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THE STATION 'M' STORY
By Dave Wilson
Check out the official Station site also CLICK HERE
More Information, Real Audio and MP3's can be found at The DX Archive
Tom Lodge 1955-1999
Tom Lodge, the founder of Station M in the early
1980's, sadly passed away on Monday 12th July. 1999
Please note that this is NOT the same person as the original Tom Lodge from
the offshore stations in the 1960's.
Roger Dee and Mike Ross (another original Station M guy) are planning a special one off broadcast on the bank holiday in August (Aug 30th), as a tribute to TL. It is apparently due to go out on FM, MW and SW.
See the Merseyside FM pages for more updates
Station 'M' Studio Pictures
Station M Story And Real Audio™ (Link To DX Archive)
Dave Wilson Joins Station M
The Second Location - A high Rise Site
John Freeman Dishes Out The Dosh
The Merseyside Free Radio Association
Tom Lodge Starts North Coast Radio
The Running Of Station M Is Handed Over To Dave Wilson
The New Era - The First Transmissions
Another New Location
The Authorities Take An Interest
Yet Another New Location !
Questioned By The Police !
Station M Moves To The Ford
Dave Wilson Leaves Station M
Roger Dee Continues Alone
Station M on FM.
A Final Word
Station M "International" was a medium wave pirate radio station based on the Wirral, Merseyside. It was on the air almost every Sunday from early 1982 through until the summer of 1984, when the last transmission was made on medium wave. Some FM broadcasts were then made until around the end of 1985.
I joined the station as a presenter in early 1983, and became station manager later that year. I used the name "Dave Wilson" on air. As I was not with Station M from its inception, I am obviously not the best qualified person to write a history of the station. However, until somebody else can fill in the missing information about the early days , my recount remains all that has been written about Station M.
As I am writing entirely from memory, some dates may be inaccurate. I do not have any written records, and as I write this, in December 1998, Station M has been off air for over 13 years.
I will be reasonably accurate about the various locations which were used during the life of the station. I don't see any point in trying to draw a veil of secrecy over things after all this time, especially as everyone involved with the transmission side of things has moved house at least once since then, and is now inactive in pirate radio. I will, however, not disclose the exact locations used.
Tom Lodge and Roger Dee started Station M in late 1981 or early1982. Roger had a keen interest in radio engineering, and had built several transmitters. It was one of these which was first used for the broadcasts of Station M. The location was Tom Lodge's premises in Wallasey. Tom came up with the name "Station M", but would never tell anybody what the "M" stood for. Many people hazarded a guess, thinking it perhaps stood for "Merseyside", or "Mud" as there was rather a lot of mud around the transmission site! (Tom also used "Pop Music" by the group "M" as a theme tune for the station).
During these early days, test transmissions were
carried out on various frequencies, notably 1386 kHz. In fact, I
first heard Station M on 1386 kHz during the summer of
1982. The frequency was quickly changed to 1413 kHz in
order to avoid causing interference to Radio Jackie North, who
were using 1386 and 1395 at the time. (SCR were also using 1386
on weekdays). 1413 kHz became the permanent home for
Station M for the next two years.
Tom Lodge had soon built a transmitter himself, and decided to use that for the station, as he thought it would be more reliable than Roger Dee's. (RD later claimed that TL had simply taken his Transmitter home one weekend and copied it).
The name "Station M" continued to be used for a while, but as engineering improvements improved the signal and transmission range was increased, Tom Lodge began to announce the name "Station M International". This was just for a joke, and was often followed by fits of laughter from Tom! I can also vividly remember Tom often saying "This is Station M, pirate radio, very illegal and very naughty!"
The Early Days
This first stage of Station M was very enjoyable for everyone concerned. A lot of people involved with pirate radio would turn up to the location, near the old "Unit Four" cinema in Wallasey, for the regular Sunday transmissions, with some listeners even turning up. The transmitter used four 807 valves in the output stage. Screen grid modulation was used, resulting in an RF output power of around 50 or 60 watts. Programmes consisted of a mixture of taped and live shows, and a good listener base was built up. Although the location did not allow for an antenna very high above ground level, Station M put out a respectable signal during this period. The modulation was, however, not the best quality, and Roger Dee was busying himself building a new transmitter with the aim of improving audio quality and signal strength.
