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The European Offshore Pirates


Below is a Collection of the Best from Offshore Radio - Click a Cart Label to Listen!

When Radio England launched, several UK pirates were already well established, the leader was undoubtedly Radio London, and number two was Radio Caroline. The latter which was run on a tight budget never purchased customised American jingles, but instead used home-grown groups & singers, pieces cut from current songs, together with cuts stolen from American jingle demos, and generic jingles such as those made by SESAC (e.g. This is the swingiest station in town) and NAB (e.g. Lively Companion). Radio London, on the other hand had bought the most successful top 40 package to date from PAMS of Dallas, namely series #18 'Sonosational' released in 1961, (with a few series #17 'New Frontier' a couple from #26d 'The Beatles' and one from #16 'The Sound of the City'). Quite a large initial package, but not enough for Big L! Their jingle repertoire was enhanced by innumerable clever edits from Pams demo reels of series #15, #16, #22, #23, #25, #26, #27, #28, and #29, (later Big L bought #31 Music Explosion as a top up).

Against this background, Radio England chose PAMS' series #27 'The Jet Set' as it's launch package. This was arguably PAMS' second most successful package ever, rivalling series #18 in the number of stations using it around the world. Based on a 'jet set' image, of flying to exotic locations, driving fast sports cars or riding on speed boats, all the sound effects were in there, together with a robust all-male vocal line, contrasting with a fast paced, brassy music track mixed with operatic sounding Gleni Rutherford singing scat.

Although Big L had used all the cuts from the demo, the WABC version sounds very tame, against Radio England's version. Compare 'Where the action is', 'Positive charge', 'Golden Classic' or 'Let's Look into the Future Time' to hear what I mean. The male singers on SRE's version are louder, more excited, even raunchier as they sing 'Swi-i-i-i-i-ng Radio England!'

US Stations had developed a tradition of using a superlative connected with a station name,
High Flying WING, Wonderful WIL, Yours Truly WHB, Colourful KQV, are some examples. The pirates continued with this idea; Big L's "Wonderful Radio London" logo melody taken from the already established "Wonderful WQAM", whereas Radio England had new melody created for the ID "Swinging Radio England". 'Swinging' being the US view of all things English, as in Roger Miller's "England swings as a pendulum do".

But there was more to the package than that! With this series, PAMS had perfected their idea of putting a station's name on a 'musical pedestal', how was this done? In almost every cut there is a musical slide up just before the station ID and a slide down just afterwards, additionally a sound effect of sparkling wind chimes in multiple, playing both forwards and backwards, which is added over each station ID signature, subliminally creating the feeling that the station is both big and, ooh it's magic! An additional benefit of a slide down at the end of a jingle was that it would not clash with a following record, regardless of it's musical key. In a sense music is a transparent medium.so two overlapping pieces would otherwise produce a discord.

Radio England, like Radio London was also keen to enhance their on-air jingle selection, and one of their jocks, Ron O'Quinn who had worked on Miami's WFUN had dubs of that station's entire jingle library. Better still, WFUN's catchphrase 'Fun Radio' and 'The Fun Spot' was perfect for editing, so we had an eclectic mix from PAMS #14 #16 & #22 with jingles like 'It's Blast off time on Funny Radio, we're going into orbit" or "Fun Radio, would like to ask you, do you remember, do you remember?" or "Less Talk More Music, Less Talk More Music, The Fun Spot". There were also packages from Futursonic & CRC, giving us "Weather Prediction", "The Station that keeps you Informed" and acapellas like "F-U-N Weekend", "The Boss Jocks, Bop-Bop, Play More Music Pow!", "Boss Radio!" etc. Indeed the station's news format was a direct copy of the WFUN style. An overblown mix of big orchestrations, OTT stingers and a countdown throughout the weather, demanded a fast paced - almost hysterical, news presentation that would try the most professional of DJs!

But back to Radio Caroline for a moment! Tight for money (as always!) and a pirate in every sense, they couldn't believe their luck when Radio England began on-air testing. Perhaps because they were so thrilled with their brand new package, they made the serious mistake of playing out all their jingles in the clear between records and announcements. The transmission quality was above average with a wide bandwidth allowing Caroline to record almost hi-fi copies of absolutely everything, then edit them into existing material, et voilá! a free new package for Caroline "Fun Radio! It's agreed. Yes indeed, number one".

By the time SRE was on air for real, many listeners thought they stole their stuff from Caroline instead of the other way round. This left poor old SRE to go back a buy a new package. Perhaps PAMS #29 "Radio au Go-Go" would have made a good follow-up, but with less money to spend now, they went to cheap n cheerful Spot Productions buying 'Thatman' - Batman to you and me, but Thatman on the lyric sheet to cleverly avoid royalties due to the writers of the famous TV theme tune.
Listen again, can you hear them sing Batman or Thatman?

Another DJ Larry Dean, had worked on WPTR Albany, a station that also had the Thatman package, so perhaps he made the choice. Either way, this was an opportunity to get some jingles done for the DJs now on the station. Johnny Walker & Roger Day being two notable examples. Interestingly a number of the names adopted by SRE DJs were actually DJ names on WPTR, so perhaps Larry was suggesting jock names too.

That Radio England was ultimately unsuccessful is of course history, certainly the US style clashed with mainstream British culture, in a way Radio London had managed to avoid. But the jingles were classic Americana, and certainly fuelled my interest in US Radio, helping me to understand, by comparison with Radio London, how jingles can be resung, relyricked, and the concept of variable melody line ID logos added, over pre-recorded music beds, as perfected by PAMS of Dallas.

Norman Barrington, January 2017.