These pages are devoted to special memories of Big L in the Sixties.
If you have a particular memory of something that happened while listening to Radio London, won a station competition, or have unearthed some rare memorabilia, please click on the mail button to the right and let us know!
Hans Knot says:
While preparing a new episode in my series 'Memories to RNI' in which I will describe what went wrong with the plans in 1968 and 1969, I was searching for material to use with the story.
One of the photos I came along is the MV Galaxy on the river Elbe, Hamburg. It must have been taken around December 1968.
It was extremely kind of Hans to share the photo (by Jelle Boonstra) with us. How sad that the ship could not have been saved while she was still in this condition.
I recorded the last day, (August 14th), from the dying strains of John Peel's Perfumed Garden onward. I was in Winchester in Hampshire, so the reception is somewhat poor.
The location is significant, because about 10 seconds after the carrier was switched off, another transmitter powered up, broadcasting the Hollies' line: "Oh won't you stay just a little bit longer". It stayed on just for that line and then it too went off the air. I have this on tape somewhere!
Have you heard of this from anyone else I'd love to find out who broadcast that tribute and pass on my thanks. That moment is still with me after 35 years.
John Fisher, Ipswich.
2nd June, 2002, John adds:
I've dug out the old 7 1/2 ips tape, and have put the 96kbits/sec mp3 file on my website. You can hear Big L carrier going down, then the 'pirate' pirate starting up... There's lots of lightning on the recording by the sound of it!
Big L was the only station I ever listened to in those days. When it closed down, they issued a 45 disc of all the DJs and the jingles. I have that single and it was only last year at a Golden Years concert in Norwich that I met Keith Skues. He was compering this bash and I took the single along to show him. He autographed it for me and as he'd never heard it, I did him a tape from it.Brian Kerrison
A colourful, and genuinely mini- memory!
Jonathan at The
Pirate Radio Hall of Fame has rediscovered Radio City jock Mac
Peters, and will be inducting him to the Hall at his May 2002 update.
Meanwhile, Mac aka Peter Madison, The Teenage Pensioner, has sent a short, but
evocative memory of Radio London.
If a picture paints a thousand words, that is a clear case of 193 words painting a picture! Would the person who did the rowing please come forward!
My only experience of being at Wonderful Radio London, was being rowed over to the Galaxy from Radio City and getting thoroughly and embarrassingly drunk! I'll never remember how we got back!
at my school listened.
The Beeb was considered an irrelevance"
I well remember Big L from my schoolboy days. There are so
many memories it's hard to know where to start. I listened to Big L from shortly
after it started broadcasting, having been made aware of it by a schoolfriend.
It seemed to me that in a very short period of time everybody at my school
listened. I was living in Wiltshire at the time and Radio London's reception
there was stronger than any other station.
It wasn't just that which made us listen, it was so different from anything that we had heard before. I joined the Big L Club and certainly remember frequent references on air to "knees" and the Knees Club. The most popular shows were Kenny and Cash, John Peel's "Perfumed Garden" and of course the Fab Forty, which was often so far ahead of the Beeb that records were often on the way out of the Fab by the time they were on the Beeb's chart. OK, so the Fab bore no resemblance to the Nationals, but the Beeb was considered an irrelevance.
Apart from noting down the Fab 40 each week (how I wish I'd kept them) I used to make up my own chart, initially based loosely on surveying my classmates and the girls in the fourth form. After a while it became little more than a list of my favourite records. You will be interested to know that I charted Knees! I even tried to buy a copy, but our local record shop (actually an electrical retailer who sold a few chart records) said that he hadn't heard of it.
I still remember those records that probably were only played for a few weeks (was it always in the summer or did it just seem as though it was?) and never made the national charts or only received a lowly placing. I liked all sorts of music in those days (still do) but I had a particular penchant for US close-harmony groups such as Harpers Bizarre and the Association. Along Comes Mary is a great record "now my empty cup tastes as sweet as the punch" what does that mean?
