New Radio Caroline Book Documents Six Decades of DJs

There have been many books about Radio Caroline, the ship-based “pirate” radio station that brought 1960s pop music to Brits at a time when they couldn’t hear it anywhere else. But the new book, “Radio Caroline: Voices on the Air” does something quite different from previous volumes: it documents the 600 or so DJ voices heard on Caroline since its oceanic inception in 1964 until now it can be . heard on DAB+ and AM in parts of the UK, online and via smart speakers and smartphone apps. For the record, there have been five ships that have played home in Radio Caroline’s studio, AM transmitter and mast over the years. The largest was the Ross Revenge.

Paul Rusling

The editor of the book is Paul Rusling, a former British radio DJ (including on Radio Caroline) and radio consultant. “I also worked for two regulators and my work covered licensing, administration, engineering and programming,” he told Radio World. “I owned a few restaurants and bars and also wrote fifteen books and numerous articles for newspapers and magazines — In other words, a former DJ and engineer who made stuff but preferred to live life as just a poor hack journalist/ writer!”

“Radio Caroline: Voices of the Air” is that rarity in any kind of history book, namely an account that tries not to leave anything out while still remaining conversational and entertaining. This is exactly what Rusling had in mind when he put it together, after writing an earlier history of the station entitled “The Radio Caroline Bible”.

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“This book was written to fill the gaps in many people’s knowledge about who the voices were on the world’s most famous offshore radio ship, Radio Caroline,” he said. “A lot of other books about Caroline are simply autobiographies of individual DJs, and are often very self-centred so they ignore the bigger picture. While I am a former DJ myself, I focus on the bigger picture discussing how DJs were hired, rather than individual comments and life stories.”

Paul Rusling also wants to set the record straight which DJs actually worked on at Radio Caroline, and which didn’t. “There have been many claimants who say they have worked on the ship over the years,” he said. “Some of them are well known, including one current MP in the House of Commons.”

[Related: “Radio Caroline Returns to Its Roots“]

The content for “Radio Caroline: Voices of the Air” came from the people who kept it on the air. “I have enjoyed access to, and assistance from, the managers of all phases of Caroline’s history,” said Rusling. “The founder Ronan O’Rahilly was a PA and ‘right-hand man’ in Oonagh Karanja for 17 years, who was replaced by Ben Bode, then by Vincent Monsey and more recently by Peter Moore – all of whom contributed to my research.”

The front (R) and back (L) cover of Paul Rusling’s book.

After compiling this history of Radio Caroline’s voices, Rusling was impressed by “the sheer number of people who made up the crew. He was also struck by “the number of high-profile stars and celebrities who presented programs on the Caroline stations – especially in the 1960s when such greats as Kathy Kirby, Charlie Drake, Cleo Laine, Marianne Faithfull, Vera Lynne and others all fronted Caroline was..”

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On a larger scale, Paul Rusling’s book helps to contextualize Radio Caroline as a force that broke the BBC’s iron grip on British radio and began that country’s long, slow journey to allowing commercial radio on its airwaves .

“When I joined Caroline, the UK only had the BBC. There were no commercial, independent and/or privately owned radio stations at all, so ships like Caroline were the only way to work in radio if you didn’t have a plummy accent,” he said. “Meanwhile, the millions of listeners hungry for pop music had to listen to radio ships like Caroline or foreign stations like Radio Luxembourg, a frontier blaster with 1.2 million watts on AM, as the BBC rationed pop music to a few hours. week.”

Radio Caroline’s impact in changing this situation cannot be underestimated. The “radio revolution” it sparked in the UK over 50 years ended up changing the nature of British radio. “Today, the UK has somewhere approaching 600 stations, all with no restrictions on the amount of music they can play,” Rusling said. “Most are local stations on digital multiplexes and audible for several miles, but there are also a dozen or so ‘near national’ networks. And then, of course, our world now has over 100,000 online stations and there are over 2.5 million podcasters competing with radio for access to our ears. Meanwhile, podcasts are simply radio programs that the listeners can schedule at will, right?”

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For those who love radio history, or are simply curious about how we got to where we are today, “Radio Caroline: Voices of the Air” is both an interesting read and an essential addition to any serious library. But sadly, the station that started it all – Radio Caroline – no longer has the influence that made it such a cocky, disruptive threat to the government-controlled UK broadcasting monopoly more than 50 years ago.

“Caroline is considered a relic of radio history by most people today, except for the small group of die-hard fans who perpetuate her memory,” Rusling concluded. “Although Radio Caroline is now available on a variety of bands and devices, the narrow ‘Golden Oldies’ program format she uses limits her appeal. In Caroline’s heyday, she attracted millions of listeners to whom her name still evokes fond memories.”

Radio Caroline: Voices of the Air is available for purchase through as a Kindle e-book or a paperback. Members of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service can read it for free.


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