Posted by: martinworster | December 15, 2011

134. PIRATE RADIO

‘Dis one for dem raving crew. White label pressure….Run wid it, roll wid it…Can I get a re-wind..?’

 

I love it that via my TuneIn app on my iPhone I can now listen to pirate radio whilst cruising around the streets of Southern California. It’s Rinse and Kool FM all the way to the 405. The machine gun scatter of breakbeats ricocheting around strip malls seems incongruous. Patois infused Cockney MCs imploring me to ‘big up dem raving crew – dis one for da rude girls’ etc takes me back to listening to pirate radio back in London. It’s a little piece of home down the sunny palm fringed boulevards. It’s also a nostalgia for youth. If I could have a penny for every hour sat in a car in some suburban North London car park on a frosty night smoking red seal whilst listening to the clatter of break beats, I’d be a rich man.

 

I probably first started listening to pirate radio back in the late 80s. Sunrise and Fantasy FM were the big stations then. Playing Chicago house, electro, Detroit techno, hip house (big back then), early breakbeat, Euro house – they also helped galvanise the acid house scene. The stations were used to publicise the big raves that were going off then in the ‘summers of love’. The whereabouts were never made public in an effort to thwart police closure. On the night the promoters mobile phone number would be given out and the location announced via voicemail. It was a game of cat and mouth evasion with the police. The stations also did a lot to help launch the careers of the scenes DJs and MCs.  

 

Everything about the nascent scene was illicit and illegal. The radio station, the illegal venues, evading the police, the illegal drugs involved,  – all very attractive for a youth cultural movement emerging from the underground. Makes it very exciting and definitely set the boundary for a pursuit your parents wouldn’t be following. Illicitness and anti-authoritarian principles are pre-requisites for any youth culture worth it’s salt. Plus a sense – the punk spirit here – of ripping up rule books and starting a fresh with something completely new and not referencing anything – music, values, fashion sense, nuffink – from the older generations. Rip it up and start again. It sounds jaded and smug of me, but looking at youth culture now it doesn’t seem there is currently anything with this type of energy and rebelliousness?  

 

Go out to a dub step night? Retro drum and bass? Disco re-re-re-re-edit scene? Soundalike indie schmindie? Nu folk? Nu soul? Nu everything? It’s all retromania, a rehashed mash up of all that was before. I’m glad I was there before.

 

I honestly feel lucky that I grew up in such a fertile and exciting times. There was a real unity across ages and backgrounds and a sense of doing things that hadn’t been done before. Plus of course, some amazing nights out with atmospheres that are hard to describe and convey the intensity of. Man, I really am starting to sound like a jaded hippie – ‘the acid was much better in my day’ – said whilst stroking a long beard and inhaling on a sensi stick. Ugggh, let me out of here, I need to get with the present…

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