IT’S been 45 years since a young Marion Adamson stepped on board a ship and into a world that would revolutionise the future of music in the UK. The Mollymook retiree is a pioneer of Radio Caroline, England’s illegal (1) offshore radio station made famous last week with the release of the movie The Boat That Rocked. And rock it did!
“Those were wild, fun times,” Mrs Adamson told the Milton Ulladulla Times in Australia.
“We were free, we were rebellious, it was the ‘60s and anything was possible.”
A radio music programmer in Sydney, Marion travelled to London at the age of 25 and through her connections ended up on board the ‘Mi Amigo’ the very first (1) Radio Caroline ship that operated in international waters off the coast of Essex.
The group of young rebel rockers began broadcasting on Easter Sunday, 1964.
The station, with its mix of modern music from the likes of the Stones, Beatles and Dusty Springfield and a series of hip programs, became an overnight success with seven million listeners tuning in across the UK in the first week.
“We had no idea there would be such a phenomenal response,” Mrs Adamson said.
“But with no commercial radio permitted in England at the time we broke new ground and had 22 million listeners after the first month.”
Commercial radio was illegal in the BBC-dominated UK, so the offshore radio operators were soon dubbed the radio pirates and developed a cult following that still exists today.
“It was totally illegal and the government did all they could to sabotage us, but we got around that by getting our supplies sent via Spain and being paid through Panama (1).
“It was illegal to supply the ship will food or records or to advertise or provide financial backing to the station and we paid no taxes or royalties to the British Government,” she said.
“Because it was also illegal to board the ship, we would catch a supply boat out into international waters and jump across in the middle of the North Sea.”
“It could be pretty hairy at times, especially during a force eight gale, but it was a real adventure,” she said.
The first woman on board, Marion worked on Radio Caroline for two years, travelling back to her base in London every two weeks.
She said the ‘pirates’ received a fabulous response from the public and opened the flood gates for commercial radio and rock music in the UK.
“At the time the BBC was the only radio station and it was very stayed and conventional.
“We were out there, fun and the whole thing rocked - that’s what the people wanted in the ‘60s.
“We changed the future of music in Britain and the world.”
Marion told the Times the Mi Amigo sunk during heavy seas in 1980, but Radio Caroline still operates today – with a licence and on land.
Many of the original Caroliners still keep in contact and share memories of many good times on board in the 1960s when dreams came true.
(1) The passage of time obiously plays trick on the mind. Readers of the paper soon commented: 1) Radio Caroline were not illegal as they operated outside the 3 mile limit in international waters . ( the government did try later to close them down by making it illegal to advertise or work on it but Caroline refused to give in and carried on) 2) The first Caroline ship was not the mi Amigo , but the MV Caroline (aka Frederica) , the Mi Amigo was the 2nd ship when caroline merged with radio Atlanta in 1964 After the mi amigo sank , a new ship the Ross Revenge was used from 1983 - 1991 when draconian laws made it virtually impossible to continue from the sea Today they broadcast from land and from the Ross Revenge, via www.radiocaroline.co.uk , and sky tv chanel 0199
Also Steve Ladd told his story in Australia (Tasmania Examiner):
The radio pirate who became a real Ladd - `Here were these quite outrageous people'
14/06/2009 PIP LEES reports.
BRITISH comedy movie The Boat That Rocked might seem outrageous but a former radio pirate says it's right on the money.
The movie hilariously depicts a generation captivated by rogue DJs, pop music and parties, and Tasmania's Steve Oliver was at the heart of it.
For a period in the '60s and '70s, life was much different for the Tasmanian, working in Britain under the alias Steve Ladd as a radio pirate.
He worked in commercial radio in Australia from the time he was 16 and decided to go to England, where he landed a job at the BBC.
The position was not in broadcasting as he had hoped, but while working in the record library he made contacts and learned a lot about the industry.
"A friend of mine said why not go out to the pirate radio ships because they were looking for disc jockeys, so I packed up and off I went."
The Marine Broadcasting Act was introduced in the UK in 1967 and was designed to increase government control over commercial broadcasting.
One such commercial station was Radio Northsea International (RNI), which operated about 30km off the coast of Brightlingsea, the ship named after the Marine Etc Broadcasting Offences Act, or MEBO II. It was on MEBO II that Mr Oliver became RNI disc jockey Steve Ladd.
"I used a family name which was Ladd rather than Oliver, which was on my passport, because if I used my real name I couldn't go in and out of Britain because you would either be fined or jailed."
During this time there were a number of illegal commercial radio stations operating out of ships off the British coast including Radio Caroline, on which the movie is based.
"It was very much like the movie, in fact I could almost identify with everyone in the movie because the characters were so similar. I actually saw myself as Carl the young bloke who came on - you see the ship from his point of view."