UK commercial music radio. Or Independent Local Radio, as we had to call it back then.

Hear more at!capital/c1ugc