When radio was full of wow

There was never a law against listening to Radio Luxembourg in the mid 1970s, but the awful quality of the signal made it feel like you were doing something rebellious.

I would spend many nights under the bed sheets listening to the latest pop music drifting in and out, whistling and crackling. I’d turn the radio one way to make the the signal better, only for it to drift away again into a sea of white noise and distant forign voices.

It had an ethereal quality that became addictive. For me it became less about the music and more about the whole experience of trying to fix on to a strong signal long enough to hear what the Emperor Roscoe or Stuart Henry had to say while getting pleasure from hearing the strange abstract sounds woofing and wowing in my ears.

A couple of years later I remember working in a hotel in Chester. One of the duties of the Hall Porters was to ‘service the Gentlemen’s toilet’. Not to clean them, but to be there to hand towels to guests and keep the place looking smart (and of course to gleefully accept their tips).

I went into the toilets to see a colleague, Joe, who was on duty. I expected to see him folding towels or refreshing the soap. I didn’t expect to find him hunched over a transistor radio listen to Radio Caroline. “It’s the only place round here you can pick it up”, he explained.

I’d never really though about where the voices of Radio Luxemburg were coming from – was it actually Luxemburg or were they sat in a studio in London? But now I was facinated to think that these voices we’re talking to me fom a boat bobbing about in the North Sea.

As hard as I tired I don’t think I ever managed to tune into Radio Caroline from home.

Around the same time I discovered that there were new kids on the block. Admittedly that block was a few miles away in Liverpool, but crisp FM sound of Radio City had me hooked, I started to listen to radio differently. Suddenly it was about the music and the personalities and the local references.

All this would eventually lead to the demise of Radio Luxembourg and while at the time it seemed like progress, today I hanker after the challenges of listening and still occasionally surf up and down the short waves and mediums waves for an afgter dark aural fix.

What I plan to do is experiment with some of those abstract sounds you hear between stations late at night on Medium Wave.

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