Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Pirates on Parade

Picture three guys (let’s not call them old men but they are in their 60s and 70s) down the pub chewing the fat and reminiscing about the “good old days”. But these chaps are not just anyone, they broke the law, they were pirates and they were pioneers of pop.

OK, the pub is a studio but Pirates on Parade, on BBC Radio Norfolk this Easter weekend, allows us to eavesdrop on a conversation between Keith Skues, Andy Archer and Tom Edwards, all offshore pirates in the swinging sixties.

Of course these guys love to talk about that time anyway, try stopping them! But the programme does give a clear sense of what life was like on the ships and forts that beamed out Radios Caroline, City and London, which the three DJs worked on. It wasn’t as glamorous as The Boat that Rocked the World might have you believe: in between shows life seemed to consist of grabbing what sleep you could, “enjoying” the somewhat unconventional cuisine of the Dutch crews (everything seemed to be covered in nutmeg) and watching Anglia TV.   

In Pirates on Parade you’ll hear how Andy Archer was refused a job because he was wearing the wrong shirt; how, as a Pontins Bluecoat, Tom Edwards got his first taste for broadcasting by playing records over the tannoy; and when Keith Skues took shore leave, and sensing the era of the pirates was at an end, he’d smarten himself up and sit in the public gallery of the House of Commons to watch the Marines Offences Bill go through.

Keith Skues was a DJ at both Caroline and London before heading off to Broadcasting House and joining the new line-up on Radio 1; he presented the second show on the network on that opening day. You can still hear Keith every Sunday evening on Radio Norfolk. Read more about Keith in this post – Radio Hallam.

Andy Archer became the real pirate, staying on-air at Caroline after the Marine Offences Act came into force and was the first person to be prosecuted and fined under the legislation. Read more about Andy in this post – Radio Orwell.

Norwich lad born and bred Tom Edwards was at Radio City, he closed down the station in February 1967, before moving to Radio Caroline South. Back on terra firma he started a career in TV working on BBC Look East, he would later become an ITV announcer, but got back into radio when, in January 1968, he was asked to join Radio 1’s Midday Spin when Simon Dee left the station. Read more about Tom in these posts – Good Morning Great Britain and Wake Up Easy.

Pirates on Parade is a 2-part programme produced by David Clayton and Paul Hayes and can be heard on BBC Radio Norfolk 1200-1300 Sunday 8 April 2012 and 1300-1400 Monday 9 April 2012. It is also on BBC Radio Lincolnshire 1200-1300 Friday 6 April 2012 and 1200-1300 Monday 9 April 2012.

Edit 9 August 2017. To mark 50 years since the closure of most of the offshore pirates I've uploaded both these programmes to Mixcloud:

Read more about the offshore pirates on The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame website

Relive those pirate days by joining the Radio Caroline Yahoo Group and downloading the old shows from Azanorak

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