The only DJ's I can remember from 1982 were Tom Lodge, Roger Dee, Eric Monaghan and John Freeman. There were other presenters, but I can't remember their names! Eric Monaghan was at this time claiming to be the "station manager". I think this was mainly due to the fact that he had paid to get some car stickers printed! Tom Lodge did, however, humour Eric, as he did a lot of running around for the station.
Roger Dee once told me that Station M received a visit from "the post office men" at this site, but Tom Lodge simply picked up his transmitter and carried it over to his car. He put it into the car boot and told the GPO to "go away", which they did!
As well as continuing with Station M, Roger Dee began his own station "RNI", using his newly built transmitter, on Fridays on 1359 kHz. The Tx used an EL84 oscillator, an 807 buffer and four 807's in the output stage. If I remember correctly, it used "plate and grid" modulation, which he claimed gave about 120 watts output. Although the RNI location, near to Seacombe Ferry, was a couple of miles further away and at a lower altitude than the Station M site, the signals at my house in Moreton were the same strength. The RNI modulation was quieter, but better quality. I seem to remember doing a couple of taped shows for RNI at one point.
"Dave Wilson" joins Station M
I got involved with Station M after sending in letters and signal reports to Tom Lodge during 1982 and 1983. In one letter I mentioned that my friend Kevin Palmer and I wanted to join a station, or get our own off the ground. By this time, I had occasionally been on a station called "Radio Veronica", which was run by Steven Bishop on 1431 kHz between 10 pm and 12 am weeknights, so the name Dave Wilson was known in pirate radio circles. I was also a well known listener. Kevin Palmer was at one time a presenter on Merseyside Free Radio, which used to broadcast on Sundays on 1242 kHz, and if my memory serves me correctly he actually left that station to join Station M. In any case, MFR were none too keen on his "defection"! We were both only 15 years old at this time.
Eric Monaghan was fond of meeting listeners to distribute car stickers, and got in touch to arrange a meeting with myself and Kevin Palmer. I remember him turning up at my house in a truck, with Tom Lodge. Eric came to the door fist, and after saying hello, called over to Tom Lodge who was still sitting in the truck. I remember, as a 15 year old pirate radio fanatic, being in awe of the rather large, long haired Tom Lodge! They both came in for a cup of tea, and eventually we were invited to join Station M.
Soon after meeting Tom Lodge, I bought an old transmitter off him. This was a 30 watt Tx, and was supposedly the ex LBC backup rig. It never worked properly, and eventually Tom took it away to get it working. I never did get it back, but I didn't mind, as I was now a Station M presenter!
The Second Location - A High Rise Site
The week before Kevin and I joined Station M, the transmission site had been moved to a new location in a high rise block of flats in Moreton. (This block had been used by many stations in the past).
I remember myself, Kevin and another friend tracking the station down on the first day of broadcasts from the new site. We had decided, the previous week, to track the station to the Wallasey site (which we had never seen), and pay a visit.
So, without realising Station M had moved, off we went on a bus to Wallasey the following Sunday. We got off the bus in the middle of Wallasey, and took another direction reading. We wandered around Wallasey for a couple of hours, and could not understand why the signal was weaker than at our houses in Moreton! (I can remember noticing that the Radio Jackie North signal, coming from Liverpool on 1386 kHz, was very strong near to the River Mersey in Wallasey, stronger than Station M!). Eventually, we go the bus back to Moreton. As the bus neared the flats, Station M was absolutely blasting out, and Kevin and I both shouted simultaneously "Its coming from The Heights!" (The 3 tower blocks' names all ended in "Heights" at that time). We jumped off the bus and finished "tracking" the station down to the flat, now accomplished by looking for the aerial, which went from a flat in one block to the very top of another block across the road.
This new location obviously had a profound effect on the signal, which was now one of the strongest of all the Merseyside pirates. The modulation was also the loudest, as Tom Lodge constantly wanted Station M to be "the loudest thing on the band".
The only disadvantage to the new location was that all shows were taped. The tapes were played back on a twin deck radio cassette player, with a microphone connected for live announcements. This arrangement did mean, however, that tape changes were seamless. Tom Lodge would open and close the station with live announcements, playing the station theme tune "Pop Music" by "M" to open up the transmissions on a Sunday morning. We still operated a Sunday only service, with programmes running from approximately 11 am until 9 or 10 pm.
