Oct/Nov/Dec 2010
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Hallowe'en Stories

Vinyl Resting Place
So-called 'death-discs' – singles with sickly (and sometimes plain sick) lyrics about road accidents, suicides, ghost lovers and generally anything related to becoming an ex-person and ceasing to be – have long proved to be chartbusters. Bestsellers of the genre include 'Terry', 'Johnny Remember Me' and the Kenny Everett World's Worst Wireless #1 – 'I Want My Baby Back'. Alan Clayson even devoted an entire book to the subject: 'Death Discs: An Account of Fatality in the Popular Song'.

Now an enterprising company called And Vinyly, has launched a service where anyone with the wherewithal (and a certain sense of humour) can become part of their own, personal 'death-disc'. The company offers the opportunity of having one's ashes incorporated into a tub of vinyl and pressed into a playable record. The content is entirely the choice of the deceased, or their loved-ones, although choosing your own recording obviously requires a bit of forward-planning.The choices are endless and you can opt for RIV (Rest In Vinyl) sleeve artwork or even design your own.Maybe you've written a song or two? You can ensure that you have them ready recorded in preparation for the moment when you literally get incorporated into the mix. Numerous copies can be pressed for your friends and relatives, allowing you to entertain them until they make their own vinyl pressings. The And Vinyly website is a hoot. (As soon as you arrive, your cursor turns into a skull-and-crossbones.) It's a wonderful idea, but like so many memorial ideas (ashes can be incorporated into paintings, turned into diamonds, made into fireworks...) it does require the wherewithal. The basic package costs £2,000.

The Spirit of Radio Caroline
Nigel Harris, Peter Clayton and others relate spooky encounters aboard the Ross Revenge.

Fond Farewell to Mike Ahern
Pauline Miller reports on the farewell ceremony held in Harwich on October 20th 2010

A year after the untimely demise of Mike Ahern (October 9th 2009) friends gathered in Harwich to say a final farewell as his ashes were scattered at sea. Organiser Dave Cash had wanted this to happen from the LV18 lightvessel, the last place from which Mike broadcast, during the Easter 2009 Pirate BBC Essex.

Dave, John Aston, Mike Barrington, Mark Sloane, Paul Peters and Tony Prince represented the ranks of offshore radio, while Gary Walker of the Walker Brothers represented the many Sixties recording artists helped on their way up the charts by Mike.

Unfortunately, a number of Mike's friends, including Johnnie Walker, were unable to be there due either to illness, or to work commitments.

Typically of the North Sea, it was far too windy and choppy to take the tender out to the LV18 as had been originally intended, so alternative arrangements had been made with the Harwich lifeboat. At 1300, the lifeboat left its station next to the Ha'penny Pier with the flag at half mast. The friends gathered on the pier with the priest whilst he conducted the service, during which time Mike's ashes were scattered on the water and the flag returned to full mast. This was followed by a minute's silence and a final prayer.

Refreshments had been organised by Tony O'Neil and Colin Crawford of the Pharos Trust at the Electric Palace cinema. Once everyone was gathered, the sound of the Caroline bell heralded the start of some good Sixties music, whilst refreshments were consumed and glasses raised to Mike.

(Right) Mike waves as he leaves the LV18, Easter 2009

Dave Cash and Tony Prince took to the stage to read out tributes sent by absent friends Johnnie Walker, Norm St John, Tom Lodge and Chris and Mary Payne. Then Mark Sloane, John Aston and Mike's agent, Ingrid Hooper, delivered personal remembrances and anecdotes. The final speaker was Colin Crawford of the Pharos Trust.
(Click here to hear the Electric Palace tributes, or right-click on the icon to download the mp3 audio file. (Runs 23mins 45secs).
Recording, courtesy of Pauline and Dave Miller, edited by Chris Payne.)

After more socialising and chatting, mostly about Mike, the proceedings were rounded off by a DVD of a recording made by the BBC of Johnnie Walker interviewing Mike during last year's Easter broadcast.

All went off extremely well and we gave Mike a good sendoff in a dignified but humorous way, which I am sure he would have heartily approved of.

Please click here for a page of photos of Mike's Farewell, courtesy of Dave Miller.

Tributes to Mike from October 2009, are here. He also appears in the pages of photos of Pirate BBC Essex broadcasts from 2004, 2007 and 2009.

Weather Balloon Pirates?
Following a failed attempt to purchase the Principality of Sealand for the purposes of hosting their servers, Pirate Bay is apparently considering the possibility of a dirigible-based operation.

The Royal Ruler and the King
In a telephone interview with the programme 'The Devil and Me' on East Village Radio, Caroline North's Tony Prince talks about his radio career, the memorable occasions when he met Elvis and the special show he presented on 208 on the day of Elvis's death.

Finally Certified
Over the years, we have certified a few people as Anoraks, but somehow our friend John Sales had escaped the net. This was rectified on Saturday Sept 25th, in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, when John received his Certificate of Incurable Anoraxia from fellow certified Anorak, Keith Skues.Congratulations, John and about time too!

(Photo: 'Fab' Alan Field)

Rekapping Keith's Kardboard Kareer
On Sunday September 26th, Keith Skues presented his final late-night BBC Norfolk show of four hours' duration. From Sunday October 3rd, the long-running show is being cut to two hours, and will now be aired from 2300 to 0100.

