// Obituaries - R.I.P

John Sales - 26th February 1952 - 5th December 2021

We learned in December 2022 that a friend of ours had very sadly and very suddenly passed away over 1 year earlier in December 2021. John was a lab technician at the University where Paul Johnsson studied Telecommunications Engineering and during his 3 years studying there, a good friendship was formed. We kept in touch with John over the years and would meet up at several offshore radio-related events, as well as via email time to time. John was one of the kindest and most gentle people you could ever meet and was totally devoted to the cause of offshore radio and was a big fan of BigL, Radio Caroline and anything offshore radio related. He was also totally devoted to his nephews and nieces.

We were due to meet up with John in Harwich in the summer of 2021 as there was a small gathering of anoraks around the LV18 lightship moored in the harbour. However, for various reasons, we never made it there. From what we understand, that was the last radio related event John attended and certainly, we were not in touch with him between then and now (December 2022). While we did receive a Christmas card from John in December 2021, there was no other communication via text or email around New Year, which in itself was strange and out of character, and then in December 2022 no Christmas card arriving was the trigger for us to investigate. A quick Google search revealed the reason and that John had sadly passed away suddenly on the 5th December 2021.

We could write an extended obituary here but there is no need as everything is summed up beautifully in this one written by Tony Lawther.

John Sales obituary

In addition, an online book of condolence was set up for people to leave their thoughts of John.

John Sales - Tributes

As is always the case, we have regrets, and we deeply regret not being available during 2020 and 2021 to spend time with John. We knew he struggled during the first Covid lockdown in the UK with loneliness and isolation but felt powerless to do anything to help. There are always things that could have been done and we didn't.

You will always be in our memories John and we are left with an intense feeling that you were taken from us far too early at just 69 years of age.

It was such a strange feeling Googling 'John Sales Obituary' but somehow we already knew what we were going to find. Seeing it in black and white was nevertheless very emotional and shocking, but suddenly everything made sense. Important lesson learned here - check on people you are worried about if you think there is something unusual or out of character going on.

Rest in Peace John.

PJ @ The Rock Service, 28/12/2022

Adrian Bărar - 8th March 2021

We learned today that Adrian Bărar, founder and lead vocalist with the Romanian band Cargo, has passed away on the 8th March 2021 from Covid-19.

This shitshow of a pandemic has claimed so many lives, but this one has affected us the most. It was only a while ago at Christmas we were talking about Cargo on-air, reminiscing about the one and only time we saw them live, rejoicing at how awesome the show was, and looking forward so much so seeing them again in the near future.

Aproape De Voi

R.I.P Adrian

Eddie Van Halen - 6th October 2020

1955 - 2020

Wow. This is big. What an icon and what a legend. Dead at 65 - such a tragic waste. Cancer knows no limits :(

Nigel Grant - 8th August 2009

We'll get round to writing it at some point :)

Ronan O'Rahilly - 1940 - 2020

Ronan O’Rahilly was nothing if not a man with a lot of ideas. The problem was that a lot of them were the kind of ideas that might lead you to think the person behind them was completely nuts.

In 1970, he announced a plan to start a pirate TV station: he claimed to have spent a million pounds on the idea, which involved broadcasting from two cargo planes equipped as studios, constantly circling the British Isles. Around the same time, he convinced the actor George Lazenby to abandon the role of James Bond after one film, telling him that the Bond franchise would collapse in the 1970s, and that he would be better served appearing alongside Germaine Greer in a mostly improvised film O’Rahilly was producing called Universal Soldier. By 1978, a year after The Spy Who Loved Me grossed £148m at the global box office, Lazenby was reduced to pleading for acting jobs in the pages of Variety and offering to work for free.

In the mid-70s, O’Rahilly became obsessed with the spiritual teacher Ram Dass and his philosophy of Loving Awareness, assembling a rock band of the same name to spread the message: O’Rahilly’s big idea was to promote them as the new Beatles, which in critical terms was a little like drawing a vast target on their foreheads and inviting people to take aim. That said, the band’s members might have felt they got off lightly, given that O’Rahilly’s original plan was to literally call them the Beatles. But then, you could forgive O’Rahilly his more whimsical and hubristic flights of fancy. After all, he’d had one idea that changed the face of pop music in the UK. Radio Caroline wasn’t the first pirate radio station – Denmark’s Radio Mercur had begun transmitting from a ship moored in international waters back in 1958 – but it was by far the most important and influential. O’Rahilly had become fixated on the idea while managing Soho nightclub The Scene and working as a manager for Georgie Fame. The Scene was very successful: it catered to mods, playing soul, blues and R&B, music for which there was no outlet on British radio. The BBC’s Light Programme restricted pop music to two shows a week, Saturday Club and Easy Beat, and the chart rundown Pick of the Pops. It wasn’t interested in playing the Georgie Fame single that O’Rahilly had pressed up, so O’Rahilly announced he would start his own radio station to play Fame’s music, using the Radio Mercur model.

