Rare Pirate Radio Anthem Discs Discovered

rni-1
Do you remember a song called: Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Wilson?

How good is your memory?

Well, here’s a hint… we need to go back more than 40 years…

Back in 1970 there was no Internet, no music streaming, no music downloads and if you were living in Britain and wanted music on the radio there was only 1 station: BBC Radio One. And because of union restrictions known as “needle time” even monopoly Radio One didn’t play music all the time. OK, there was also evenings-only 208 Radio Luxembourg if you were happy to put up with music fading in and out.

And millions of British people at the time were very, very hungry for more music as they had already proven after the huge success of the offshore radio stations like 266 Radio London, 259 Radio Caroline, Radio 390 and several others, all of which the then Labour government had decided to outlaw 3 years earlier in 1967.

Mr Harold Wilson’s Labour government was dogmatically opposed to any form of commercial radio but was in for a surprise when a new radio ship called Radio Northsea International (RNI) appeared in international waters off the coast of Clacton, Essex in March 1970.

His government’s reaction was to start jamming RNI’s programmes in April 1970 in an unprecedented attempt to prevent British listeners hearing its output. RNI responded with pro-Conservative political messages for the general election on 18 June 1970.

Some weeks earlier, RNI’s programme director, Larry Tremaine, had had the bright idea of recording an alternative version of the signature tune to the popular BBC-TV comedy series “Dad’s Army” as a sort of campaign song.

The lyrics were changed, the title became: “Who Do You Think You’re Kidding Mr. Wilson?” and the song was recorded at IBC recording studios at Portland Place, London — a lucky coincidence for UK commercial radio because IBC had been the company, owned by the legendary Leonard Plugge, which organised the very popular English language commercial radio programmes from Radio Normandy way back in the 1930’s.

Here is Larry Tremaine explaining to Paul Rowley on the BBC programme “The Radio Election” how “Who Do You Think You’re Kidding Mr Wilson” came to be created:

 
RNI changed its name to “Radio Caroline International” during the week of the June 1970 election and repeatedly played “Who Do You Think You’re Kidding Mr. Wilson?” which was very popular. But it was never actually issued to the public as a vinyl record.

So exactly how many acetates of the recording were made?

RNI’s programme director, Larry Tremaine has said that “major rock stars” were in the studio during the recording and he also says that only three (3) acetate record pressings of the song were made and he has one of them.

The other two copies were sent to the m/v Mebo II for playing over the air during the election campaign and one of those copies was kept by RNI DJ Alan West, who, some months later, offered it for sale.

In about 1971 Alan West attended several CIB committee meetings, at one of which he lent his acetate copy to CIB’s John Ker, who now takes up the story:
“… I met DJ Alan West who would often come to CIB meetings. In about early 1971 he lent me his copy of the acetate which I took to Graham Bunce (BBC engineer) and he transcribed the disc to tape. He took a great deal of care to ensure a really good quality transfer to tape (15 ips. filtered and re-equalized using an “Astronic” graphic equalizer). Having returned the original acetate to Alan West, I took the tape to IBC Studios (in the basement of 35, Portland Place – just opposite Broadcasting House) and had five (5) acetates cut. I was very pleased by the fact that they were recorded onto exactly the same acetate blanks as the original at IBC, i.e. near perfect clones. The only differences were that the group “The Opposition” was typed on these blanks whereas on the original “The Opposition” was hand-written and included mention of “Beacon Records”.”

According to DJ Alan West, Beacon Records was, at the time, R.N.I.’s “secret London address”.

Of those 5 acetate pressings, John Ker says he kept one for himself, he gave one to Graham Bunce and two to CIB’s Fred Bunzl. John Ker cannot now remember who had the fifth pressing!

Fred Bunzl kept his two acetate discs together with his record collection until they were all packed away into cartons when his wife and he emigrated from the UK in 1976. He didn’t give them much thought until recently when he was compiling old CIB documents for publication elsewhere on this web site.

Fred has now scanned and uploaded his two discs. You can also download a direct copy of the recording.

And here is a scan of what may be one of the original acetate pressings.

Asked what he intends doing with these two rare copies of “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Wilson”, Fred said: “I haven’t yet decided. If there’s enough interest I’d like to auction them off and give all the proceeds to charity.”


Download the audio of this rare acetate pressing here.

Radio Caroline 50th Anniversary News Roundup

With the 50th anniversary of Radio Caroline starting broadcasting from the m.v. Caroline, 5 miles off the Harwich coast on Easter Sunday, 29th March 1964, here is a quick roundup of what the media have to say…

Tim Muffet for the BBC introduces a short 3 minute video about Radio Caroline’s first 50 years. It includes Simon Dee, Tony Prince and Tony Blackburn. You’ll also find another short video and report from BBC Essex here. Plus there’s a report by Laurence Cawley about the the Swedish guy who first pressed Radio Caroline’s ‘on’ button to start the UK’s music radio revolution.

ITV have compiled a three part video series about Radio Caroline to commemorate its 50th anniversary since its start in March 1964. The first part is presented by David Johns and includes contributions by then BBC Director General, Frank Gillard, DJ Keith Skues, Paul Graham, Roger Day and then Postmaster General, Tony Benn. There’s also an illustrated article here and we certainly agree with Peter Moore’s view:
The UK radio industry does a brilliant job of serving its shareholders but it’s so corporate they seem to have forgotten that the end product is the listener…”. The full version of ITV’s Radio Caroline Birthday Feature by David Johns is now here.

Also on the ITV website is a video interview with one of the very first Radio Caroline DJs who is now a Conservative MP, Sir Roger Gale.

Under the title: “How a radio ship and 7 men shook up Britain in 1964“, Colin Morrison traces in fascinating detail – some of it little known – Radio Caroline’s launch and the people behind it, including some figures who preferred to remain in the shadows.

The Liverpool Echo and Wirral News both report plans to celebrate the anniversary with broadcasts from The Mersey Bar Lightship, berthed at Liverpool’s Canning Dock.

The Daily Telegraph interviews one of Radio Caroline’s best remembered DJ’s, Dave Lee Travis with some of his experiences while on Radio Caroline South in the 1960’s on board the m.v. Mi Amigo.

Interesting illustrated article by Dominic Midgley of the Daily Express under the title: Radio Caroline was the boat that rocked the music business.

Nicola Jordan in Kent Online wishes Radio Caroline Happy Birthday with a fascinating illustrated article.

In the Lincolnshire Echo former Radio Caroline and Radio City DJ Tom Edwards recalls his pirate radio days.

The Orange news site has an interesting article by an unnamed personality who used to work both for Radio City and Radio Caroline back in the 1960s.

Dmitry Vostok’s article in The Voice of Russia has an interview with Peter Moore, the current manager of Radio Caroline online.

And Paul Riismandel’s RadioSurvivor.com also provides some useful info on upcoming Radio Caroline celebrations.

If you’re interested in a time-line of 1964-1965 events in offshore pirate radio history then you’ll find it at OffshoreRadio.co.uk. The list of events covers not only Radio Caroline, but also the comings and goings of other offshore stations… Radios Atlanta, Sutch, Invicta, Noordzee, City, Syd, London, King, 390, Tower, Essex and Radio Scotland.