Where and when were you born?
In Chelmsford Essex a long time ago.
Where do you live now?
In the house I built a
few years back, in a lovely Essex village just a couple
of miles out of Chelmsford, a place with some real radio
heritage, not far from the location of the UK’s first
radio broadcasting station, 2MT – Writtle.
What is your favourite part of the country?
Well apart from Essex,
and Kent where I also spend a lot of time, I love the
rest of East Anglia, Suffolk
and Norfolk, and I
suppose further a field my favourite part of the UK would be North Wales
How did you get into radio?
Difficult, it feels like
I always have been, if you mean ‘into’ as in interested
rather than working in radio. It’s in the soil in these
parts you know. I well remember my grand parents giving
me a big old radio to take apart, I was only about five,
but I was fascinated by all the valves and strange
looking components, it was not long before I discovered
how to build my own crystal sets. When Radio Caroline
started in 1964 I was only eleven, what a time to be
growing up in the 1960’s with that heady mixture of
offshore stations to listen to, they just served to feed
my passion for the music and the technology that made it
all happen. So on leaving school, I headed straight to
the local factory – lucky for me that meant the then
mighty Marconi Co. where I would be paid to learn all
about radio and electronics. My spare time was spent
building various projects, amplifiers, audio mixers,
tape recorders; you name it, until I had pretty much
built my own radio station. Many happy hours were spent
playing in ‘the studio’, editing tapes, making my own
recorded programmes etc. The thought certainly crossed
my mind that it would be more fun to work somewhere
using the equipment rather than in a factory making it
for others to use, and with the second wave of offshore
radio in the 1970’s underway I often dreamt of getting
involved. In the summer of 1976 I heard an announcement
on Radio Caroline that they were looking for a
transmitter engineer. It was time to act, the years of
dreaming over, I wrote to the Spanish address, but
nothing. A couple of months later I heard Radio Caroline
giving out a different address ‘A321 Rosas Gerona Spain’
I thought I must write to this new address in case my
previous letter had been lost in the change over. I
could not believe my luck when a letter dropped on the
doormat a week or so later. A letter that was quite
literally, to change my life, a letter that was to lead
to a phone call, that was to lead to an interview, where
I would be offered a job of transmitter engineer and DJ
on Radio Caroline.
When did you first join Radio Caroline?
Well, this ‘interview’
took place a few days after Christmas 1976, the first of
two London meetings that I had
prior to joining the ship. I think it was 6th
January 1977 when I set off from London Victoria
Station, together with Stevie Gordon. We had to wait in
for a day for the weather to improve, and finally
arrived on board the Mi Amigo a couple of days later. My
first show was at 4am on Tuesday 11th
What are your earliest memories of Caroline?
So long ago now that my
memory of early Radio Caroline is a little sketchy,
although I do remember that it was great to have a
station playing music all day. Later as more stations
joined Caroline I well remember tuning my new transistor
radio up and down the band searching for favourite
songs. I can still picture the dial with Caroline easy
to find down at the end on 199. I can vividly remember
the transmissions from the Mi Amigo when she returned
from Holland following the grounding on Frinton
beach with the new transmitter on 259, and the calls for
listeners to retune from 199 to 259 metres, exciting
times. But it was the 6 months after 14th
August 1967 that really turned me into a confirmed
Caroline fan. I loved every minute, listening to the
likes of Roger day, Spangles Muldoon, Stevi Merick, Bud
Ballou and Sir Johnnie Walker, you could almost feel the
struggle for survival, this was wonderful radio. I was
devastated when the ships were towed away in March ’68.
I never really gave up hope, and it was truly magical
listening as Radio Caroline returned in the 1970’s. I
was glued to the radio as each new twist in the Caroline
saga unfolded, eventually developing into some of the
best radio I had ever heard, as ‘Europe’s first and only
album station’ and ‘The voice of loving awareness’, yes,
Caroline was definitely back.
What changes have you seen with the Caroline
organisation since you joined?