Launched in March 1964, apparently named after John F Kennedy’s daughter and staffed by DJs recruited from dancehalls and bars – among them Tony Blackburn, Johnnie Walker and Tony Prince – Radio Caroline, “your all-day music station”, was an instant sensation, not least because its only competition came from Radio Luxembourg, always marred by poor reception in the UK, and a plethora of imitators: Radio Atlanta, Radio London, Radio City, Swinging Radio England. It displayed a willingness to promote artists too wild or innovative for the BBC to touch – riot-provoking R&B iconoclasts the Pretty Things were Caroline regulars; in early 1965, the station alighted on the chiming guitars and harmonies of the Byrds’s Mr Tambourine Man.

It developed an ability to turn singles into hits and artists into stars: the Honeycombs’s Have I the Right? and Tom Jones’s It’s Not Unusual, both No 1 singles, were initially broken by Radio Caroline; Pete Townshend was always quick to credit Caroline’s importance in the Who’s rise to success. In addition, there developed a kind of underclass of singles that never actually became hits, but entered the national consciousness as a result of Caroline playing them to death: Marc Almond recalled hearing David McWilliams’s psychedelic oddity The Days of Pearly Spencer over and over again as a child (Caroline’s attachment to the song was linked to the fact it was released on a label owned by one of its directors); in 1992, his cover of the song finally turned it into a Top 5 smash. It even affected the English language: the term “anorak”, meaning nerdy obsessive, was apparently first coined by Caroline DJ Andy Archer to describe the station’s die-hard fans, who would sail out to the ship on which it was situated in order to meet the DJs.

Eventually, the success of the pirate stations provoked both the government and the BBC into action. In August 1967, the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act was introduced; the following month, most of Caroline’s big stars abandoned the station for the newly launched Radio One, a legal station created in its image. The pirate era’s eulogy was provided by the Who: their December 1967 album Sell Out was modelled as a fake broadcast by the now-defunct pirate Radio London. O’Rahilly and Caroline doggedly carried on – Johnnie Walker stuck with them for a little while longer – but became increasingly obscure: Radio Caroline tended only to impinge on the national consciousness when its ship sank, necessitating rescue by lifeboats. If O’Rahilly’s subsequent schemes tended to the hare-brained, they occasionally contained the germ of an idea. Pirate TV eventually came to pass, without the aid of aircraft; the members of the unfortunate Loving Awareness formed the core of Ian Dury’s Blockheads. (John Turnbull (guitar), Mick Gallagher (keyboards) Norman Watt-Roy (bass) and Charlie Charles (drums). In a sense, it didn’t matter. An entirely new breed of pirate station emerged, with more or less the same USP as Caroline had once had: playing music that the BBC tended to ignore and helping to change pop in the process. Launched in 1970, Radio Invicta was “Europe’s first and only all-soul station”, and eventually launched the careers of Pete Tong and Gilles Peterson; Kiss FM, which appeared after Invicta went off air, featured Tim Westwood, Trevor Nelson, Coldcut and Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B among its alumni. The Dread Broadcasting Corporation was Britain’s first black-owned station; largely remembered as an outlet for reggae, it featured a hip-hop show presented by Neneh Cherry. A bigger explosion in pirate radio came with the rise of acid house and its myriad sub-genres: Kool FM was instrumental in the development of drum’n’bass; Rinse, Deja Vu and Delight did the same for grime.

It was all a long way from Tony Blackburn on board the Mi Amigo, but whether they knew or cared, all these stations effectively owed Ronan O’Rahilly some kind of debt. “Who knows what would have happened had Ronan not got hold of my brain?” pondered George Lazenby, a little dolefully, in a posthumous tribute. British pop music could ask itself the same question.