We would take turns to sit in the flat with the transmitter, and do tape changes. Tom Lodge would tend to be there in the morning, and Roger Dee would be there later on. I remember one occasion when I was at the flat, and Tom put out an announcement for Roger Dee, asking for him to bring his 1413 kHz crystal with him, as the one we were using was slightly off channel, producing a whistle. When Roger arrived with the crystal, Tom just pulled the old one out and pushed the new one in, without even bothering to turn off the transmitter, much to Roger's amusement.
Another occasion that springs to mind was a time when Roger Dee was sitting with the transmitter one Sunday evening. Somebody was late delivering the programme tapes for the rest of the night, and Roger was left with nothing to broadcast until they arrived. He managed to talk live for nearly half an hour non stop, with no backing music, until the tapes arrived. Some of the things he thought of to say were hilarious, and the incident was mentioned on all the other pirate stations the following weekend. I remember Andy Davies from MFR found the incident particularly amusing.
Station M presenters at the time, early 1983, included :
Tom Lodge (station engineer)
Kevin Palmer (who later went on to work on several Irish stations, followed by the ILR
MFM, then Atlantic 252 amongst others)
Pete Heaton (who had previously been known as Pete James on "RadioWombat")
Roy Kelly (who later went on to work on BBC Radio Merseyside)
Apologies to anyone I have missed off the list.
John Freeman Dishes out the Dosh
Worthy of particular mention is John Freeman. He used to run a competition each week, with £15 up for grabs. He would play the intro of a song for a few seconds, and listeners had to "name that tune". The first correct answer out of the hat won £5, the second £4, and so on with the fifth winning £1. Before I joined the station, I would enter the competition every week, and I often won the £5. Eventually, he made the tracks more obscure, and my answer was sometimes the only correct one, so I still won the fiver. I remember John rather begrudgingly announcing that I had won £5 for correctly identifying the first few seconds of "Walking On Thin Ice" by "Yoko Ono". John must have been relieved when I joined the station and stopped winning all his money, although he still owes me £12 in prize money to this day! Another station actually recorded a hilarious song called "The Freeman Rap", which took the Mickey out of his "5 pounds, 4 pounds, 3,2,1" competitions. Some of the words were : "Even though my show is dull, my letter box is always full, but sometimes I do declare, it costs a bomb to stay on the air"
The Merseyside Free Radio Association
Tom Lodge founded "The Merseyside Free Radio Association" in 1983. This was really just a series of meetings which anyone connected with free radio could attend. Tom was fed up with the constant rivalry between the various stations. This had resulted in on air "slagging off" of the opposition, and sometimes even jamming of other stations. As I mentioned above, some presenters had even written songs about other people connected with pirate radio, and made them into "records", although this was only really a bit of fun. Meetings of the MFRA all took place in pubs in Liverpool, as the people from the one or two Liverpool stations were unwilling to come to the Wirral, where the majority of the many pirates operated from.
Tom Lodge had very honourable intentions with the MFRA. His plan was to get everyone sharing transmitters and frequencies. This would have made things better for the listeners, who would have had a station on every day of the week, and would have presented a strong "united front" against the authorities. Sadly, these hopes were never fulfilled, although two other radio stations began using the Station M transmitter and location to broadcast. These stations were Radio Veronica, who were on Friday nights, and Radio Eleanor, who were on Saturdays. Of course, most stations wanted to continue with Sunday broadcasts.
Radio Veronica used 1413 kHz and 1611 kHz, and Radio Eleanor used 1413. They announced "214 metres", because it rhymed with "Eleanor", rather than the actual 212 metres which Station M announced. I remember Tom Lodge telling listeners to listen on Saturdays for Eleanor, and saying something like "Don't forget to listen out for Radio Eleanor on Saturday, on this frequency, well not on this frequency, but on 214, which is just, sort of, to the side a bit, but if you tune here, you should find them hereabouts, anyhow, on with the music".
