// About Us.......
It all started in the winter of 1985......well, PJ's interest in Rock/Metal music started then at the age of 10. The Rock Service would have to wait another 13 years, but a lot happened during those 13 formative years.
As a young boy who grew up listening to a mixture of Top 40 music, Radio Caroline time to time and also the odd AC/DC, Sabbath, Led Zep track that my Dad would play time to time, PJ's musical path was set from an early age. This was closely followed by an early interest in Iron Maiden, Metallica etc. Also around this time, a new offshore radio station launched - Lazer 558 - this was totally ground-breaking. Caroline had weathered the legal and political storm since 1967 but they were alone, and perhaps a bit jaded by history, until Lazer launched of course. They had a huge signal all over London, had a very fast 'American' style presenting method, and was predominantly staffed by American DJs. Aside from Caroline, this was perhaps the first real interest PJ had in radio broadcasting.
In 1986 two key things happened. Firstly, one of PJ's neighbours (to be known as the Ferret), introduced me to a new kind of Rock/Metal - stuff that was just breaking new ground, the new wave if you will. Bands like Love/Hate, Kings X, Cinderella. We'd listen to music for hours. I'd hang around outside my parent's house in the freezing cold, waiting for him to get home from work, hoping he'd invite me over to listen to some new songs. He also gave me loads of cassette tapes, which I still cherish to this day. I'd hang around in the garden at weekends, hoping to see him over the fence, and be able to chat about music with him. Mark certainly was instrumental in how my musical taste evolved. Secondly in 1986, something was brewing in the radio World - this time not on boats in the North Sea, but on-land, on tower blocks in London.
PJ discovered the World of land-based pirate radio and not just any old pirate radio, 'Rock' Pirate Radio !!! PJ was aware of a huge wave of illegal stations in London playing reggae, Dance, early House music, but it wasn't until 1986 that credible Rock pirates appeared. Yes, Alice's restaurant had been around since 1981 but PJ never really paid any attention to it and in any case, by 1986 they were gone. RFL had also been on-air since the late 60s but not so much on the FM waveband. It is true though that RFL were still very much active in 1986 when PJ made a new discovery that changed everything. RFM.
In August 1986 PJ was tuning around the radio band trying to find RFL or anything else that was listenable. What I didn't know was that I was about to discover a brand new Rock pirate station, called RFM. I'll include an excerpt from their history to follow below, because it's quite relevant, and good to read:
"The origins of RFM came from two CB-ers who would jam CB channels playing rock music. After a while this pointless activity lost its appeal, and they decided to try to start a rock station on FM called, imaginatively, RFM. Unfortunately neither of them had any ability at transmitter building, so they looked in Exchange & Mart to find a rig. Several transmitters were purchased, but all were of poor technical quality, and this was made worse by the lack of expertise from the RFM crew, who managed to blow 2 of them up!
A test broadcast was attempted from Hampstead Heath, but a rather indiscrete approach resulted in them being confronted by a park warden. They were subsequently chased off a farm in Hertfordshire attempting another test.
Eventually a test transmission was aired on August 14th 1986 and RFM made its first broadcast on the 17th. Announced as 89.7MHz, the transmitter was very poorly designed, and the signal drifted down the band several hundred KHz.
DJs included Dave Fuller, Claire Mansfield and American Dana Jay.
Unfortunately the second planned broadcast did not take place due to a transmitter fault, and RFM was not heard regularly until November 16th, however the broadcasts were still dogged appalling by technical problems. Broadcast were now made from the roofs of council tower blocks.
At the end of December RFM finally recruited an engineer, and technical standards improved rapidly.
Early in 1987 RFM was raided several times, but the new engineering support enabled new transmitters to be built quickly, and the station always returned the following Sunday.
Throughout 1987 the station went from strength to strength, and broadcasts were extended to 14 hours. Live transmissions followed using a studio link.
In September Claire Mansfield left, but RFM continued to grow.
Over Christmas 1987 RFM planned an extended broadcast, but the authorities raided the station three times in four days. In spite of this, RFM was back for a New Year broadcast.
In March RFM promoted sponsorship of a runner in the London Marathon. On the day of the race they broadcast live from the route, interviewing spectators on air.
More people joined the station, and several programmes were presented by other well known names from the London pirate scene; Kenny Myers, Bear, and Christopher England all appeared on RFM.
It is believed that RFM closed down in March 1990."
There are so many brilliant memories locked up in the above brief history of RFM. During their time on air, until 1990, PJ was still at high-school and the significance of RFM and the people behind it wouldn't become clear for another 4 or 5 years.
