John Brocks

John Brocks

 Interview by Roland Beaney.

This interview is with John Brocks. John has been in the Radio business all his life and blames Caroline for his passion for radio that started all those years ago.

Where and when were you born?

Bromley, Kent (same ward as HG Wells –but a tad later)

Where do you live now and what is your favourite part of the Country?

I currently live in Kent but I lived in the West Country for some 15 years and still have a hankering after it – I guess I will go back to it one day.

How did you get involved in Radio?

A friend of mine at school told me about RNI and the rest (as they say) is history!

What other stations have you worked for?

Wow -– the list would fill your entire magazine. I have had to move around a lot before people find me out!! My first broadcast (aged 13) was on the land-based pirate Radio Alaska which broadcast from Orpington by another famous pirate – Ian Hurrion (known later as Brigg). Next was my own station Radio Utopia but latterly went on to go and play with the likes of Radio Jackie, Radio Free Britain, Radio Free London, London Music Radio and Radio Telstar South amongst many many others. My first ‘proper’ job was at LBC in 1977 where I was the general gopher although later managed to become a junior producer on the then new overnight programmes. In 1980 I departed for Devon and worked for DevonAir in Exeter and Torbay off and on for nearly 10 years. Other stations include County Sound Radio (and its various guises as Premier, First Gold and Delta Radio); Pennine Radio and Pennine FM, Radio Mercury (and much later on Mercury FM), Lantern FM in North Devon (which I won through my own licence application in 1992 and ran for 4 years); Pirate FM in Cornwall, Country 1035; KFM Tonbridge; CTR 105.6 in Maidstone and Palm FM in Torquay to name a few. Overseas I have worked for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation on Radio X-tra in Geneva and Blue Danube run by the ORF in Vienna, Austria. I also spent a number of years as a voiceover working on numerous stations all over the country (over 30 I think at the last count) and was one of the early continuity voices on Sky Television shortly after it started.

What was your earliest memory of Caroline?

I vaguely recall Dad listening to Caroline South on the way to junior school (although he denies this now) Otherwise I properly discovered Caroline shortly after my secondary school friend had introduced me to RNI and I can remember being totally inspired by Andy Archer, Tony Allen and Johnny Jason. Wonderfully many years later I got to work with Andy at DevonAir for the 2 years he was there; worked with Johnny on Blue Danube Radio in Austria and finally made contact with Tony Allen when I was working at CTR in Maidstone shortly before he passed away.

When did you first join Caroline and why?

The story about Ronan offering me a job and my Dad locking me in my bedroom is on the web site and now legendary. When I spoke to Ronan about it at the 40th reunion he had forgotten about it but, on reflection, he thought it was hysterically funny! The offer had come via one of my best friends that I grew up with, Simon Barrett, and once my dad had successfully ensured that I missed the tender I contented myself with doing a lot of Simon’s production for him and sending it out to the Mi Amigo. As such, I lay claim to being the very first voice that came up with “Hello Sailor” albeit it was me very speeded up! My dad and I didn’t speak for around two years after this as it had been a long-term dream to work for the First Lady. Latterly I finally got to do a show for the Vinters Park incarnation shortly after I moved to Kent in September 2003.

Have you ever worked on a Radio ship?

No Some years after the “Caroline incident”, I enlisted to work on Radio Dolphin which was going to broadcast from the forts. Asa presenter (rather than a technician), Iwas to go out on the second tender. This was lucky as all the crew who went out on the first tender got nicked and the station never went to air.

Have you got any special or funny memories to share with us? (How long did your dad lock you up in your bedroom for?)

My Dad locked me up long enough to make sure I missed the tender. It was a long time ago now so I can’t remember exactly how long but I think it was for several days. I think I did get food parcels from my mum, though! There are numerous funny memories I have from my land based pirate radio days (from around 1973 thru 1980) and perhaps I’ll put them in a book one day! One that might amuse you the most is that on one particular land based broadcast for Radio Free London we had a particularly bad raid with the Post Office and Police and police dogs. Those who know me well will know that I am not (and was not) the greatest athlete. However, when chased by a police Alsatian I jumped a 5ft barbed wire fence with room to spare and I still don’t know how I did it. I guess the jowls of a ferocious animal around your bum can make you do some pretty amazing feats! In ILR terms my favourite memories are of DevonAir where I made many life long friends who I still keep up with regularly today. Two years ago we had a 25 year old reunion and it was terrific to see so many of us back together – albeit I don’t know how we all seemed to have become respectable (ish) old people now!

