Skip to main content

1966 - The Year That Built Rock: Pirate radio

With the pop music virtually ignored by the BBC, it was anarchy on the high seas.

1966 was the peak of pirate radio – the seaborne broadcasting revolution that saw radio stations anchored in international waters meet British youth's demand for 24-hour pop radio just as rock'n'roll was coming of age. A young Johnnie Walker, then a car salesman, began the year as one of many frustrated listeners, and ended it as a DJ star of the scene.

“Pirate radio had to happen,” he says. “The BBC would only play a few hours of pop music a week, only at weekends, and even then they wouldn't play records longer than three minutes or so – they refused to play House Of The Rising Sun or Like A Rolling Stone, for instance. 

“Ronan O'Rahilly, who started Radio Caroline, couldn't get acts he managed, like Georgie Fame and Alexis Korner, on the radio at all, so he set up his own station at sea. It really took off, and several others followed suit.


More from this edition

Get Involved

Trending Features