Early Radio London

Dec 19, 2011, 11:18 PM

When one hears the sixties pirate radio days re-told with relish, it is quite naturally the buccaneering Caroline which rightly seizes the headline story. She was primus inter pares from the 21 stations which broadcast offshore. The Lady was first; she bore a real name; and she was established by a wily Irishman. It's rather more than a great story - but, well, it is a great story.

In radio format terms though, the influence of Radio London was probably greater. Coming on air near Christmas 64, after the launch of Caroline, Radio London took its inspiration from American pop radio; the sort of Smooth Sailing radio the UK had missed out on. Tight playlists, great jingles and powerful, smiling presenters. When the new Radio 1 was being constructed, its early management readily conceded it had been the exploits of Radio London ('Big L') on board the m. v. Galaxy ship which had been stolen as its direct influence. Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Keith Skues, Ed Stewart and John Peel were amongst its lengthy and talented on-air alumni.

Radio London lasted fewer than three years before it closed down reluctantly, yet honourably, in August 1967, as the UK Government introduced legislation prohibiting any British subject from engaging in such broadcasting, wherever the ships floated.

The Radio London legacy is now part of British pop radio DNA. The energy; the sound; and some of the business thinking: Philip Birch, then sales director of 'RadLon Sales' went on to become launch MD at Piccadilly; and Dennis Maitland, launch MD at Trent.

The station had nearly assumed the name of its inspiration, KLIF. It was also nearly called Galaxy, but ultimately it bore the powerful 'London' brand.