Tom Lodge starts North Coast Radio
Towards the end of 1983, "Peanut Kenny" of the original Radio Eleanor decided to start a new "commercial" pirate radio station. This would operate along the lines of LBC, an earlier venture which Peanut Kenny was involved with. Tom Lodge was to be the engineer of this new organisation. Tom began asking listeners of Station M to suggest a name for the new station. A prize of £100 was to be given to the person who submitted the best name. Eventually, the name "North Coast Radio" was picked. The £100 was not awarded, as it was claimed that this name had not been submitted by anyone. In fact, my mother claims to have submitted this name! I supplied Tom Lodge with a 1512 kHz crystal for NCR. This frequency was good for picking up listeners tuning between the local BBC station, Radio Merseyside 1485, and the local ILR, Radio City 1548. Unfortunately, 1512 had been clear at night when I ordered the crystal some time earlier for my own station, but by the time it arrived a strong foreign station had appeared, meaning that 1521 kHz was now a better channel!
The running of Station M is handed over to Dave Wilson and Roger Dee
Because of his commitments with NCR, Tom Lodge decided to end has involvement with Station M. He called myself and Roger Dee to a meeting in "The Twenty Row" pub in Wallasey, and told us of his decision to quit. He then asked us to carry on with Station M, and appointed me as "station manager", and Roger Dee as "engineer". We inherited the DJ's who were not required on NCR, this obviously included ourselves! However, we lost the location, as it was now to be used exclusively by NCR, which was to operate 7 days a week. The Station M transmitter was to be used as a back up by NCR, so we were to use Roger Dee's Tx.
The presenters who were left on Station M at this time, around September 1983, were :
Dave Wilson (station manager)
Roger Dee (engineer)
The New Era - The First Transmissions
Roger Dee and I decided to get on the air as soon as possible. We were back the very next Sunday, using Roger's 120 watt transmitter and a high rise location about a quarter of a mile from the old one! My sister happened to live in the flat, and she and her boyfriend begrudgingly agreed to let us broadcast from there for a couple of weeks. We went to the site on the Saturday, and with the help of my father put up a long wire from the flat to a nearby tree, which Roger Dee climbed. It was quite hazardous dropping the wire down from the flat window, as there was an electricity sub station between the block of flats and the tree! Another problem with this particular flat was that we could not see the entrance to the tower block from any of the windows, so we could not keep a look out for the DTI.
We were still using 1413 kHz, also announced as 212 Metres.
The signal from our new location was fantastic, and seemed to
take NCR by surprise. Kevin Palmer had joined NCR, and he told me
that they were having problems with "Station M RF"
getting into their equipment! They were none too pleased about
this, and later went on to slag us off on air. Tom Lodge claimed
that he had told us not to use the name "Station M", as
it was his name. I never received payment for the 1512 kHz
crystal which I supplied to NCR. Tom Lodge said it was the
"wrong frequency", although NCR continued to use 1512
until they closed. Our differences were sorted out amicably a
couple of weeks later.
Another New Location
After a couple of weeks in the high rise flat, we had to move on, as my sister's boyfriend was not too happy about us using the flat on a permanent basis. We moved to my parents' house in Moreton. Obviously, the signal suffered. Several aerials were tried over the coming weeks. We eventually developed a good antenna system which was attached to the tops of two houses and a disused telegraph pole, and with a decent ground plane system, we managed to put out a good signal and build up a good listener base. I used to receive around 5 or more letters per week from listeners at this time. I remember Kevin Palmer coming around to my house one night, and in conversation he said that we must be making up letters to read out on air. Without saying a word, I went over to the chest of drawers in my room, removed a draw and emptied the contents out onto his knee. The whole draw was full of the 50 or so listeners letters which I had received over the last few weeks, all still with the franked envelopes. Kevin couldn't believe it as he had only received 3 or 4 letters in all his time in pirate radio. It's funny, really, that he was the one who went on to a career in legal radio.
Ray Rochford had joined the station by now, and we used his car to get to phone boxes in order to conduct phone in's. These were always successful, and we would normally receive 10 or 12 calls in a half hour phone in. Ray Rochford worked as a mobile DJ, and we normally had all of the records requested on the phone ins. Ray would do the request show live, using his extensive record collection.