I loved The Cyrkle, Turn Down Day, The Critters, Mr Dieingly Sad and Younger Girl "She's one of those girls who seems to come in the Spring". Younger Girl was a Lovin' Spoonful song and their first hit Do you Believe in Magic? was covered by a Wiltshire group, The Pack. Everyone at our school knew somebody, who knew somebody who knew the group. For a while the Pack and The Spoonful were doubled up on the Fab with 'Magic', but the Pack did manage one week on the NME chart. Personally I always preferred the Spoonful, as to me the Pack sounded as though they sang the song at breakneck speed before they forgot the lyric! Curiously enough, even though the Pack's 'Magic' did reasonably OK for a debut, Columbia didn't pick up their option and they didn't make another record. Unlike Knees, the local record shop/electrical shop had the Pack's record by the bucket load. Just goes to show that there is no accounting for taste.
When Stewpot introduced his 'School Call' spot, I wrote and got my school (Bentley Grammar school in Calne, Wilts) mentioned. Thanks to Stewpot, I also found a long-term penfriend. In those more innocent times, names and addresses were given out on air and I remember hearing mention of a 14-year-old girl who wanted a penfriend. I was 15 or 16 at the time. As I say, it just wouldn't happen today. We kept up a correspondence for over 10 years. Her name was Lynn Peters and she lived in Croydon. She moved to Leicester and got married in about 1976. We lost touch at that time, but it would be nice to know what became of her. We met on a couple of occasions in the early Seventies, but it's been 25 years or so since we last had any contact.
Adverts that I remember (apart from the Juicy Fruit one mentioned below by Aubrey Daulman) were Palmolive shave foam, which had the scraping sound of someone shaving without Palmolive, compared with the smooth sound of somebody using it, complete with the sung refrain, "The smoothest way to start your day is with a Palmolive shave". Also Richmond cigarettes "Light up a Richmond and strike it rich, richest flavour yet in a tipped cigarette. light up a Richmond and strike it rich, strike it rich with Richmond." By this time I think cigarette adverts were either banned from TV or at least restricted until after 9pm. In any event they figured prominently on radio. Du Maurier Super Kings "Not available in the good old UK, but available duty free" and Kent "To a sailor it's a sail sail sail, to smoker it's a Kent".
I had a Big L T shirt which I proudly wore to my school's fete. The legend on the T shirt was "I dig Big L for '66". I remember my art teacher 'Artie' Harris (I never knew if he was called 'Artie' because he taught Art or whether his first name was Arthur) asking me who "Big L" was. It should have been no surprise to me as, at the height of their fame, he thought that the Beatles' name was spelt Beetles! A strange man; still he has probably long-since departed this earth. In those days, teachers thought nothing of instilling discipline in the classroom by throwing a hard-backed blackboard eraser at you.
However, I digress. Back to Big L. It's interesting and moving to read about people's experiences of listening to Radio London and what they were doing on the final day. I was on school holidays at the time and heard the show with a friend from school (who sadly died in an accident in the Seventies). I couldn't quite believe it was over and (like, I'm sure, many others), kept my dial on 266, convinced that it would return. For some reason I thought that they would come back when they thought that the government wasn't listening.
Radio 1, when it started, was a huge disappointment.
Nowadays I present a weekly radio show on hospital radio in Grantham, but my continued interest in radio stems from those Big L days.
Thanks for some great memories, Trevor. We're pleased to report that Lynn Peters eventually found this feature and got in touch.
The Kenny and Cash single, described by Dave Cash as one of the worst ever recorded, was not readily available in my home town of High Wycombe either. The Knees Club was obliged to order several copies of Knees via record retailer and music store, Percy Prior's. With three KC Officials besides myself, we must have bought at least four copies, and we gave away a fifth as a prize in a 'Guess the number of patellae that will be in the club by July 1st' competition in Knees Monthly.
Member # 236, Graeme Gill's estimate of 574 (right) was somewhat on the high side.
At midnight on July 1st, the club contained 311 members and therefore 622 knees.The winner was our classmate Jackie Willington (member #12), who guessed 630 knees. I wonder if Jackie still has the single?
Comes Mary (London HLT 10054)
My signature tune and all-time favourite song, Along Comes Mary reached #7 in the Fab for 26th June 66, although it never touched the Nationals. On Monday, July 11th, Kenny Everett persuaded Dave Dennis to come into the studio during his show to read Tandyn Almer's lyrics for the edification of the Big L listener. After the performance, Kenny announced, "That was Along Comes Mary, ladies and gentlemen, as Dave Dennis crawls out of the studio on his knees." Kenny told his listener that the Double D deserved an OBE for his performance. His listener (me) was only too happy to send him one. The OBE on the left is an earlier reject.The cardboard award is (hand) coloured purple on the other side and bears the legend 'Wiv luv from The Queen'. I'm sure Dave Dennis was very proud of it.
