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Old 22nd Sep 2018, 5:32 pm   #21
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

I've just got round to watching this and came across an amazing coincidence.

At exactly 23 minutes in, there is a clear shot of a copy of Wireless World lying face upward on the desk. I recognised it instantly because I was referring to that same issue the other day to resolve an issue of MW channel widths prior to 1979.

Here is the cover and an extract from that issue relative to this thread!
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Old 22nd Sep 2018, 10:32 pm   #22
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

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Originally Posted by Welsh Anorak View Post
Were the interiors a set? I ask because it seems odd to go to the lengths of using a genuine pirate radio station when any sea-based location, such as an anchored ship, would have done. Mind you, 401s and 3012s wouldn't have done so well in the high seas!
Indeed, I believe most ship based stations used Gates turntables as the damped tone arms coped well with the swell and R1 installed them at the request of DJs hired from the ships who were accustomed to the less than delicate touch they would tolerate whilst quickly cueing up records.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaX0oMXtWIw

The exterior shots were done on 390's fort but as suggested the interior shots were a set - the attached pic is of 390's studio.

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Old 23rd Sep 2018, 10:44 am   #23
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

...and they look like Garrard 301's. Notice it's very 'unpop' with a classical record cover shown.
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Old 23rd Sep 2018, 11:19 am   #24
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

In an early on-air commentary Simon Dee mentions the installation of Gates turntables on the Frederica (which became the Caroline North ship). In another interview he mentions that in the early days some taped programmes were broadcast "as they weren't sure how the turntables would behave at sea". Keith Skues tells of strapping pennies to the tone arm to keep the stylus in the groove when a swell was on. Though not such a problem on the forts, the Maunsell towers of Red Sands and Shivering Sands did rock a bit. They were designed to do this to accommodate the recoil from the guns.

I would say that most offshore broadcast studios were small (sometimes very small from some of the photos that exist) and would not have space for all the paraphanalia and people required back in the day for filming drama scenes. Shots of fort based stations' studios show some very primitive set-ups. Radio 390 seems to have been by far the most organised - their studios were based on those used by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation - having said that John Ross-Barnard's description in Keith Skues' book Pop went the Pirates of life on Red Sands tells of conditions that could hardly be described as luxurious.

Probably the most luxurious studios (and ship) were those of RNI on the Mebo II, one of which was very spacious with an island console and the record library along the back wall.

Last edited by Junk Box Nick; 23rd Sep 2018 at 11:27 am. Reason: clarification
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Old 23rd Sep 2018, 11:24 am   #25
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

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...and they look like Garrard 301's. Notice it's very 'unpop' with a classical record cover shown.
I have a book with a large version of that photograph - it is a Nelson Eddy record. I rather think I might enjoy Radio 390 were it around today!
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Old 23rd Sep 2018, 12:30 pm   #26
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

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In an early on-air commentary Simon Dee mentions the installation of Gates turntables on the Frederica (which became the Caroline North ship). In another interview he mentions that in the early days some taped programmes were broadcast
Caroline used records from the start but back-up taped programmes could be substituted if conditions became very bad. Atlanta, on the other hand, followed the Radio Veronica model with all programmes being taped on land and played out on the ship.

This changed, of course, when Atalanta merged with Caroline to become Caroline South.

Something that happened, almost imperceptibly, during the pirate era was that the Light Programme changed slowly to meet the pirate challenge. How much it had changed only became apparent when Radio 390 started broadcasting with a format which was essentially the pre-pirate Light Programme!

Radio 390 closed down at midnight as the 'old' Light Programme had done and in an identical manner: "The time is 12 midnight and Radio 390 is now closing down, On behalf of all the staff here I'd like to wish you all a very good night. Goodnight!" Followed, of course, by the National Anthem.

Some of Radio 390's programmes were prerecorded, including the last ever programme, a copy of the BBC's Newly Pressed, from memory, where the presenter was faded out after the first record while he was saying "That was Alan Price with 'Simon Smith and his amazing dancing bear' ..." and replaced by another voice announcing "Estuary Radio very much regrets that, due to an injunction passed in the High Court this afternoon, Radio 390 is now required to cease broadcasting, ..."

This was followed by the National Anthem - not just the normal recording, though, but the full three verse choral version!
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Old 23rd Sep 2018, 2:27 pm   #27
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

Yes, I think Atlanta's shows were recorded at Alan Crawford's music studios and that Caroline had an arrangement to use the studios also. I thought that the very first announcement from Caroline was live and then a tape rolled for the first show but perhaps I'm mistaken.

What equipment was on the Mi Amigo at take over is interesting. Simon Dee tells an amusing story of how they swapped ships, carried over armfuls of records to the Mi Amigo and then asking the Dutch captain for needles for the turntables, though how much this is embroidered for the benefit of entertaining the listener is a good question. He relates eventually finding needles and holding the wiring in place with chewing gum. Another story goes that Atlanta had Spotmasters and Caroline didn't but the Spotmasters were spirited onto the Frederica when both ships were being fitted at Greenore. It certainly seems that the Mi Amigo had more in the studio than just a set-up for running tape. There is interesting reading about the relationship between Caroline and Atlanta and how they came about but that is getting far off topic.

