At the age of 15, my first attempt at radio was whilst still at school. A friend lent me an electronics magazine, where I spotted an advertisement for Pantec Transmitter kits... Easy to build! It consisted of about 5 or 6 components. Having no previous experience whatsoever, it wasnt difficult to put together, even for Non-technical
The device itself was powered by a PP3 battery (just imagine the signal strength folks) and put out a rather unstable signal of a few milliwatts. Although this was a tiny output, it was enough for my schoolfriends around the estate, to hear me playing my punk records! So, my first station (if you could call it that), Red Fox Radio was born.
The station lasted for a few months and served two purposes for me. Not only could I play what I regarded as proper music for other people to hear, my popularity at school went through the roof (briefly), along with the added bonus of a string of short lived girlfriends. I soon became bored of my dodgy homebuilt veroboard construction, as only a few people could hear it, so off I went in search of bigger transmitters.
It wasnt until 1981 when I was heavily into CB radio, that I met some local chaps who had been running pirate stations in the area back in the 1970's. After pestering them continuously for months and months (and them trying to tell me what a bad idea it was to become a pirate, as I would be fined, equipment confiscated, blah blah blah....) they realised that I was going to do it anyway, with or without their help, so eventually agreed to help me gain the contacts & equipment I needed to start a station for real.
In March 1983, a new station popped up on the band for the first time. It was called Radio East. There were a couple of test transmissions which didnt amount to much, on 90.4 FM, practically on top of Radio 2 (but I was yet to learn about radio frequencies). By June, I had a stable transmitter and opened up as Radio East FM, a Top 40 music station on 92.8 FM. I was joined by local 70's pirates Duke Edmunds & Ray Best, followed by Tim Rice, Jay (Jingle) Jonson, John Moore & Dave Barratt.
Back in 1983, there was no such thing as a local radio station for the area, so we started plugging local events & gigs and gained a few adverts from local businesses in the process. Meanwhile the ghastly chart hits just kept on coming !!! Radio East FM continued broadcasting on various FM frequencies, with a brief change of format towards the end. The final few broadcasts went out as Radio East International with a high powered transmitter, playing Dance music.
To be honest I cant recall why the station closed, but it did!
Over the next couple of months, there were test broadcasts on several FM frequencies, using various station names & various types of music too. Tests were heard from The Hit Zone 94.7, Radio Zero, Soulstar 106, Radio 947, Superhits 106, Rock'n'Roll Radio & Radio Bogroll !!! Radio Bogroll only ever did one broadcast, but looking back, this was really an early pilot broadcast for what was later to become Freedom Overflow. (Radio Bogroll was Garry Lee, Tim Rice & Jethro Muckspreader all on air together).
By Autumn 1986, all these ideas had come to nothing, so we reverted back to the original idea of Top 40 format and opened the short-lived Radio Freedom on 90.9 FM. The new station included programmes from Ex Radio East DJ's Garry Lee, Tim Rice, Jay Jonson & Ray Best. There were also many new additions to the crew,including Debbie St.Clair, Mr.T, Sean Allen & The Pink Elephant!
Radio Freedom continued with this format until.....
- where the almost gripping anorak saga continues!!!
Tim Rice on the early years:
"I'd been playing stuff on the dreaded Radio East) like The Who, Frank Zappa and generally progressive Rock at the time. Try as I might I never seemed able to fit into the format that was 'Radio East' and (vaguely) remember going on about the fact that we should be appealling to minority listeners and doing something different. In hindsight thats exactly what did happen once Overflow was born and I think Mr Lee was somewhat influenced by those surreal interludes in what was then a really dire attempt (Radio East that is)."
"I later (around 15 years later) went into teaching Radio and concentrating on radio comedy but even now I still have an aversion to Commercial Radio and the constraints presently imposed by the advertising machine in the UK. Anything you hear on mainstream radio came initially from pirate at least ten years ago. Alternative radio is very much the testing ground and it saddens me that quite a few commercial and bbc radio presenters look down their noses at alternative radio. Unfortunately I've met too many of those."
"To my mind, alternative radio is very much about setting trends and coming up with fresh ideas but as always, Radio still has the best pictures. If you lose sight of that, you just get eaten up by commercialism and adopt that awful 'singing' radio presenter style that you hear all over the place on mainstream radio now - the irony perhaps is that the original pirates were doing all that when some of these people were still in nappies. As I said, theres always that lag between the two. The early years were very much about laying down a path for things to come and lets face it - Overflow is STILL here. "