Like most things in
life, it just keeps on evolving. When I first started
there were really the two halves of the organisation the
English, Radio Caroline and the Dutch, Radio Mi Amigo,
basically we ran the ship, and the Dutch provided most
of the supplies. The first big change was the
introduction of the Caroline Roadshow, at the beginning
of 1978. This provided a major boost to the station at
the time. Then there was that really bleak period
thorough the winter of
’78 into ’79, Radio Mi Amigo had left the
organisation, and we were off air, most of us took turns
at looking after the ship. I remember spending some
weeks just before Christmas 1978, with a crew of only
three, Tony Allan, Johnny Lewis, and myself. How the
organisation struggled though the next few months was a
miracle, the ship nearly sunk at one point, but
triumphantly returned to air at Easter 1979. As we
continued though the summer, although things were
clearly loads better than during the preceding winter,
we were at least now broadcasting again, it did feel
that the organisation were now finding it more of a
struggle to keep us supplied. My last visit to the Mi
Amigo was in the autumn of ’79. After that I briefly
visited the Ross Revenge in the mid 1980’s, where it
seemed like a good day in the 1970’s. Fast forward to
the present day Radio Caroline, Peter Moore and the team
have done a fantastic job preserving the Ross Revenge,
and keeping Caroline going on satellite and the net. I
suppose the biggest difference in the organisation
between our offshore days and now, is that for obvious
reasons there used to be a lot more secrecy than there
is now. There are now many volunteers all doing their
bit to keep Caroline running smoothly. Things really
have come a long way since the beginnings of the
satellite broadcasts more than a decade ago. Whilst
there may still be those that reminisce about the past,
the fact is, that these days we have just as much
freedom in our programmes as we had offshore. So
although it may sometimes seem that it used to be easier
just to hop on a tender and head off for few weeks on
‘the lady’, the truth is rather different.
How much music freedom do you have on Caroline?
Lots, when I first
started there was total freedom, but that does need
qualification. Back at those initial meetings before I
joined the ship, music policy was discussed at length.
It may have sounded like we could play as we pleased,
but in fact there were rules, that had a lot to do with
musical taste, and what you should or probably more
importantly should not play. I was even required to
produce an audition tape prior to joining the ship.
After my first year a simple format was introduced, this
basically ensured that a proportion of the output came
from the Caroline top forty albums, and helped to
introduce a bit more consistency between the shows. In
reality there was still an enormous amount of freedom
and I had no difficulty using this new system. To my
mind musical freedom is most important and is the one
thing that separates Radio Caroline from the crowd. As
we say these days ‘real people real music’ just about
sums it up, it is the Caroline difference.
What other radio stations have you been involved with?
capacity as a broadcast engineer I have been involved
with quite a number of
radio stations. As a broadcaster however, I remain
totally loyal to Radio Caroline, as I really don’t think
that any other station would allow anything like the
freedom we have at Caroline.
What’s your favourite station other than Caroline?
see, I know what it is not, I think probably LBC, or XFM
depending on whether I want speech or music.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?Throughout my years
as an engineer at the BBC and in commercial radio I have
certainly bumped into or rubbed shoulders with endless
so called rich and famous, whether this counts as having
met them, I leave you to decide. I remember John Cleese
in the BBC canteen, and I quite literally bumped into
Bette Midler on the Parkinson set during my BBC
induction, and only a few days later I was on the studio
floor as Debbie Harry and Blondie were rehearsing for
Top the Pops. As far as famous radio presenters are
concerned I have worked with and met lots over the
years, from legends such as Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman, Kenny
Everett, Tony Blackburn, right though to Simon Bates and
Chris Tarrant, and many more in between.
Who do you particularly remember in your offshore days? Where to start? So many amazing characters, Tony Allan
used to say that everyone who worked on the ship was a
star, and he was so right. I set off on that first
tender with Stevie Gordon, Mike Stevens, Roger Mathews
and Stuart Russell, or Nigel Harris, as we now know him.
