It was 14th August
1967, and in a few short hours Radio London would be silent for ever more and
the happy sounds would only be a memory.
I immediately turned the trannie on and was rewarded by the rich voice of Chuck Blair, booming out as he presented his last Breakfast Show and doing his level best to sound upbeat and happy. No easy task!
Reluctantly, I prepared for work and headed for the city with the radio tucked carefully under my arm as I wanted to catch as much of the Pete Drummond Show as I possibly could by taking frequent visits to the loo! As the morning disappeared I phoned my best chum Geoff (a fellow Big L nut) who worked close by in Cannon Street. I suggested that, in spite of the weather, we buy some sandwiches and find a quiet spot by the Thames to listen to the final hour of broadcasting in the history of the best music station the world has ever produced.
Well, needless to say, (...you're OK with wonderful Radio London) he agreed instantly, so we both made our excuses at work and scurried down to the riverside where we listened to all the tributes that poured in from the stars and DJs - past and present.
As we listened we both shared tremendous pride at the sheer professionalism and dignity that Big L showed both in its life as a station and in the way it was saying farewell. Sheer class! The minutes ticked by all too quickly and suddenly it was Paul Kaye announcing those never-to-be -forgotten words "The 'BIG L' time is three o'clock and Radio London is now closing down." The strains of BIG Lil briefly filled the airways then.... silence!
It was a most incredible feeling, rather like a really close friend had died. I supposed that was what had happened. Something that had always been there for nearly three years had needlessly been taken away. It hurt then and, if truth be told, it still does.
In something of a daze we trudged our way unsparing towards the office, both locked in our own thoughts when we came to the same conclusion. It would a great idea to go to Liverpool Street station so that we could meet the 'DJ Express' and show our continued support for the station we loved so.
By six o'clock, we met up again and walked the short distance to Liverpool Street station and could not believe our ears or eyes at the scene that greeted us. It was sheer pandemonium with what seemed thousands - probably was - of people shouting cheering and waving banners all over the place. Although it was noisy and jammed with people there was not a hint of trouble and not once was there any kind of threatening behaviour. To be honest the atmosphere was electric and it was impossible not to get swept along and enjoy the demonstration for free radio which we all so wanted. I remember going to a Beatles concert in 1964, where huge excitement existed, and this had the same feel, except under the surface there was an undercurrent of sadness tinged with anger.
As we got used to the main auditorium being so crowded, we were able to jostle our way around and find out who was there. Over on one side was Tony Blackburn signing autographs and grinning broadly - no surprise there. A little further away was the legendary Duncan Johnson looking somewhat bemused and a few paces back, the ever-popular Keith 'Cardboard Shoes' Skues - everyone's favourite. We tried getting close enough to chat, but such was the noise and masses of people it was just not possible.
After a little while there was a surge as a train pulled in and we wrongly guessed it was THE train. The excitement was growing and the crowd was becoming frustrated by the continuing delay, but at last the moment arrived and with a mighty cheer, our heroes emerged from the train looking completely overwhelmed at the reception they were being given. The request had been for a few fans to turn up, not a multitude. Clearly the DJs were totally overcome by the size and warmth of the welcome they were getting.
All the DJs were mobbed and surrounded by hordes of people all wanting to talk and ask questions.
What will they be doing?
Will they be joining Radio One or not?
Is there a chance Big L will be allowed back on shore?
The frenzy and excitement continued unabated, and had they all been major pop stars, the scene would have been just the same.
There was a lot of chanting and singing, pushing and shoving, but the message was so abundantly clear. Everyone but everyone loved Radio London and its DJs and none wanted it to ever stop or go away. The cameras were snapping; the BBC had its TV cameras and lights and microphones all the place. The whole station was hopping, as DJs were being interviewed for television news coverage.
Finally after much
handshaking and goodwill, the station started emptying out and somehow we had
found ourselves in deep conversation with Ian Damon (later to change his name
to Ian Davidson) as we walked over the footbridge to another platform. Then
for the second time that day there was nothing.
It was time to make our way back home to retune 266 metres on the trannie over to Radio Caroline. As good as Johnnie Walker was (is), it was not my beloved BIG L. Though the Beatles sang 'All You Need Is Love' at midnight, for me, 14th August 1967, is the day the music died.
Hi Mary and Chris,
I'm new to the Internet and have just found you! I can't receive music on this WEB2U machine but otherwise accessed all parts of your site, and very quickly. I was late to Offshore radio, Autumn '66, but it rapidly became part of my life.
Yes, I recall Liverpool Street Station on that night and the incredible scenes.
When Chuck Blair and Mike Lennox had had enough adoration, I drove my car into the station, and with fans literally climbing all over it to try and stop me, I whisked them off to a flat in Chelsea.
Later on, I took them to a night club in Great Castle St. near Oxford Circus but declined their invitation to join them. I had met Chuck previously somewhere(?) and there seemed to be some empathy between us as I recognised that deep down he was a bit of a 'lonelyheart'. I was sorry to learn of his untimely death. He was a nice man.
I enjoyed those mad, happy few months and still have some memorabilia including the 8mm film of Big L. It's also nice to know that there are lovely people like yourselves who are dedicated to keeping the memories alive.
Love and best wishes, Miriam.