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Please check out yesternoir.org: HERE.
Please check out yesternoir.org: HERE.
Georgie, Alexis & Luxy
And so the story goes.... Prior to his involvement with Radio Caroline, Ronan O'Rahilly ran the Scene club in London's Soho district and managed a number of pop music artists, including Georgie Fame and Alexis Korner. He recorded a Georgie Fame record on his own independent label, unheard of at the time. He took the record to the BBC to try to get it played. He discovered that the record industry was dominated by EMI and Decca. He then tried to get it played on Radio Luxembourg and again found that the shows were 'owned' by major labels EMI, Decca, Pye and Philips. They were essentially 'payola' shows, and featured only music from the paying label. He said "I have recorded the guy, so I can't get it played, so we have to start a radio station."
This account by Ronan O'Rahilly has worked it's way into the very roots of offshore radio history, however where is the evidence that he ever managed Georgie Fame, Alexis Korner & what about the Radio Luxembourg tale? Lets start with Georgie Fame.
In 1962 Georgie Fame had started a three year residency at The Flamingo Club – famous for its weekend all-nighters where it stayed open ’til six in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights. It was situated at 33 Wardour Street, London, W1. The Flamingo Club which originally specialised in modern jazz was opened by Rik and John Gunnell in 1959. The club quickly became popular with West Indians and also black American soldiers that were still stationed in quite large numbers just outside London and who had few other places to socialise. Georgie Fame once recalled: “there were only a handful of hip young white people that used to go to The Flamingo. When I first went there as a punter I was scared. Once I started to play there, it was no problem.” Georgie Fame, who was born Clive Powell was instructed to change his name as part of Larry Parnes’ stable (he was originally Billy Fury’s pianist).
Georgie Fame was influenced by jazz, blues, and the musicians Mose Allison and Willie Mabon. He was one of the first white musicians to be influenced by ska after hearing it in cafés in Jamaica and Ladbroke Grove in England. He recalled The Flamingo Club was "full of American GIs who came in from their bases for the weekend" who played for him the song "Green Onions" by Booker T. & the M.G.'s. "I had been playing piano up to that point but I bought a Hammond organ the next day."
In 1963 the band recorded its debut album, Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo. Produced by Ian Samwell and engineered by Glyn Johns, the album was released in place of a planned single by EMI Columbia. It failed to reach the chart, but the October 1964 follow-up, Fame at Last, reached No. 15 on the UK album chart.
So let's recap. From 1962 to 1965 Georgie Fame has a residency at The Flamingo Club. He was managed by Laurence Maurice Parnes (aka Larry Parnes) an English pop manager and impresario, who also had Billy Fury and Marty Wilde on his roster at the time. In 1963 Georgie Fame was signed to Columbia Records (an EMI company) and recorded a live album released the following year (1964). Indeed he released three singles in 1964 through Columbia Records.
It's a similar story for Alexis Korner, professionally managed or represented, recorded through major labels, however in his case he preferred to perform live rather produce records, something he consistently did throughout the late fifties and well into the sixties.
As for the Radio Luxembourg tale and the independently produced Georgie Fame single (has anyone a copy? - please let us know) it's hard to understand how this all happened. The big label monopoly is rather hard to swallow since Joe Meek had his own independent label (Triumph Records) and get this! his own show on Radio Luxembourg in 1960. In April 1960 Meek started a weekly 15-minutes commercial broadcast on Radio Luxembourg's English program: "It's A Triumph!". There Meek presented the new releases, hosted by himself (under the pseudonym Johnny Watts) and Ricky Wayne (a later Mr. Universe), who himself became a singer for a while (Triumph released his song Chick'a'roo in April 1960).
Finally Ronan stated that EMI was one of the big boys holding a monopoly over Radio Luxembourg, that's a little ironic considering Georgie Fame was signed by EMI - Columbia in 1963. So what to make of all of this. It's a good story-line as David versus Goliath situations pretty much ensure the little guy gets our notice and perhaps our goodwill. However if it is just that, a story, a tale, then so many questions come to mind, not least of all why did Radio Caroline start, how much more is just myth rather than fact. Someone should write a book about this...
Material for this post was sourced from - http://www.joemeekpage.info/triumph_1_E.htm
We also cautiously used Wikipedia, mainly to lead us to outside sources for Alexis Korner and Radio Luxembourg. With thanks to Mervyn Hagger for wetting our appetite to explore this part of Radio Caroline's history.
Forums Vs Forums
In recent weeks a couple of Free Radio forums one long established the other less so have been acting rather strange. On the older forum a number of articles began to appear that cast doubt on the origins of Radio Caroline being as previously understood. The reaction was something to behold. It was like the 2019 Storm in a Teacup Final had moved into sudden death mode. Individuals demanded censorship - this just had to stop! New names appeared (just like magic) demanded proof on every aspect, some going into meltdown, typing furiously just like our classic old friend Angry Of Tunbridge Wells. Anyone who agreed or concurred there might be something to this were countered as if the Gestapo had turned up demanding to see their papers!
The newer forum became a refugee centre for escaping contributors eager to get away from the melee taking place. Here they were safe to go back to chatting about days of old, their rose tinted glasses safe in the knowledge that they new the true story and nobody could ever change that. Well sort of. Instead they seemed compelled to carry on discussing the other boards goings on, and lobbing insult grenades at the perpetrator of this heresy of questioning Saint Ronan and his historical words of wisdom. One even made physical threats. Now bearing in mind the age of those who frequent these two boards (those with memories of the sixties are not exactly children now) and I have to wonder quite what prompted all of this. One aspect is clear, the approach of the heretic was abrupt to say the least, and this ruffled a good few feathers. Another one was the fact he doggedly stood his ground and hit back with more information, sending one or two into turmoil as they struggled to respond.
A number declared this was all going to end in pain, the original board was heading into oblivion, all this excitement was just to much, ominous warnings continued, the end was nigh! Then calmness returned. The agitator was unceremoniously erased from all history, his threads all deleted, new guidelines issued, and the two forums could now rest with the knowledge that nobodies long held views would be challenged again. Of course none of this was censorship, my goodness how could freedom loving pirates even consider such a thing, no this was merely reaffirming that you were free to post anything radio related as long as it was according to the doctrine of Saint Ronan or didn't cause any glare on any contributors rose tinted glasses.
Nothing to see here, move along please, no that's not irony, no that's not a pot calling the kettle black, this is free speech 1984, sorry 2019 style.
Andy M - 1st Contribution
Radio Now & Then
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