Back to Radio 390: I think when there was a split and some went off to the ailing 'sweet music' Britain Radio (the problems with whether the fort was within territorial waters precipitated this) the defectors subsequently referred to 390 output as "stone age radio". Britain Radio subsequently became Radio 355.

Though hamstrung by needle-time agreements, the Light Programme did up its game. Birthday money got me a long wave coil set for my Philips Electronic Engineer kit and I could then hear the Light - the pirates were too far away and receiver was too insensitive so I was stuck with Home and Third - and I remember daily afternoon programmes called Spring into Summer and Swingalong featuring the more MOR pop records of the day amongst the 'easier' tunes. Woman's Hour and Listen with Mother must have gone to the Home Service at some point. Radio 2 jingles in the early 70s were re-worked Britain Radio ones (Serenade Radio uses the BR tunes for its jingles).

Radio 390 did try to cultivate a very respectable image - they applied for a land broadcasting licence before transmissions started but were, of course, turned down flat! - and battled on through the courts to within a few months of the Marine offences Act becoming law. Ultimately, all the forts except Sunk Head and Roughs Tower were found to be in territorial waters, though this apparent turnabout was a little embarrassing given that a year before, during the Radio City incident, Shivering Sands was deemed to be outside jurisdiction. (The law of the sea was known to Caroline and the other ships which was why they were anchored off Frinton and not closer to London.)

Last edited by Junk Box Nick; 23rd Sep 2018 at 2:37 pm.
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Old 23rd Sep 2018, 6:43 pm   #28
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

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I rather think I might enjoy Radio 390 were it around today!
It was my dad's favourite station....when he didn't have the Third program on that is. I must say it did have a very good signal in Croydon, probably something to do with its lower frequency.

It was far too 'square' for me of course at the time. It would possibly be something like Smooth Radio is now (or what 'Melody Radio' used to be) and much more acceptable. I seem to recall a program called 'Music Cavalcade' or something like that.
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Old 23rd Sep 2018, 6:45 pm   #29
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

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Another story goes that Atlanta had Spotmasters and Caroline didn't but the Spotmasters were spirited onto the Frederica when both ships were being fitted at Greenore.
I'm not so sure about that. Carl Thomson lived only a couple of hundred yards from me and I'd seen the big mast in his back garden for his amateur activities.

One day, he turned up in my workshop asking for push button switches. At first he was a bit cagey as I tried to find out exactly what type of switch he wanted - low voltage, mains, momentary, etc. - not that there was a great range around in those days.

Eventually he came clean and told us he wanted them for the Spotmasters on the Mi Amigo but didn't want to waste his last Saturday on leave trekking up to Tottenham Court Road!

He wanted to add the remote control function to them, saying that when the ship had been originally fitted out that there was no time to do anything other than the bare essentials meaning that when the DJ wanted to play a jingle he had to reach right across to the back of the panel.

My younger brother worked with me and disappeared while I was rummaging about desperately looking for something suitable. I was just on the verge of admitting defeat when he came back with a big grin on his face holding two completely different Friedland doorbell push buttons that he'd taken from the display downstairs in the shop.

He then demonstrated that these different buttons were, in fact exactly the same - the switches themselves could just be popped out of the plastic housings and the housings disposed of. Just drill two holes in the panel, pop them in and Robert is your mother's brother!

The changeover on Caroline South took place at lunchtime on Mondays and the DJ presenting the lunchtime show would have his bag packed beside him. When the tender arrived, he would swap with his replacement during a record who would then take over the rest of the show.

The second Monday after Carl's visit, after the changeover, the incoming DJ said "Oh!. We've got some new buttons to press since I was last here. I wonder what happens if I press one!" and, of course, a Caroline jingle played out!

About 2 weeks later, the Mi Amigo went aground on Frinton beach and had a full re-fit, including new transmitters before returning to the North Sea, so whether or not our push buttons survived the exercise I have no idea!

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Ultimately, all the forts except Sunk Head and Roughs Tower were found to be in territorial waters, though this apparent turnabout was a little embarrassing given that a year before, during the Radio City incident, Shivering Sands was deemed to be outside jurisdiction.
Ah yes. This depended on the legal definition of a bay which says that, if you draw a line between the two promontories that mark the entrance of the bay and draw a semi circle on that line, if the area of water contained within the bay exceeds the area of the semi circle, the entire bay is territorial waters.