Tandyn Almer's lyrics are, indeed,
very strange, and it was many years before I realised that Along
Comes Mary had drug-connotations. This was very disappointing, since
I had adopted the song as my signature tune!
Dave Dennis was unable to join Chris and me to recreate his lyric-reading feat on our Absolutely Fabulous Show during Big L 2001, but at great expense we brought in the next-best thing, in the form of the absolutely fabulous Peter Young. We did offer PY an OBE, but he said he would prefer a CDM (Cadbury's Dairy Milk, for those who have forgotten the advertising campaign).
You can hear Along Comes Mary and read the words on the Association's website website, along with many other of the group's hits.
I've never been described as absolutely fabulous" before, although I did interview Joanna Lumley once on Yapital Radio. It's also the first time I've been described as "the next best thing to the Double D"; I'm very flattered.
You Believe In Magic (The Pack: Columbia DB 7702) (The Lovin' Spoonful:
Pye Int 7N 25327)
I can well imagine the excitement in Calne when a local band entered the Fab Forty! The Pack and the Lovin' Spoonful were neck-and-neck in the chart for two weeks. On 17th October 1965, they arrived at the #25 spot, climbing to #22 the following week, before vanishing without trace. If anyone in Calne still has a copy of the Pack version which they managed to avoid ruining on their auto-change record player in 1965, it is worth £25.
I just came across your great website after doing a search on record players.
I though you might like to hear my memories of Radio London.
All my life I've been a radio and electronics anorak. When I was 11 years old, my parents bought me a Philips Pop Master transistor radio for Christmas 1965. My elder sister told me about Radio London and I immediately tuned to 266 metres and was hooked!
After that, I'd listen to Big L whenever I could. The signal strength wasn't too good up where we lived, in Nuneaton in Warwickshire, but I discovered that if I held the radio right in the corner of my bedroom the signal came in a lot louder, I guess there must have been a cable in the wall that acted as an aerial, dragging in the signal.
That spring and summer of 1966, I grew up on all the latest sounds from Big L which, as you'll know, were always weeks ahead of what the BBC was playing. Sometimes I'd set my alarm clock so that I could hear Big L start up at 5.30am; first the carrier would be heard for a few minutes before 5.30, then the station theme music then the first DJ (was this Tony Blackburn?) would say good morning and spin the first record magic stuff!.
I was really getting interested in radio sets, so I made my first crystal set and had a long piece of wire in the garden for an aerial, (which I sometimes also used on my tranny radio). Because of the broad tuning which crystal sets have, the BBC Home Service would swamp Big L, so I used to wait until it closed down at about midnight and then I could hear Big L quite well on the crystal set until it too closed down at 2am. I lost a lot of sleep because of Big L!
They seemed to make the commercials far less intrusive than on stations these days, almost becoming part of the show. I remember, 'Juicy Fruit adds to your fun, it's a hit with everyone', and also Vitalis and Aquamanda.
Sunday evenings at 7pm (I think) was the evangelistic program, 'The World Tomorrow', with Garner Ted Armstrong.
On school holidays I would be able to hear more of the shows during the day. If I recall correctly, the captain of the ship would often join Tony Windsor for a promotional cup of coffee at about 11am. News was on the half-hour, every hour with that famous 'dah, dit, dit, dit' after each story.
Kenny Everett was one of my favourite DJs. I think he was years ahead of his time. I also liked Dave Dennis. He made a record at Christmas 1966 called 'Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus'.
On April 1st 1967, I heard the great April Fool the station played on its listeners, pretending to be swamped out by another pirate.
Finally the awful day arrived. On August 14th I set up my mate's Grundig TK14 tape recorder and recorded Big L's last hour. I had the recording for a few years but then somehow lost it.
My interest in radio continued and in 1968, I had a little pirate radio station on 255 metres, with a range of about 1 mile good fun! I now am a licensed radio amateur but the thrill of those Big L days will never be surpassed.
I'll be paying many visits to the website from now on. Very well done and good luck for the future.