Once on board I also meet up with the Dutch Jocks, Frank
Van der Mast and the inimitable Marc Jacobs. As the
weeks passed and some crew changed I found myself also
working along side Tom Anderson, Ed Foster, Mark
Lawrence and James Ross. James was the chief jock at the
time, and I can thank him for giving me some prime
weekend time slots to compliment my regular late night
show. Those early weeks of 1977 also saw the return of
Johnny Jason. JJ had been one of my favourite
presenters, earlier in the 70’s, and it was great to be
working on the ship with him. I will never forget the
lovely Samantha Du Bois a complex, but likable
character, with that unique
Dutch accent. On the engineering side of things I worked
along side Caroline’s legendry Chief engineer, Peter
Chicago, and together we moved Caroline from 259 to 319
metres. In the following years I got to work with such
Caroline legends, as ‘Buzby’ yes, our own Bob Lawrence,
Johnny Lewis, and the completely mad Mike Barrington,
and not to forget Ad Roberts on the Dutch side, and the
crazy cook Kees Borrell. Working with these characters
life on board was certainly not dull, and I have great
memories of everyone I spent time on board with.
Who influenced you the most?Although it’s nice to
think of oneself as unique, and indeed the best advice
to any aspiring broadcaster is to be yourself, it’s true
that we are all influenced. Having been an avid listener since 1964, I must
have picked up a wide range of influences along the way.
However, Caroline in the ‘70’s was completely different
to anything that had gone before, and required a new
approach. Without doubt my greatest influence would have
been Tony Allan, his presentation so perfect it was
something to aspire to. When I finally got to work with
Tony I found him to be like the wise old owl, he had
plenty of advice to give, and he was very supportive,
whether it was my efforts on air or working on the
transmitter. I count myself privileged to have worked
with one of broadcasting’s legendry greats.
What is the best and worst thing about radio today?
thing is that there is a lot of it, and the worst thing
that most of it sounds the same. Bland boring and the
same songs over and over, but who am I to say, I’m only
the engineer! Actually I left the very best bit till
last – the best thing about radio today is that Radio
Caroline is still broadcasting, and available to a
What is the most embarrassing or funny thing that’s
happened to you?
Soon after my arrival on
the Mi Amigo the water pump that supplied the running
water for the ship failed, so there were no working taps
or flushing loos, things that we all take for granted on
land. Because we had so little water anyway this was
never fixed Now we had this rule on the ship that the
boys, i.e. most of us, needing to go for a wee, went
over the side, taking care which way the wind was
blowing of course. Anything else and it was a bucket
job. That is, you needed to remember to lower a bucket
on the end of a rope into the sea to collect enough
water to flush the toilet. My most embarrassing moment
was when I threw the bucket over the side, but forgot to
hold the rope! As I watched the bucket slowly disappear
below the waves, I then had the highly embarrassing task
of owning up to Chicago as to what a stupid thing I had just
done. Luckily for everyone we did have another bucket.
What do you do for your day job and relaxation?
Well as I have
already mentioned, I work in technical support in
broadcasting, that is, as an engineer. As for
relaxation, what is that?
I do seem to have won the title of chief cook in
the family, so I am busy in the kitchen most nights
preparing the latest chefs special. Over the past year I
have been lovingly restoring an old vintage broadcast
mixer of the type we used on the Mi Amigo. I am hoping
it will soon be in use in my home studio. I have
recently been keeping my son, Olie Fisher company
studying for the amateur radio exam, we found that far
too easy, and are continuing straight to the next level.
It’s good that Olie is getting some fast track technical
training on good old wireless technology; he will soon
catch me up if he has not done so already. I am also
involved in model engineering, that is miniature steam
engines, Oh, and of course I do show for Radio Caroline
What’s your favourite food?
