Allan Watts

Allan Watts

 Interview by Roland Beaney.

Alan Watts joined Caroline in 2005. His show is every Thursday between 2pm and 6pm. He loves music and does a lot of research on the music that he plays. He has been a keen member of the Radio Caroline Southampton support group for many years and the first time I visited his house I was amazed to find speakers in every room tuned in to Radio Caroline. I was pleased to be able to put some questions to him recently.


Would you tell us how old you are?


Happy to divulge my age, I am 52.


Have you worked on other stations?


Have worked with Bob Harris at GLR from 1994 to 1998, Thames Valley FM in Oxford 1996 to 1997 and did a couple of weeks with Bob when he sat in for Johnnie Walker at Radio 1 in April 1995. I was also at Bob's first show at Radio 2 on Christmas day 1996, what a freaky experience that was in a virtually deserted Broadcasting House, looking down from the canteen on to the lights of Regent Street.


Have you met anyone famous?


At GLR one of my duties was looking after hospitality for the live guests, and we had a very young David Gray in long before White Ladder hit the shops, as well as long established bands, going out in style on the very last programme with Nils Lofgren as the guest.


How did you get involved in Radio?


I won a competition whereby Bob asked listeners to put together a run of 6 tracks in any sequence 3 x 2, 2 x 3, 4 + 2, whatever, and I chose 3 + 3 a rock set and a more commercial set. I won and was invited to GLR to collect a boxed set of 13 CD's. To this day I still enjoy playing the long music sweeps which Caroline allows us all to do. Bob asked if I would like to sit in on the programme that evening which I did, and I ended up answering the phones and helping in any way I could. Bob and I got along very well and became friends which we are to this day. Three months later I got a call saying a regular helper was leaving and would I like to do Tuesdays on a regular basis? I jumped at the chance, loved being in a radio studio, and GLR, as anyone who may have ever heard it will know, had a very non-BBC vibe to it of amazing musical freedom. At the time Tommy Vance was there and as well as Johnnie Walker and someone I greatly respect for their musical knowledge Gary Crowley. Handovers between shows were always great fun and very loose and everyone had great enthusiasm for what they were doing, bearing in mind the station operated on a shoestring budget. How different things were at Radio 2 and the lack of live guests did take way one of the most enjoyable parts of the job.


What is your earliest memories of Caroline?


In 1964 I was visiting relations in Sittingbourne where my Mum comes from, and my dear uncle Fred showing me this great music he could listen to which was not so easily heard in Hampshire. However I fell in love with the pirate music and listened to Caroline and Big L with a passion, which got me interested in music as I am to this day. I have always put the music as the main reason for Caroline being there, and the fact that it was from the high seas added to the excitement, but I would not have cared where it came from as long as the music continued. Hence I love it as much today from Maidstone and could never have predicted in 1967 that we could still be listening today. And of course in crystal clear digital sound.


When did you join Caroline?


I joined in 2005, having just finished working in a student bar (The Frog and Frigate) in Southampton where my DJ ing mainly involved playing non stop music and happily they loved everything from the 1960s to the present day.


Why did you decide to join Caroline?


Missing the thrill of playing records to an audience, I wrote off to Peter Moore and was invited to come to Maidstone where I met Dave Foster who guided me through the intricacies of being the presenter. Although I had spoken on air at GLR and Radio 2 giving out things like competition results or reviews of live gigs, I found that doing a programme was a much harder thing than I ever imagined. My respect for the guys who did shows and lived on the ships has grown enormously as a result. How lucky we are to go home afterwards!


What is your favourite station other than Caroline?


Of course I cannot listen to Caroline all the time for instance when travelling, and despite the age demographic I still enjoy the new music programmes on Radio 1 or when around London on XFM. I suppose if I had to have a favourite station after Caroline it would be XFM because I do like my guitar based music!


Have you any special memories?


My favourite memory of my involvement in radio has to be being one of the guests on Bob Harris's This is your Life. During rehearsals (without Bob of course) we got to meet informally Robin Gibb, Tony Blackburn and many of the other DJs from Radio 1. It was good to see how the programme was put together and it really was genuine, Bob had no idea what was happening and he was kept away from us all right up to the final "as live" recording, so he had no idea who would be around. After recording there is a party for the guests to socialise and for a non celebrity like me it was a very interesting insight into the way television operates. Looking back I was also very lucky to meet John Peel, as he followed Bob on the Radio 1 programme. He did tell me an amusing joke about the Take That fans who were phoning all afternoon enquiring about the bands forthcoming appearance on the Steve Wright breakfast show. I shall never forget his words and was very saddened when he passed away.


What is your favourite sport or hobby?


Apart from music I follow football closely having been a Portsmouth fan since 1965. My motorcycling now is mainly as a means of transport but in the 1970s and 1980s I ran various motorcycle clubs in the days when there was actually some pleasure in just being on the roads - something that can never be the case today. I now have my first British bike a Triumph Tiger and I am very proud to support our once again flourishing motorcycle industry. Anyone who had visited me knows that I enjoy music so much that every room in my house including the very smallest has speakers built in and I make notes of any tracks that come to my attention as being worthy of a play on Caroline. I am so lucky that the station, like me, has a broad taste in music and long may it continue.


What are your favourite bands?


My favourite bands, who I go and see live whenever I can include: The Levellers, Saw Doctors, Pulp, Ash, Feeder, Razorlight, Killers (first band I played on Caroline), Keane, Coldplay and of course I will never ever tire of the Beatles who I think we must all be eternally grateful to for turning the music world in this country on its head in the 1960s. All of the aforementioned will have been influenced by them, some openly admitting so.


What is your favourite tune?


If I had to name one song that never fails to lift me, actually I couldn't. I would have to play What a Beautiful Day by the Levellers and She Loves You by the Beatles but in what order?


When did you last go on board the Ross?


I have not been on board the Ross since April 2005, but like everyone I hope it finds a suitable home appropriate for the history contained within it, but without it becoming a weight around the station's neck and reducing the progress of the broadcasting side which is once again in a very exciting period. I am very grateful and extremely proud to be involved in Caroline and greatly humbled when I think of the legends who have uttered the words "This is Radio Caroline" before me. We must take our hats off to the people who have kept it going, against all odds, and under the most difficult of circumstances. It is and always will be unique.


Many thanks Alan for answering my questions. I do hope you continue to do programmes on Caroline for a long time.

Presenters Menu