We were even on the air on Christmas Day 1983. Roger Dee took the transmitter home to Seacombe and did the broadcast from there. All shows except his were taped. On New Years Day 1984, we were back at my parents' house in Moreton. As was nearly always the case, the programmes were a mixture of taped and live. The Dave Wilson and Roger Dee shows tended to be a taped hour followed by a live hour each. We would open up the day's transmissions around 11 am. There would be live announcements and chat from the start of the transmission until 12 noon, followed by 2 hours of Dave Wilson, 2 hours of Roger Dee, followed by the other 4 DJ's. Roger Dee and I would then go live until we'd had enough for the day. We had stopped using "Pop Music" by now, and would always play tracks from the instrumental album "Love and Dancing" by "The Human League" to open up the station, and I suppose the instrumental version of "Don't You Want Me" became the station theme by default.
Joe Connelly joined the station as a presenter around this time.
The Authorities Take An Interest!
At the end of January 1984, the DTI were in the area, presumably to silence North Coast Radio and Storeton Community Radio, and paid us a visit. They never gained entrance to the transmitter site, and went away empty handed. We had obviously spotted them while they were just finding our location, before they got the search warrant which was required in those days. In fact, we were not keeping a lookout, and somebody connected with the station saw them quite by chance. When we clocked the DTI, the house turned into a hive of activity. I was on the air live at the time, and set about frantically trying to hide some of the studio equipment. I disconnected the audio lead from the transmitter as Roger Dee pulled the crystal out of the Tx and shut it down.
The DTI knocked at the door of a house which one end of a long wire was attached to. Someone went to the door, and entered into a conversation with the DTI men. They said that the fundamental frequency was "not the problem", but "it's your harmonics which are causing interference". As the person who spoke to them had nothing to do with the station and knew nothing about it, and as the DTI had no warrant, they went away saying that they would be "back with a warrant". It is interesting that they mentioned harmonics, though. At the time SCR were transmitting on 1296 kHz, and were putting out a massive harmonic on 2592 kHz. They were raided by the DTI, possibly on the same day we got the visit. We had checked our second harmonic out previously, and as the transmitter was filtered, the harmonic was very weak just a couple of hundred yards from the transmitter.
Several presenters were present at the time of our visit, including Joe Connelly and John Freeman. I remember a funny thing which happened as we all ran around panicking, John Freeman was running around frantically shouting "where is my bobble hat!", over and over again. He used to travel down from Southport to do his show on a Sunday, doing a bit of train spotting on the way, and must have been worried that he would be cold on the way back if he had to "do a runner" without his hat. At the crucial time, he was clutching his bobble hat in one hand and his packed lunch in the other, gibbering nonsense. John Freeman and Joe Connolly left the station after this incident. Pete Heaton and Phil James had just left the site when the DTI arrived, and we never saw either of them again. Presumably all four of them were scared of being present if we were raided. I was sorry to see Pete Heaton go, as he was always very enthusiastic about the station, and likened it to his days on Radio Wombat. Ray Rochford also left the station to join NCR, which was a bit of a blow.
As soon as the DTI had left the area, my dad gave us a lift
to Roger Dee's house with the transmitter. When he'd gone, we
decided to go back on the air from there. The only problem was
that Roger Dee had left the 1413 kHz crystal hidden in a waste
paper bin at my house!
We went to the bus stop, intent on catching a bus back to my house to get the crystal. After a few minutes, Tom Lodge pulled up in his car. He was on his way to Roger Dee's house to see why we had gone off the air suddenly, saw us and stopped the car. (Some listeners had realised what was happening, as I had the microphone open when the panic started, and my mum ran into the room shouting my real name!) Tom offered us a lift back to my house, but on the way made us see sense, and we decided not to go back on the air.
We all went back to Tom's house for a coffee, and discussed
the days events. From our descriptions of the DTI men, Tom
identified one as Eric Gotts. According to Tom, he had been sent
up from London to take North Coast Radio off the air. In fact,
the DTI had been hanging around the NCR location, but NCR stayed
on the air. They had a dozen or so long wire aerials strung
between three high rise blocks of flats, and were using a 12
valve Tx, anode mod, for around 480 watts of power. It was hard
for the DTI to tell which aerial was in use with all that RF
flying around! Eventually they began to take down the long wires
which were attached to the roofs of the flats. NCR were
putting more up as the DTI were taking them down! If my memory
serves me correctly, NCR was eventually raided around this time
and closed down.
