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
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
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
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
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
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
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