Where and when were
I was born in Swansea, South
Wales, where I lived until I was 19. My parents wanted to
Christen me “John”: so I am grateful to my elder sister
(then 7) for insisting I should be called Clive.
Where do you live now?
I came to London in 1968
to go to drama school and taught in the London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham for 7 years, then moving to Basildon,
Essex in 1978 which also includes Wickford where I’ve lived
for 15 years.
What is your favourite
part of the country?
I have always loved the Gower
Peninsula. English people tell me it always rains in Wales
but I have superb childhood memories of long sunny days
and superb sandy beaches, but when it came to buying a holiday
home we plumped for Brittany in France: times have changed.
How did you get involved
We had no TV until I was
11 so I was already hooked on radio, especially Radio Luxembourg
and AFN (the American Forces Network Europe). Then in Easter
1964 I read a Sunday paper about Radio Caroline and found
it on 199m MW and became a lifelong fan – I think you’d
say I was a bit of an anorak. By 1966, I and some
mates had set up Radio City Swansea at the Morriston Hospital
and later at the Singleton Hospital which celebrates its
40th Anniversary this year and has just been granted an
AM licence by Ofcom.
What other radio stations
have you been involved with?
In 1975 I was scanning the
Medium Wave whilst staying in Tooting and I discovered the
land-based pirate Radio Kaleidoscope. They were advertising
for presenters; “but you must have a good voice”. It was
very tight and I liked it, so I applied. Three weeks later,
I was standing in a field in Banstead, keeping an eye out
for the Home Office. When LBC came on and we had to
move frequency, things got tougher and we decided to retire
gracefully: our final hour still sounds pretty moving. The
presenters then opened what is now the regular BT award
winning Whitechapel AM at the Royal London Hospital and
is still there after 30 years – more due to Pat Edison than
I – as in 1978 I landed the Station Manager’s job at the
newly formed cable station, Radio Basildon, the studio of
which Mike Harding described as “a Corn Flakes packet”,
but which was enormously successful, beating Capital and
Radio 1 in the ratings and described by BBC TV’s “Nationwide”
as “the future of local radio”. By 1982, I had enough
of 60 hour weeks and rubbish money: I got married to the
wonderful Christine and we had two new babies Sabrina and
Leanne – I guess it was time to grow up. So in one of those
“poacher turned game keeper moments” I got a job with the
Performing Right Society and ended up as its Performance
Sales Director for 10 years from 1995. Christine, my wife,
joined the Police and we had two more children: Siân and
Ieuan. In the 80’s & 90’s I did do a bunch of “restricted
radio services” in Basildon but gave up on that in the end.
In 2005, I got sick and have undergone a few operations
and other treatment since then, so I took early retirement,
bought our wonderful house in France and joined Radio Caroline.
It was time to chill and I’m loving it, loving it, loving
What are your earliest
memories of Caroline?
Doug Kerr ( fantastic theme
tune – “Big Noise from Winetka”) and Simon Dee on air and
that woman over the sound of waves: “This is Caroline on
199, your all day music station.”
Have you got any special/fond
memories of the station?
The weekend the MV Caroline
went to the Isle of Man to start Caroline North. I got up
early as usual to crank up the steam valve radio and turn
up the volume because it was a long way from Swansea even
with 50KW. Instead it blasted out Tom Lodge “… and now we’re
rounding Lands End”. There followed one day of exceptional
reception as Caroline steamed past Cornwall and West Wales
with Tom and Jerry Leighton doing 3 hours on and 3 hours
What is your favourite
radio station other than Caroline?
Today it’s Radio 2 – commercial
radio used to be at the cutting edge but now it’s over computerized
and bland. The music policy at 2 is better. Mind you, I
also like Country 105 in Calgary, Western Canada when we
visit my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.
What’s the best and
worse thing about radio today?
The best thing is there’s
so much of it and there are smaller more local outfits like
Swansea Bay Radio making their mark and internet and satellite
providing outlets for all sorts: some of the stuff you used
find on Short Wave is also available again. The worst thing
is the UK approach to DAB digital radio. The signal is nowhere
near as better than FM as was claimed and the franchise
system keeps variety, creativity and innovation like you
get from Caroline off the air – we probably need another
Free Radio Campaign – and funnily enough I now live in the
parliamentary constituency of Rayleigh (and Wickford).
Have you ever worked
on a Radio ship?
Sadly no. Alan King offered
me a show on the Voice of Peace in 1972 but because I wasn’t
a student, the Israelis decided it was too much cost to
get me out there. One day, the Ross Revenge maybe??????!!!!!!!!!!
How much freedom do
you have on Caroline?
There are rules on Caroline
and the music is well programmed, particularly the featured
new music tracks but we’re allowed to change up to 30% in
an hour and I tend to use that to meet listener requests.
It’s amazing to talk to Australia, Antarctica, the USA and
South Africa as well as all over the UK and Europe in one
4 hour show – I love that.
Have you any embarrassing
or funny moments to share with us?
I embarrass myself every
show with my “Connection Competition”: it amounts to my
life story in bi-weekly chunks. The week before I went on
air at the Big K came the announcement: “And next week on
the Big K its Clive Thomas!” I turned to Pat Edison in shock
and said: “Hang on, that’s my real name!” “Sounds made up!”
Who is the most famous
person you have met?
I guess it must be Prince
Charles but when on Radio Basildon I did go on a walkabout
with the Queen in Grays. I interviewed everyone she spoke
to. They were ecstatic but I found out she asked everyone
the same question: “So where have you come from today?”
I’d gone through MI5 vetting and had remained 6 paces behind
her for a bunch of interviews I couldn’t use. Paul and Linda
McCartney visited my department at PRS: they were among
the nicest people I’ve met – still keep the photo in my
office. But don’t talk to me about Bobby Crush. Oh and I
did go to school with Rowan Williams, now the Archbishop
What do you do for
Have friends around for dinner
and drink copious amounts of good red wine – life’s too
short to drink cheap stuff!
What is your favourite
Without a doubt Tandoori
Chicken and Bhindi Bhajee but I do cook a mean curry myself.
What do you like doing
Spending all day Saturday
in the kitchen with my wife, cooking for people or being
with my kids doing anything – watching football, cinema,
restaurants, or even just playing monopoly.
What are your favourite
bands or groups?
The Beatles and Queen plus
the Kaiser Chiefs, Fray and the Hoosiers. Did love Catatonia,
too. Seen loads of bands I love over the years: Them, Pink
Floyd, Kinks, Sam & Dave, Arthur Conley, Lee Dorsey,
Blues Foundation, Foundations, Rolling Stones, Coors, Beach
Boys, Simply Red and many more. Of course when you have
kids you also end up at MC Hammer and New Kids on the Block
and sitting in the car park at Knebworth listening to Oasis
on Knebworth FM or whatever it was called.
What are your top 5
Hey Jude - The Beatles,
Burlesque - Family, Those were the days of my life - Queen,
25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago, Green Onions - Booker
T and the MG's
When did you last go
on board the Ross?
When it was anchored in the
Medway near Rochester.
What plans have you
for the future?
Staying alive and chilling
out in our 3.5 acres of France with my wife, kids, grandkids
and friends and an even more regular slot on Radio Caroline
once a fortnight isn’t enough – too many people think I’m
Sadly Clive passed away early 2009,