Cliff Osbourne

 Interview by Roland Beaney.

Where and when were you born? - Longer ago than I'd care to remember in south east London.

Where do you live now? -In south east London.

What is your favourite part of the Country? - I've lived in both east and west Yorkshire, west Sussex and Dorset. All of them have some fantastic countryside and some of the most friendly people you could ever wish to meet. But I'm a London lad at heart. I was born and brought up there and whilst it has its not very nice aspects it's home.

How did you get into radio? - It's was my Dad's fault. He introduced me to the families big Decca valve wireless and showed me how to twiddle the tuning knob and told me about some of the stations that we could hear and where they were. He also pointed out that one of them was on a ship. I was hooked immediately. From there I went into hospital radio and then got involved in the landbased pirates in London. I also spent some twenty odd years working in commercial radio.

When did you first join Caroline? - In 1978. I'd wanted to work on 'proper' radio since I was a young schoolboy and to actually get the chance to work on arguably the world's most famous radio station was a dream come true.

What other Radio stations have you been involved with? Well, I've already mentioned hospital radio. The stations I worked on were Radio St Nicks which broadcast to the hospital where I was born. The other stations were Radio Greenwich and WHBS. London Music Radio was the landbased pirate I was involved with. Bob Lawrence was there too. There was also cable radio service Greenwich Sound which I helped set up also with a certain Bob Lawrence. From there I was at Viking Radio, Pennine Radio, The Pulse, Wessex Fm, Spirit FM and Vale FM.

What are your earliest memories of Caroline? - First discovering it with my Dad on that old wireless I mentioned earlier. It must have been around late 1964/early 1965. I also have memories of being on school holidays and hearing Caroline Cash Casino. My Mum was listening to it whilst doing the ironing!

What's your favourite station other than Caroline? - Are there any stations other than Caroline worth listening too?

Who is the most famous person that you have met? - Blimey! I could give you a list but that would be boasting! Take your pick from Phil Collins, Roy Jenkins, Ted Heath and Pete Waterman.

Who do you particularly remember in your offshore days? - Long bouncing tender trips, great food cooked by Kees Borrell and the opportunity to meet and work with some very talented and gifted people.

Who influenced you the most? - People often ask me that. The answer is I don't really know!

What is the best and worst thing about radio today? -The best thing is that Caroline is still here despite everything. It is still providing an alternative and it is still relevant. The worst thing is the monumental mess that radio generally has become in this country, commercial radio in particular. There are many in the industry and within government and the regulatory bodies who should hang their heads in shame.

How much music freedom do you have on Caroline? - Radio Caroline is probably the only station that gives its presenters a huge amount of free choice in the music that's played. There is a format and there are rules but within them there is much freedom. That why Caroline is different and better in my opinion.

Could you tell us about the music policy on Caroline - The music policy is quite simple to explain. One of the first things you need to understand is that Radio Caroline is not a rock station. We never have been. We are predominantly an album station aimed at adults. Our format is AOR, using the original definition of the term meaning “Adult Orientated Radio” which, quite simply, means that we are orientated towards an adult audience. This format is often incorrectly defined “Adult Orientated Rock”. Having appreciated this, perhaps, subtle difference we can move on. The music we play is largely from albums and it is not confined to any particular genre. Yes, you could call it ‘rock’ in the broadest sense of the term but what does ‘rock’ mean exactly? The Eagles are a rock band, aren’t they? Well, no hang on a bit some of their stuff is verging on ‘country’. Radio Caroline has played and does play The Eagles. What about Chicago then? They’re a rock band aren’t they? But, wait a bit they can almost sound like a ‘jazz’ band sometimes. Radio Caroline has played and does play Chicago. What about Stevie Wonder? We don’t play him do we? He’s not ‘rock’. Well, no possibly not but Radio Caroline has played and does play Stevie Wonder.
Actually we prefer not to think of the music we play in terms of genres at all. We would rather ask ourselves whether we think it’s a good track, do we think it will fit in with the general sound, do we think a large number of our listeners would enjoy it. If we can answer yes to those questions then we play the track and who cares if it might be called rock, jazz, reggae, pop, classical or whatever!
We draw our music from the last 45 odd years and mix that with what we consider to be 'suitable' new music. That new music can be by old established artists or new musicians starting out. Again, if we think it's a good track we'll play it. There is a formula for playing the music on air which I won't bore you with but that formula doesn't tell a presenter what track to play. It simply lays down a framework for a spread of eras across an hour and leaves the presenter to decide what track to play. Whilst this gives our presenters enormous freedom it also places on them a huge responsibility, but it also results in Caroline playing some wonderful stuff you just don't hear anywhere else.

What is your role on Caroline other than presenter - My role is really that of a programming co-ordinator. I am responsible to PM for the organisation of our programmes, who does them and the content. I also take care of much of the admin on the programming side of things. I speak with PM almost every day and we spend a good deal of time on programming matters. Nothing is done without his approval as he remains in overall charge of Caroline. So, if you like I manage programming on Caroline.

What's the most embarrassing or funny thing that's happened to you? - Going base over tip backwards on to the deck of the Mi Amigo whilst try to get on a tender in full view of everyone! Then there was time I accidentally slammed a door in the face of the IBA's Regional Radio Officer in Yorkshire!

What do you do for your day job? - Never you mind!

What's your favourite food? - Almost anything that's put in front of me!
What do you dislike doing the most? - My day job

Who would you like to get stuck with on a desert Island? - A decent Chef and a well stocked freezer.
What's the most important thing that you learnt about Radio? - I'll let you know when I hang up my headphones because you never stop learning.

What was the first record you bought? - This may seem strange but I really don't remember!
What are your favourite bands and who is your hero? - Far too many to mention. I like good music, well performed and I don't really much care what genre its lumped into.

What are your 5 most iconic tunes? - There's no point in answering this as it will change by the time anyone reads it.

What are your plans for the future - To keep on working as hard as I can to help Caroline continue.

Thank you Cliff for your interview and for all the work to put in behind the scenes.

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