Yet Another New Location!
Tom Lodge advised us to stay off the air for a few weeks, but we came back from a new location the very next week after the attempted raid. The station was now at its fifth transmission site, Roger Dee's home in a ground floor maisonette in Seacombe. The problem was once again that we couldn't erect a high enough aerial. We had built up a good listener base around the Moreton / Upton area, and our signal in that area was now considerably weaker. I received several letters from loyal listeners complaining of a poor signal, especially at night, but all I could do was tell them that there was nothing we could do until we found another location.
There were now only two presenters, Roger Dee and myself Dave Wilson. We were both presenting around 4 hours each every Sunday, from around midday until 8 pm. The poor signal and lack of variety meant that the letters began to trail off. As neither of us had a car, phone ins were difficult, and when we did manage a phone in we were only getting a couple of calls. Our location was right on the banks of the River Mersey, and we would sometimes use a very low powered FM transmitter in parallel with the medium wave transmitter. The FM was only intended to cover the centre of Liverpool, which we could see from our studio window. If nothing else, we had a nice view while we were doing our programmes! I can remember listening to Central Radio from Liverpool as I presented my show, if I remember correctly Steven Bishop was on Central at that time. We would also listen to the other Wallasey based pirates while we were on the air, these were Channel 5 on 1242 kHz and Radio Eleanor on 1449 kHz. Eleanor were only a mile or so away from us, and a very upset Paul Rogers from Eleanor paid us a visit one day, just after Roger Dee had referred to his station as "Radio 'ell of a bore"! (In my opinion Eleanor was excellent).
I was having to get the bus from Moreton to Seacombe and back every Sunday, usually carrying a hi-fi amp, a cassette deck or two, an audio mixer, microphone, headphones and tapes, and lugging that lot around whilst trying to get on and off buses on a Sunday morning was not my idea of fun.
We did, however, pick up some new listeners in Wallasey.
The word had got around my school, and some of the kids from
Wallasey were listening to the station which was "blasting
out" there! We were, however, on the lookout for a new
location, and I persuaded one lad from school to let me use his
house in Wallasey. At the last minute he changed his mind, but
instead set it up for us to use his friend's house. Thus, we did
one broadcast from our sixth location; a house in the Poulton
area of Wallasey.
Questioned By The Police!
We got the bus from Roger Dee's house to the site in Poulton. I had been to the site on the Saturday and put up an aerial with the help of my friend. This ran from the upstairs window of the house to a balcony on a block of maisonettes opposite. As with most of our transmission sites, there was the potential for a good aerial but we had no way of getting to the top of the block of maisonettes. However, the signal we got out from that site was much improved, especially around the Moreton area. Tom Lodge came out and tracked us down to see where we were.
After the broadcast, Roger and I decided to walk back the mile or so to his house with the equipment. We had just gone around the corner when a police car screeched to a halt. Two police officers got out and questioned us. When one of them looked at the transmitter he actually said "You're not one of those illegal radio stations that are operating in Wallasey, are you?". Putting on his best voice, Roger Dee replied "Good god no! We're Radio Amateures! I'm G3XO79A3B, and this is my home built top band triple duplex transceiver!" , or something very similar. The other policeman took me to one side and asked me what I was carrying, covered by a bin liner. I replied "An amplifier, a tape deck, a mixer, headphones, a microphone, some tapes and some letters." He had a look, but didn't seem interested. They apologised for holding us up, explaining that they had to be on the look out for stolen videos etc., and let us go on our way!
Interestingly enough, I had been stopped by the police in the street only a couple of weeks earlier. On that occasion, I had just got off the last bus home from Roger's house. I was taking a little FM transmitter home to have a play with, and also had some tapes with "Dave Wilson" and "Roger Dee" written on them, along with a few letters addressed to "Dave Wilson". Again, a police car screeched to a halt and two policemen got out. One of them asked me what was in the bag I was carrying. I replied "A disco sound to light unit". He made me take the box out of the bag, and shone his torch onto it. I cringed as the words "3 Watt FM Transmitter" clearly came into view. The other officer asked his colleague what it was, and the guy looking at the transmitter shouted back "It's a sound to light unit, for a disco!" I was asked what else I was carrying in the bag, and I replied "Tapes and letters". One of the policemen informed me that they were looking for stolen alcohol from the off licence up the road, and as I was obviously not carrying alcohol they let me continue on my way.