Keith had intended to use the final four-hour show to tell the story of his radio career, using music from his extensive record library. Unfortunately, he found himself struggling against adversity. After driving back from the Anorak ceremony mentioned above, Keith had to his horror, arrived home to Skues Towers to find his street flooded. He had no power in the house, no access to his PC and great difficulty in getting anything out of his library. Therefore, he unexpectedly was forced to present his show from the Norwich studios, instead of from home. He was unable to play very much of his own vinyl, because the BBC studio has only one turntable. Therefore, much of the show's intended musical content had to be changed in a hurry along with the drive to Norwich that he hadn't anticipated.Keith, also battling a cold that threatened to claim his voice, managed to pull off a successful programme where a lesser broadcaster might have failed. He received many messages of support from his faithful listeners and ended by reading one from the former head of Radio One, Johnny Beerling.

(Photo: Cari Wilkins)

JW strikes Pirate Gold
'Pirate Johnnie Walker', which was made for BBC Radio 2 by independent production company Wise Buddah, has won gold at the New York Festival Awards. The 2009 series took the prize for Best Regularly Scheduled Music programme. During the twelve-week series, Johnnie recreated his on-air pirate life aboard the fictional 'good ship Rock 'n' Roll'. Guest visitors from 'other stations' included Twiggy Day, Dave Cash, Paul Burnett and 'Bill the Boilerman'.'Pirate Johnnie Walker' culminated in a live programme from the LV18 in Harwich Harbour on Easter Saturday, April 11th 2009 as part of the 'Pirate BBC Essex' weekend broadcast. It must have been the large crowd of us cheering loudly from Harwich Pier that clinched the gold!

(Left, Johnnie in his 'Sir JW togs', broadcasting the final 'Pirate Johnnie Walker' from the deck of LV18, with a little assistance from Pirate BBC Essex)

Worst Songs or merely over-aired?
Ian MacRae's recent story about 'The 100 Worst Songs Ever' promoted a visit to the AOL Radio blog, where the chart had been compiled.
The most-hated five were:

5. AQUA - Barbie Girl
4. RICKY MARTIN - She Bang
3. VANILLA ICE - Ice Ice Baby
2. BAHA MEN - Who Let The Dogs Out
1. DJ PAULY D - (It's Time To) Beat Dat Beat

I confess to never having heard of the #1 choice, and indeed a large number of other tracks that have been relegated to the 'AOL Bottom Hundred', but none of the ones I have heard of come close to the tracks selected for Kenny Everett's hilarious 'World's Worst Wireless Show' – which was prompted by a suggestion from Jon Myer, the webmaster of the wonderful Pirate Radio Hall of Fame. Most of the AOL 'worst' tracks were hits. On the whole, the tracks Kenny chose for the WWWS were not. They were selected for their general tunelessness, weirdness or excruciating 'death disc' lyrics and not simply because people were sick of hearing them.

Perhaps we should compile our own chart of 'worst tracks played on Radio London'. Excluding ditties that over the years have been overplayed to the point of inducing nausea, (and thanks to commercial 'gold' stations, there are far too many of those) I would have to include 'Secondhand Rose', 'England Swings', 'They're Coming to Take Me Away' (TWO versions in the Fab Forty – ARRGGGGH!) and 'There Must be a Way'.

What songs on the Big L playlist would you give the 'thumbs down', viewers? I'd be interested to hear.

Weird Transmitters Top Ten
Another 'chart' is a Top Ten, featuring 'Weird Outlaw Radio Transmitters'. It's a collection of famous and less-well-known structures, ships and even planes, that housed transmitting equipment. It's not exactly accurate in content, showing a photo of Rough Towers with a caption claiming that it was the base of Radio Essex, but the page is worth a look, if only for 'TV Marti, the US government transmitter that broadcasts into Cuba from a 10,000ft. tether off the coast of America'.

It's Pirate Hospital Radio
To launch the new service to Broomfield Hospital a group of volunteers from Hospital Radio Chelmsford visited the wards dressed as pirates.

Pirate Hospital Radio, presented by John Barker, will air on Sundays, between 1100 and noon. It will "commemorate the dedication of those who risked everything to bring popular music to the masses during the Sixties."

Maybe John should have picked another name for the ship, though.

Chelmsford Weekly News

Before he was a Womble
Under the heading 'Confessions of a young musical arranger, Mike Batt recounts in his blog 'Postman Batt', how in 1968 he got a job at Liberty Records, thanks to Radio England's former publicist, Ray Williams and Radio London's former Programme Director, Alan Keen.
Stunning aerial images include Thames Estuary forts
'Britain from the Air', an audio slideshow on the BBC Website of stunning aerial images of city, country, coastal and industrial landscapes, includes photos of the Redsand Forts in the Thames Estuary, formerly home to Radio Invicta, King Radio and Radio 390. Redsand Restoration Project.
He thought the Mi Amigo mast was tall!
Vice-President of the Knees Club, Caroline's Bud Ballou, has sent a link to a video clip of an engineer's climb up a 1786ft transmission tower – much of it done without a safety line. (Turn sound on for commentary.) He says, "My knees were getting weak just watching this!"
The Hendrix Suite
To mark the 40th anniversary of the legendary guitarist's death, the Cumberland Hotel has designed a colourful Jimi Hendrix suite, sited on the fifth floor, where Hendrix stayed in 1970, less than two weeks before his untimely death on September 18th.

There's also a 'Hendrix in Britain' exhibition at the Handel House Museum, former home of composer George Frideric Handel. Jimi Hendrix and his girlfriend were residents of the building in 1968.

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin
This ambitious new album interweaves Brian Wilson's own interpretation of well-known Gershwin numbers with new songs that he has based on unfinished Gershwin compositions.YouTube feature here

(Thanks to Alan Hardy)

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