It's quite strange to think of a radio station that was only on-air for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon/evening - that would be totally unheard of these days. What's even stranger is how much of an impact those precious hours listening to RFM would have on me. The excitement I'd have on a Sunday morning when I woke up, hoping with everything I had that they'd come on air at mid-day or whatever the usual time was. That was my Sunday routine for several years. Any time I had to go and visit relatives or do anything else other than sitting in my bedroom turned into a disaster, and a mad scramble to make sure all of RFM's output that day was recorded for me to listen to later !!!!
The day RFM closed down was like something dying. It was my first real sense of loss in my life at the age of 15. Prior to this though, people had left and broken away, and other radio stations were being planned and implemented, and so RFM wasn't the same as it once was. Change was in the air (quite literally :)). Christmas 1989 brought something new to the airwaves - Rock City Radio. As it would turn out, the people behind Rock City Radio were previously involved in RFM and partially in RFL. There were a series of Christmas broadcasts from Rock City Radio and one very memorable one was in 1990 / 1991. PJ was studying for GCSE exams and up until that point, had been a very dedicated student :). Rock City Radio almost derailed that :) and many revision sessions were skipped in favour of listening to a drunken Nigel Grant on the air !!!!
Luckily enough, RFL were still on-air too, and had been on FM regularly during RFM's period of activity. So at least I still had RFL to listen to at weekends. Rock City Radio was only a very short-term project.
I think it was 1993 when another new Rock Station appeared. PJ discovered this totally by accident one evening. I was looking for any signs of life on the FM band from any pirate station and came across a signal on 106MHz. I could hear 2 people talking in the background and it was clearly some kind of test transmission. This continued for several nights in a row and eventually, Rock 106 launched. Whilst this wasn't quite as ground-breaking as RFM was, it was probably more significant for PJ in many respects. At the time, I didn't know of all the connections mentioned above but it eventually transpired that Steve Martin, Nigel Grant, Richard Hunter were all involved in Rock 106, and all 3 would go on to be good friends of PJ's.
At this point in the story I should mention a Gentleman called Ron Berg. While at Chelmsford Technical college, he was the first person who gave me some insight into how a radio transmitter worked. It was a basic device, 'a bug', built around a couple of transistors. It was very rudimentary but I will never forget that day, as it was the day of PJ's first FM radio broadcast. Well, 'broadcast' is pushing things a bit far, but nevertheless, hearing 'The Four Horsemen' on the other side of the college car park on my walkman, while the 'transmitter' was in a car on the other side (50mt away) was quite something. Everyone has their 'first moment' in this respect, and that was mine. From that point onwards, the passion for radio was well and truly alive in PJ and it is unlikely to leave, just like true love never leaves you in spirit or in thought, even if it's left you physically, it's still there and will be there as long PJ lives. Ron was my radio and electronics teacher for 2 years and during that time, I learnt a lot of theory about radio and in parallel, with the newly formed friendships with Steve Martin et al above, it wasn't long before I stepped things up a gear and was building 10-15W FM transmitters, which actually worked !!
Sadly, Ron is no longer with us, and neither is Nigel. This World has a habit of taking the best people too early, but as they say, Que Sera, Sera.........
Gemma probably deserves a mention here - purely for putting up with me wanting to go and find the Rock 106 transmitter and find out who was behind it !!!! Eventually, after not too much investigation, a few visits to a local rock nightclub, we met Nigel and Steve Martin, and eventually ended up at the studio one evening, probably in 1994 now.
PJ helped out at Rock 106 time to time with several Engineering duties and also presented a couple of programs (which he recalls were terrible !). After a couple of brilliant years of fun and running from the law :), Rock 106 finally experienced a studio raid, Nigel was arrested and charged with an offence under the Wireless and Telegraphy act, and the demise was set. Rock 106 did continue for a few months after that, but the writing was on the wall. Rock 106 was dead - and 10 years later, so was Nigel.
During 1996, PJ decided it was time for the reigns to be taken by someone new. Nothing PJ did, or will ever do, was anything compared to RFM, Rock City Radio or Rock 106, but it seems that when the radio bug gets you, it's got you for life. The formative years would soon be put to the test and certainly through a combination of college, University, Steve Martin, Marconi and many other sources of inspiration, PJ was ready to launch The Rock Service and take over the mantle from those who had been before.
Several slightly dodgy broadcasts were made in 1996 under the name of GEM FM but then in 1997 PJ came up with the idea for the name of 'The Rock Service'. Initially, it was nothing more than a name, and an aspiration, but eventually in 1998 the first broadcast on FM was made. Using a studio in East London and using a transmitter site previously used by Rock 106, the very first broadcast was made. The rest, as they say, is history.
21 years later, we're still here.
21st January 2019