What is your favourite station other than Caroline?

Hmmm. I guess my answer should be “are there any other stations?”. I am bitterly disillusioned and disappointed with what ILR has become today. I don’t think that any of us pioneers could have dreamed what a lacklustre affair commercial radio would eventually become. To be honest, I listen to very little else other than Caroline but do occasionally stray to Radio 2 and Radio 4 (how times change!).

What is the best and worst thing about radio today?

The best thing about Caroline today is that it still has its original vibrant spirit. The worst thing is that not enough people know that it is still around!

Do you have any embarrassing or funny moments to share with us?

Again, there are many which I shall probably save for a book (maybe one day). One that may amuse you is that it is no secret that I smoke like a chimney. In more recent times smoking has been prohibited in radio studios much to my angst! When I was working for Pirate FM in Cornwall one weekend, I disappeared out the back door for a quick drag and a gust of wind caught the door and locked me out just as the record was about to end. As it was an evening and there was nobody else at the station I had to resort to throwing a rock through a window to get back in. It was double glazed and not easy – I think it took about 5 attempts! Needless to say I had to pay to have the back door fixed and I believe the story is legendary at Pirate to this day – I don’t think any of them will let me forget it!

What do you do for your day job and for relaxation?

I run my own business which remains in the commercial radio sector as a consultant. Music off and on the radio still remains a passion and I have a ridiculous collection which now takes up nearly two thirds of my home! I keep kidding myself that I will digitise my vinyl albums but, frankly, I will be long gone before I even get half way through it! Otherwise I’m a bit of a TV and film fan. I particularly like sci-fi and love all the Star Treks, Stargates and related series. Bloody good job I am not a train spotter as well – otherwise you could really accuse me of being an anorak!

What is your favourite food?

I am a big meat eater so a steak and chips would be lovely if you’re offering. Alternatively you could always take me down to the nearest Indian restaurant.

What are your favourite sports or interests other than Radio?

Sport? Yuk! I know nothing about it and have no desire to. You may occasionally catch me swimming and I have been known to pick up a tennis racket on the very odd occasion. Otherwise the only other sport I know of is the rather lovely young lady I know who works in my local post office!

What do you dislike doing the most?

Ironing. It is impossible – I really don’t know how anybody does it. It’s not through lack of trying either. I can spend over half an hour trying to iron a shirt and it will still look worse than when it came out of the washing machine.

Have you any special memories or regrets?

Well obviously I still regret that I never got to go to the Mi Amigo. On the other hand, as my dad now says, maybe if he had let me go I would have got it out of my system and got a proper job by now. But somehow I doubt it!

What are your favourite bands?

Wow – very difficult to answer that as I like so many – everything from classical (I did a classical show in Devon for 8 years!) thru rock to dance (which I don’t get to play too much of on Caroline). So I guess it goes in phases. Currently I am very keen on the Scandinavian rock scene and listeners will know I am dead keen on Epica (particularly the lead singer Simone Simons who is not only extremely talented but drop dead gorgeous) and Nightwish etc.

What are your top 5 favourite tunes?

Again too tough to answer – I could give you 5 different tunes every day of the year plus some!

What famous people have you met?

Having been a weekly strip show jock for over 15 years I have met plenty. I also ran a roadshow in Devon for some 8 years which used to get sub-hired by Radio 1 on occasions so have met a fair few boys and girls from the BBC. As far as musicians are concerned I think it was the interviews that I did with many artists before they became famous that I enjoyed the most. From the classical world this includes Nigel Kennedy, Lesley Garrett and Julian Lloyd-Webber (who became a real mate). From the pop scene I recall really liking Dana who was lovely, Lindisfarne who were tremendous fun and, more recently, the extremely underrated girl band Clea who had me in stitches rolling around on the floor!

Who would you most like to meet?

Beethoven – Well Donna Summer wanted to have dinner with Gershwin!

When did you last go on board the Ross Revenge?

I have to confess that I have never been on board the Ross as yet – but Johnny Lewis has promised to take me along one day very soon.

What plans have you for the future?

Retiring! Not really, I doubt I will ever retire from the business – it’s just too entrenched in the blood now.

Thank you John for sharing some fascinating stories with us,


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