By calculating the area of the Thames Estuary right back as far as Tower Bridge, the Post Office 'proved' that it contained more water than the semi circle - just. I think it was Estuary Radio's counsel who made a wry statement about all the people who would be flocking to Wapping-on-Sea for their summer holidays!
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Old 23rd Sep 2018, 6:52 pm   #30
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

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It was my dad's favourite station....when he didn't have the Third program on that is. I must say it did have a very good signal in Croydon, probably something to do with its lower frequency.
Well, straight down the Thames, 35kW (I think) from an aerial with its base much, much higher above the water than any of the ships.
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Old 29th Sep 2018, 9:37 pm   #31
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

Anyone who was too young to remember the pirates might like to watch this documentary. It's in several parts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVcOMgQf430
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Old 29th Sep 2018, 11:13 pm   #32
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

Belated thanks for the link: I remember seeing that programme when it was first broadcast, but couldn't recall what it was. The only part of it I could remember was when he first arrived and found that the key did not actually lock the door of his room.

According to a recent TV programme, (possibly an episode of "Coast"), geographically-speaking, any place where water is tidal is considered to be on the coast. Thus central London is on the coast, as are some London suburbs, such as Teddington and Ilford.

My recollection of Radio 390 is that they used to announce themselves as "Your all-day music station" and cease transmission in the early evening, but I could be wrong.
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Old 29th Sep 2018, 11:31 pm   #33
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

I'm sure it was Radio Caroline which was 'your all day music station' and, in the early days they closed down at 6PM each evening. Radio 390 , which always put a good strong signal into North Oxfordshire, no doubt because of it's relatively low frequency and (relatively again) high powered transmitter c/w a more efficient aerial than on the ship-based stations. As an aside, how many frequencies used by the pirates were later adopted by the I.B.A. and it's successors for local radio - 773kHz, later 774kHz (388M) R. 390's actual frequency, certainly was. Severn Sound in Gloucester were allocated that channel, which is still used today by, I think, Smooth Radio in the same area.
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Old 29th Sep 2018, 11:54 pm   #34
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

Ah yes, Caroline it was: it was a long time ago! I do remember the 6PM shut-down. My friend's father was a great fan of Radio 390 and was miffed when they had to close. He always had it playing in his car when he gave us lifts, but it wasn't something I listened to myself.
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Old 30th Sep 2018, 10:36 am   #35
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

From everything I've read in the past, Radio 390 had only 10kW, but its efficient tall mast enabled it to claim 35 kW to attract advertising. I don't know if it's true, but I see it quoted often.
R 390 was a useable signal up here in Manchester, even in the daytime. We could also hear Radio City, Radio London (not so good) and of course Caroline North. Caroline south was only just audible. Radio 270 off the NE coast was decent and Radio Scotland was always a good signal at breakfast time while getting ready for school.
It's worth mentioning that noise levels on MW were generally much lower than they are today. I suspect the pirates' signals would mostly be buried under modern-day hash.
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Old 30th Sep 2018, 12:17 pm   #36
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

Radio 390 had some announcements where it claimed to be "Britain's most powerful commercial radio station". Its chosen frequency and efficient aerial no doubt helped. I read somewhere that the BBC reckoned 390 was using 60kW but the only references I have ever found are to an RCA 10kW transmitter installed when new finance came in and 390 replaced the ailing KING Radio.

773 was a very good frequency. Caroline used it in 1973 when off the Dutch coast for their all-day English service (before the short-lived first lattice mast on the Mi Amigo collapsed) and it was a good signal into the midlands. I remember listening during school lunch breaks. There were a few technical issues getting 773 and 1187 running simultaneously and apparently no more than 8kW was used on 773.
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Old 3rd Oct 2018, 1:42 pm   #37
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

Danger Man is most enjoyable, I have the complete set on DVD and gradually working my way through them all.
What strikes me with these old TV shows is how much more enjoyable they are compared to a lot of the more "sophisticated" shows on TV now.......but then I live in the past so I'm bound to be a bit bias.
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Old 3rd Oct 2018, 2:05 pm   #38
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

I quite agree. The old ITC stuff was generally characterised by fairly simple plots, straight directing, bright lighting (unlike a lot of today's stuff which we have to peer at through the 'moody' lighting) and clear sound. Easy and enjoyable to view.
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Old 3rd Oct 2018, 2:30 pm   #39
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

Hear hear.

Asa kid I loved the tv show UFO. Now I see it as a Gerry Anderson first attempt at live humans, and it has severe short comings...but all the same it remains excellent story telling and of coursr, wonderful models and my spine still tingles at the UFO itself. Anderson and Meddings. Genii.
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Old 3rd Oct 2018, 3:54 pm   #40
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Default Re: 'Danger Man' aboard the estuary forts (Radio 390)

One of the announcements on 390 was along the lines of "Eve, the women's magazine of the air" but I didn't listen to that. What I did listen to was the Mike Raven R&B show on 390, straight after Pick of the Pops on the Light and therefore avoiding Sing Something Simple...
I think Mike's show transferred directly to Radio One in '67.
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