MERSEYSIDE LBP - Merseyland Alternative Radio -1979
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Monday 22nd October 1979 saw Gary of dxarchive.com in Bishop Auckland Magistrates Court on several counts relating to illegal broadcasting on a shortwave station called Radio Solent City International. A young Jonathan Marks, who at that time was UK reporter for the Austrian Radio Shortwave Panorama turned up on his moped to watch, and also record an interview with the three accused. The interview was to be used as part of a series of cassette based documentaries about pirate and clandestine broadcasting in the UK, the sales of which would raise money for the Handicapped Aid Programme. Showing how backwards and paranoid the UK authorities were at the time, these cassettes apparently had to be produced in Canada because they ‘promoted’ pirate radio, which was allegedly against UK law.
One of the cassettes that Jonathan was hoping to produce, highlighted free radio in and around Liverpool. Outside London, this was one of the more active areas. After leaving us, he had apparently set up a meeting with Rick Dane of Radio Jackie North, who was pioneering Saturday and Sunday broadcasting. Even the bigger stations in London at the time were only managing a few hours a week. Having already attempted 7 day broadcasting, Rick was currently operating both days at the weekend and also used higher power than most other stations, and operated from tower blocks. This gave him a large coverage area on 217m across North West England. Little did Jonathan know that he would be visiting Liverpool the week another pioneering free radio station, Merseyland Alternative Radio was about to commence transmissions. We do not know if this particular cassette by Jonathan was ever released, and if it was, would welcome any information on how to obtain a copy.
In a later conversation with Dave Simpson, he recalled the circumstances which brought about the start of Merseyland Alternative Radio. Dave had noted the success of Radio Jackie North throughout 1979 transmitting for entire weeks and later weekends, with very little post office attention. He had also learned from another source that in fact, the Post Office Radio Investigation Service was going through a lot of internal changes meaning they had little time for tracking pirate stations. At the same time he had also been listening to Bert Williams over the air asking for 'real' presenters for his own station Radio 252, as he himself was just an engineer. In previous years, Dave had been involved with John Dwyer and others operating a night time MW station during the winter months. It was coming to that time of year when this station was about to recommence. Dave discussed with John Dwyer the lack of post office activity and the fact that Bert was after presenters, and the idea of a weekend long broadcast instead was born, with Bert being paid for the use of his transmitter. Money to pay for the station would be raised by the use of commercials. John approached Bert Williams with the suggestion of payment to him for suppling and operating the transmitting equipment. Bert had been broadcasting to Merseyside since the closure of Radio Caroline North in 1968 and by now had some high powered equipment at his disposal. The new station would need to be regular and powerful enough to attract advertisers, and Bert's transmitters were ideal. This use of a substantial number of commercials to pay for the station was possibly a first in landbased free radio. It didn't take long for Bert to take up the offer, and during the weekend of 20th/21st October 1979 he was heard broadcasting on 1197kHz announcing a new station would start operating the following weekend.
The history in the following pages has been compiled in date and time order from the programmes listeners heard on the airwaves, between October 1979 and August 1981, which was the original incarnation of Merseyland Alternative Radio.
|1979_10_21_sun_merseyland_alternative_radio_1197am-259m_1313-1340_first_weekend_johndwyer-kb.mp3 New Nov 2021||This recording was made in Scotland from 1197kHz, so has a few crackles and some overload from BBC Radio 3 on 1215kHz, but shows how far the signal was reaching. It is the earliest recording we have of MAR, and John Dwyer mentions the date, which is thought to be from the test weekend that Dave Simpson mentioned above. Commercials were already being played at this time.||25MB|
Test transmissions went out on the evening of Thursday 25th October, and full broadcasts commenced on Saturday 27th October 1979 at 10am with Dave Simpson. Not only was the plan to broadcast long hours, but also at a high transmitter power. These early weeks were said to be at a massive power of 400watts. Some of the 2 hour programmes in the early weeks were apparently recorded on reel-to-reel tape, which were re-used, meaning it is likely there are no studio recordings remaining of those weeks.
Below is thought to be the station lineup for the first couple of weeks. Daytime schedule was probably the same for both Saturday and Sunday, but late evenings did seem to vary from week to week.
Our first recordings are from the weekend of 10th/11th Novermber 1979. Gary had driven across from Leeds in his rusty old Datsun to monitor the station at the M62 Burtonwood services, where he listened to Paul Jay and Bert Williams. The list below includes some of those recordings, along with those kindly donated by Eric Monaghan who was also listening later that evening and on Sunday. A number of new voices were heard on the station over these two days, including Simon James and Robin Blind. On his Saturday show, Mike Stand also announced that Jim Brown, Phil Shaw and Bert Williams would be on after midnight. On the clip of Bert's show, he said that the station would be broadcasting throughout the night with the new presenters, and transmissions would close at 0100 on Monday morning. He inferred the station would now run continuously each weekend, from 10am on Saturday morning until 1am on Monday morning.