Perhaps Merseyside Police realised that they had more
important fish to fry.
Station M moves into Ford Towers
We made another broadcast from my sister's flat in Moreton, then we luckily managed to obtain the use of a flat in one of the "Ford Towers", a group of high rise blocks on Birkenhead's Ford Estate. (These tower blocks have now all been demolished). Steven Bishop used to live in "The Towers", and had been broadcasting his many transitory stations from there for years. MFR had also used his flat as a location at times. Steve actually moved out of the flats at almost exactly the same time we got our location, so the estate lost one pirate radio station and gained another.
This site had two problems, one was that like the Moreton flat we could not see the entrance to the block from any of the windows, and so once again could not keep a look out. The other problem we faced was finding somewhere suitable to run the aerial to. Although there were 4 blocks of flats that made up Ford Towers, the flat we were in was in one of the end blocks, on the side facing away from the other blocks. This made for a nicer view, but made it impossible to run a wire to the top of another block! Nevertheless, we ran an aerial from the window down to a tree at the back of the flats. We spent a lot of time putting up aerials at this site, but they nearly always disappeared before the next week's broadcast! We presumed the local kids were to blame. We couldn't get the wire high enough up a tree that was hard for the kids to climb, as the area behind the flats was full of loads of trees, and the wire kept snagging as we tried to put it up!
For the first couple of weeks, we persevered with these aerials, although I was told that the signal at my house was not as good as you would expect from a high rise site. I put this down to the fact that the signal was being blocked by the tower block on one side and Bidston Hill on the other! We actually resorted to knocking on the doors of houses nearby, and asking if we could attach our pirate radio aerial to the house! Of course nobody agreed, although everyone was well aware that there was a pirate radio station in the flats, as I mentioned Steven Bishop had been on air from there for years.
Eventually, we decided to use an aerial strung out of another window to a lamp post. We had no ladders, however, and never managed to get the wire high enough up the lamp post to prevent it being pulled down during the week.
We were now doing a taped hour followed by about 3 hours
live each. Roger Dee had the bright idea of connecting two
microphones to one lead, so when we did the live shows we could
both speak. What this meant was that he would continually
"butt in" during my programme, and the whole thing
degenerated into a farce. Kevin Palmer commented to me that he
could not listen to my show, as Roger Dee was talking all over
it. During his show, I would leave him to it. I began to lose
interest at this time. I had to do my "O" levels in a
month or so, and wanted to spend the next few weekends studying,
rather than putting aerials up and sitting in a flat. I also felt
that Roger Dee wanted to be on air all the time himself, so I
decided to leave him to it for a while.
Dave Wilson Leaves Station M
Easter Sunday 1984 was coming up, and I told Roger I was going to leave Station M to him for a while, and spend Easter at home studying. He talked me into going on the air, although I was only going to stay for an hour or two. The problem was that getting to the location and back took time, especially on a Sunday. During this period, we were giving Tom Lodge the petrol money to go to Seacombe to pick up Roger Dee, then come to Moreton to pick me up and take us both to the Ford to broadcast. Then he would come back and run us back home when we went off the air. All the time I had been doing pirate radio, I had been financing it from my paper round delivering the local free paper. I was still only 16 years old at this time. I was getting a bit fed up of spending two nights of the week delivering papers to fund the station, and often all weekend preparing shows and putting up aerials.
Anyway, Tom picked me up as usual on Easter Sunday, and we
were due to do a live link up with his new station ABC FM, which
was normally on Sunday evenings on 96.25 stereo. All was well
when we got to the flat, as the aerial was still up for once.
When we were telling Tom what time we wanted picking up, Roger
Dee and I had an argument as Roger wanted to stay on late that
night. He blew his top and jumped back into the car, ordering Tom
to take him home. I asked for a lift back too, and we drove back
to Moreton in silence. It was a shame, as the link up should have
been good. Also, North Coast Radio had folded after a raid so Tom
had time on his hands again. I think that he would have
eventually taken over the reigns of Station M again, and we would
have had a better run station with more presenters (Kevin Palmer,
amongst others, was on ABC FM), possibly on AM and FM Stereo from
a high rise location. I would have been more than happy for this
to happen. However this was not to be, as Roger Dee took the bat
and ball home, and once again began broadcasting from his house
in Seacombe by himself. Tom Lodge continued with ABC FM from his
house for a while, then gave up pirate radio for good.