I don’t know if I
actually have a favourite food as such, I am definitely
a bit of a foodie, and love good food. It may seem
strange but my interest in food was awoken during my
time on the Mi Amigo, when times were good they were
really good, I think back to when supplies were coming
from France and we had a really good chef on board,
these were the times when you tried to learn a few
tricks in the galley, which came in really handy when
times were not so good and we having to cook for
ourselves from very meagre rations. One of my most
memorable meals was of Scallops, the tender that I was
on after my first trip to the Mi Amigo was fishing for
them, and any that had slightly damaged shells were used
to make the most amazing Scallop dish for lunch,
straight out of the sea, fresher than any restaurant,
lovely. But in answer to the original question, if it’s
good I’ll eat it, whether it’s a nice steak, fresh fish,
or a good curry, I like most things.
What do you dislike doing most?
Who would you like to get stuck with on a desert island?
Is that a trick question? Surely it would no longer be a
desert island if there were someone else there? No, I
think I will stick to the eight gramophone records. Oh,
and the 50kW transmitter to tell the world where I am.
What’s the most important thing you learnt about radio?
musically entertaining, don’t be predictable; keep links
short and sweet, the element of surprise. Ronan used to
describe my shows as anarchic, from the big boss this
was actually a compliment, and sort of what I was trying
to achieve, i.e. not following any of the usual rules.
Just the unwritten Caroline rules that helped make us a
very listenable alternative radio station.
What was the first record you bought?
That’s actually a very
difficult question. Santa bought me my first record
player complete with a selection of records for
Christmas 1963, and yes I did used to spend my pocket
money on singles, but I really don’t remember what was
first. However, I do remember the first Album. Santa
bought me ‘Beatles for Sale’ the following year, and I went out and
bought ‘With the Beatles’ this marked the start of my
What are your favourite bands and who is your hero?
are so many, and the list keeps getting longer. As I
have mentioned in the last question, my first favourite
band was undoubtedly The Beatles, but quickly joined by
the Stones, The Who, and The Small Faces. Then there was
the sixties soul scene with the likes of Booker T and
the MG’s, Otis, Aretha, Sam and Dave etc. As the sixties
became the seventies I added loads more to the list,
such as The Doors, Yes, Pink Floyd, Barclay James
Harvest, Allman Bros Band, Eagles, to name a few. The
nice thing is, that I am still discovering new
favourites, and from more recent times I would list,
Radiohead The Strokes, Elbow, Doves and the White
Stripes. As for hero, I guess it has got to be Bob
What are your 5 most iconic tunes?
Presumably iconic in
relation to Radio Caroline, if I know what you mean. I’m
afraid I will have to pick the same number one iconic
tune as Buzby did in the Jan – Feb issue, because it
quite simply is just that. The Who – ‘Wont Get Fooled
Again’. After that it would have to be The Beatles – ‘A
Day in the Life’. Roland this is a difficult, but
interesting question. After those I think I will go
with, The Rolling Stones – ‘You Can’t Always Get What
You Want’, then Eric Clapton – ‘Let it Grow’ and Bob
Dylan – ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, preferably the live
version from ‘Before the Flood’.
When did you last go on board the Ross Revenge?
Depends on when you are reading this. At the time of
writing it was last New Years Eve and New years day.
However, it is planned to be on board this Easter, so if
all goes to plan the answer will probably be, last
How do you see the future of Caroline and its ship?
through so much it’s now hard to imagine a time without
Caroline. It’s amazing to think that the satellite years
have actually been the longest and most reliable period
of broadcasting in the stations history. In this digital
age many stations have seen their former audience levels
reducing, but Caroline is actually in an enviable
position. As more and more people around the globe
rediscover an old friend, this can only be good for
Caroline’s future. As for the ship, it is of course both
a tremendous asset to the station, and a huge headache
for the management. I look forward to a time when she
can be suitably located, and enjoyed by a wider pubic,
as a permanent reminder of our offshore broadcasting
What are your plans for the future?
To keep on doing what I
do, and hopefully find more time for the things I enjoy
most, like Caroline.
Thanks Roland for asking some most interesting
questions, it’s been a pleasure.