The lineup for Saturday 10th November 1979 from listening to the recordings seemed to be as follows:
|0200-||Jim Brown and Phil Shaw|
The lineup for Sunday 11th November 1979 appeared to be as follows:
|1979_11_10_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_1500_Paul Jay with 259metre 3pm Hour Announcement-gh.mp3||A top of the hour announcement from Paul Jay when the station was still on 259m|
|1979_11_10_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_1500-1600_PaulJay-gh.mp3||An hour of Paul Jay as recorded at Burtonwood services on M62, showing the strength of the signal|
|1979_11_10_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_1600-1611_Bert Williams -1600-1611-gh.mp3||Bert, again recorded at Burtonwood services as the foreign station VOA starts to interfere|
|1979_11_10_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_1800-1933_MikeStand-EM61.mp3||During the Mike Stand show new presenters and lineup are mentioned|
|1979_11_11_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_0015-0030_BertWilliams_announces_overnight_tx-EM248.mp3||Bert talks about the change to all weekend broadcasts with the addition of new presenters.|
|1979_11_11_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-266m_2015-2150_SimonJames-EM257.mp3||Simon James 2nd show on the station|
|1979_11_11_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_2255-2338_PaulRaven_KavaineSal-EM248.mp3||End of Paul Raven, then new wave and reggae with Kavaine Sal. Severe tape dropouts in places.|
|1979_11_11_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_2340-2400_KavaineSal-EM248.mp3||New wave and reggae music show|
|1979_11_xx_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_1105-1125_DashRiprock_and_Jean-EM64.mp3||Problems with the Dave Simpson tape meant Dash Riprock and Jean hosted their first show. This could be from either 11th or 18th November 1979 as 259m is announced.|
|1979_11_xx_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1197am-259m_1130-1150_DashRiprock_and_Jean-EM64.mp3||More of Dash RipRock and Jean's first show|
On Sunday 18th November it was announced that the station would be changing frequency from 1197kHz / 259m to 1125kHz / 266m to give better reception to listeners on the fringe areas. The announcements were heard during the John Dwyer show, and Gary recorded the following extracts in Leeds from 1197kHz. There is increasing interference from the Voice of America as the afternoon progresses, which was on of the reasons for the change in frequency.
|An early announcement of frequency change heard. Recorded in Leeds, some interference from Voice of America can be heard.|
|On the hour announcment at 1pm, informing listeners of the change to 266m at 3pm, with increasing interference from VOA|
Following John Dwyer, Paul Jay announced in his
show that the station would leave 259m just before 3pm with the
station theme ‘Atlantis’ by the Shadows.
The record would be played continuously until after the
change to 266m was made so listeners could easily find the new channel.
When the change had been made, a whistle could be heard on 1125kHz,
which unfortunately got worse later in the evening.
When the change had been made, a whistle could be heard on 1125kHz, which unfortunately got worse later in the evening.
|Last announcement by Paul Jay on 259m|
|The full frequency change from 259m to 266m. After changing to 266m, the signal suffered a heterodyne on the new frequency. On this recording we have tried to remove the whistle. It also missing several minutes when the transmitter was off the air.|
|1979_11_18_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1504-1552_PaulJay_Opens_266m-gh.mp3||Most of the first hour on 266m|
|1979_11_18_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125-266m_1600-1615_BertWilliams-gh.mp3||This Bert Williams show was a repeat of his Saturday show, and was still announcing 259m|
|1979_11_18_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1900-1925_MikeStand-EM69.mp3||The heterodyne becomes more evident in the evening during Mike Stand's show|
|1979_11_18_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1940-2010_MikeStand_SimonJames-EM69.mp3||The whistle is quite sever in place as the evening progresses|
|1979_11_18_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_2015-2045_SimonJames-EM124.mp3||During the Simon James show, John Dwyer comes on to say that the change in frequency has now been completed, and apologises for the heterodyne whistle on 266m|
|1979_11_18_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_2045-2115_SimonJames_DaveSimpson-EM124.mp3||Dave Simpson stands in for Kavaine Sal who was unable to make his show.|
By taking on commercials to cover the station's operating costs, MAR was probably unique at that time in landbased pirate radio throughout the UK. Here are some studio recordings of those early adverts, kindly supplied by Dave Simpson.
|Business Name and Deejay Presenting the Commercial||Business Location|
|MAR Advert - Lighthouse Restaurant - Dave Simpson - 46seconds.mp3||Formby|
|MAR Advert - Reaction Records - John Dwyer - 50seconds.mp3||Victoria Road, New Brighton|
|MAR Advert - Seaview Road Car Sales - Dave Simpson - 36seconds.mp3||Wallasey|
|MAR Advert - Skeleton Records - John Dwyer - 42seconds.mp3||Argyle Street, Birkenhead|
|MAR Advert - Skeleton Records - Robin Blind - 32seconds.mp3||Argyle Street, Birkenhead|
As well as the signal still suffering from the heterodyne following the frequency change to 1125kHz the week before, the station appeared to be also having other issues on Sunday 25th November, with transmissions being cut during the Mike Stand show. The station returned with continuous music just before 8pm and the Simon James show went out for a few minutes before leaving the air again. MAR was off the air the following weekend but returned on 8th/9th December.
|Strong whistle is apparent on the station once more this evening|
|The Mike Stand show is cut short as the transmitter leaves the air|
|1979_11_25_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_2000-2003_SimonJames_tx_cuts_off-EM130.mp3||The transmitter comes back on, but cuts out again just after the start of the Simon James show|
The first report of the new Merseyland Alternative Radio may have been in 'The Radio File' November 1979 edition. At this point the station had only been on the air a few weeks and was still on 259m, 1197kHz. The Radio File had it listed as 1188kHz however. This was probably due to the fact that MAR were announcing as 259m. Radio Caroline used to announce 259m, 1187kHz in the 1970s before they changed to 962kHz, and also before the international frequency changes which took place in 1978. This altered some channels by 1kHz, 1187kHz to 1188kHz, and 962kHz to 963kHz for example.