Roger Dee Continues Alone
Roger Dee lost the location at Ford Towers, as this was my then girlfriends flat. He continued with medium wave transmissions on 1413 kHz until around August 1984, from his maisonette in Seacombe. Obviously, he could not be on air continuously for 8 hours, so he began playing old tapes of offshore stations. The signal in Moreton was weak, and I didn't listen that often, so I can't comment on the station around this time. Inevitably, Roger got tired of messing about with aerials on his own, and gave up medium wave broadcasting.
Some time later, the Station M transmitter was sold to
Martin C of Storeton Community Radio, who had now moved to 1026
kHz following their harmonic problem and raid whilst using 1296
kHz. SCR had been raided again since, more than once I think, and
Martin C needed all the transmitters and parts he could get. He
also ended up with a part built Station M "8 valve"
transmitter which I had been building, a sale which I later came
to regret as I started a station called "Radio
Suburbia" in 1986, and had to get Roger Dee to build me a
complete new transmitter. Apparently, both the Station M Tx and
the part built rig were taken in a raid on SCR premises before
they had even been switched on.
Station M - FM
Roger Dee had been playing with FM transmitters for some time, and as stated previously we had used very low powered FM transmitters to simulcast Station M in the past. Before he sold the MW Tx, Roger had perfected a high powered FM stereo rig. This was unusual in that it used a valve in the amplifier section, as opposed to transistors. It produced around 100 watts output.
Roger continued with Station M - FM on his own until around the end of 1985. He now lived in Leasowe, and broadcasts were made from his house. I was back on good terms with him by then, and he asked me to rejoin the station, but I wasn't interested at the time. I felt there were two problems with the station now. Firstly, there was no structure to the programming, with Roger just firing up the Tx for a couple of hours when he felt like it. Secondly, I feel that FM does not work to best effect from a low site such as a house. You really need to get the Tx in a high rise tower block to get a good signal out. Part of the problem is that most listeners seem to use fairly cheap portable radios. These tend to be quite sensitive on medium wave, but poor on FM. Most of the listeners of the many FM stations which sprung up in the late 1980's appeared to be using external aerials, so the potential listener base is obviously more limited.
Eventually, the DTI paid Roger a visit. He told me that two cars pulled up, and he heard the DTI officials talking to each other on their radios, as their transmissions were breaking through on the portable radio he was using as a monitor for his live transmission. He claims the phrase "Lets go in and get the little b*stard!" was used. Roger immediately switched off the Tx, and avoided a raid. He later complained to everyone that the DTI had interfered with his radio listening by breaking in on his radio! Soon after, Roger moved house again, and persevered with Station M - FM from there. (This was before the legal Wirral station "MFM" came on air!) I last saw Roger Dee around 1989, and I have absolutely no idea what he has been doing since then, although I wouldn't be surprised if he was still making transmitters.
As I mentioned previously, I began a new station called
"Radio Suburbia" in 1986, and ran that alone for
several months on 1449 kHz, using the very same crystal that
Radio Eleanor had used! Station M nearly returned at that time,
but Radio Suburbia is, as they say, another story. After
that, I ran an FM stereo station called "Q98". I have
not made any broadcasts since 1990.
A Final Word
Looking back over the history of Station M, what I think is worthy of mention is the fact that we only missed one or two Sundays on the air in over 2 years of continuous broadcasts. The same frequency was used throughout this period, and this added to the continuity of service provided by the station. Other pirate radio stations were coming and going and changing frequency by the week in the early 1980's. Also, nobody involved in the running of Station M was particularly well off financially, and the whole thing was run on a shoestring. We never took ourselves seriously, and we always had a laugh and a good time. I think that was not the case for many other pirate radio operators.
A few months ago, in September 1998, I bumped into Tom
Lodge in the street. We chatted for a few minutes about work,
marriage, kids and cars. We never mentioned pirate radio. We
shook hands and went our separate ways.