The station was missing from the airwaves for most of the previous two weekends. According to comments heard on the air, this was due to both Post Office activity, and some internal 'disputes'. Merseyland Alternative Radio made a triumphant return however on Saturday 8th December 1979 with a strong signal and clear audio. The heterodyne whistle which had been causing evening reception issues to fringe listeners since the change to 266m on 18th November had now been fixed. Paul Jay left the station during the time off the air, and so Bert Williams now did a 4 hour show. Dave Simpson was also missing, so the Saturday lineup looked as below.
|2000-2200||Simon James Disco Show|
|2200-2400||Paul Raven Album Rock|
|1979_12_08_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1200-1230_JohnDwyer-EML506.mp3||The start of the John Dwyer show is late due to to the Mike Stand tape being put on instead|
|1979_12_08_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1205-1220_JohnDwyer-gh203.mp3||Airchecks recorded whilst driving on M62, showing strength of signal|
|1979_12_08_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1325-1510_JohnDwyer_BertWilliams-gh203.mp3||Bert talks about location, yellow vans and internal dispute issues and also Paul Jay leaving the station.|
|1979_12_08_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1330_JohnDwyer_mentions_heterodyne-gh203.mp3||John Dwyer mentions that whilst off the air for two week, the heterodyne (whistle) on 266m has been fixed.|
|1979_12_08_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1510-1545_BertWilliams-gh203.mp3||The audio on this one gets gradually distorted due to low battery whilst being originally recorded in car.|
During high winds on Saturday 15th December, the station left the air during the afternoon as the aerial wire snapped. The aerial was strung back up and test music was heard prior to 8pm that evening, with the regular show from Simon James commencing at 8pm. Shortly into his show the aerial blew down again and the station left the air. The schedule for Sunday 16th was expected to be as below, although comments in the evening referred to the 'fans in yellow vans' causing a break for 2 hours at 4pm.
|2000-2200||Simon James Disco Show|
|1979_12_15_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1947-2011_SimonJames-tx_cuts_off-EM9.mp3||Continuous music and the start of Simon James. Aerial then blew down putting station of the air.|
|1979_12_16_sun_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1802-1832_MikeStand-EM9.mp3||Mike Stand comments on the aerial issues the previous day which caused the loss of his show.|
|1979_12_22_sat_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_2100-2130_RobinBlind-EM54.mp3||Robin Blind returns after being ill for several weeks|
A special broadcast was put out on Christmas day involving all the
deejays involved in the station.
|1979_12_25_tue_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1050-1125_ChristmasDay_Special-EM14.mp3||Following some Christmas music, John Dwyer introduces the special Christmas Show, then Paul Raven joins him in the studio|
|1979_12_25_tue-Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1125-1155_ChristmasDay_Special-EM14.mp3||Paul Raven continues and is followed by Robin Blind|
|1979_12_25_tue_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1155-1225_ChristmasDay_Special-EM15.mp3||Robin Blind hands over to Bert Williams after midday. Bert leaves the microphone on during the first record. Dave Simpson follows Bert.|
|1979_12_25_tue_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1225-1255_ChristmasDay_Special-EM15.mp3||Dave Simpson is making his first appearance for a number of weeks and is followed by another stint from Robin Blind who seems to be making up for being ill in previous weeks|
|1979_12_25_tue_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1255-1325_ChristmasDay_Special-EM16.mp3||Simon James comes to the mic and then Phil Shaw, before Mike Stand takes over, by which time the beer has been flowing|
|1979_12_25_tue_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1325-1355_ChristmasDay_Special-EM16.mp3||Mike Stand hands over to John Dwyer who finishes off the broadcast|
|1979_12_25_tue_Merseyland_Alternative_Radio_1125am-266m_1355-1405_Christmas_Day _Special_Signoff.mp3||John Dwyer signs off the special Christmas broadcast|
The November/December 1979 Issue of the Irish Free Radio Campaign magazine 'Sounds Alternative' carried a report of pirate stations in Liverpool, including Merseyland Alternative Radio. In those days there was a tendancy to announce the wavelength of a station. When converted to kHz, this could be much different from the actual frequency of the station. As a result, in the days before radios with digital readouts there was much confusion when reporting the actual frequency. This can be seen in these early reports about Merseyland Alternative Radio. As far as we are aware, MAR was never on 1103kHz, 1187kHz or 1192kHz. The report shows how good the signal was in its early days..