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Radio Luxembourg

Based in mid-Europe, Radio Luxembourg beamed English speaking transmissions from 6 pm until the early hours. At that time, commercial radio was verboten in the UK. RL filled the gap. Reception could sometimes be almost un-intelligible or more often as clear as a bell. The great majority of transmissions were sponsored record programmes.

Eagerly awaited by pop music fans, the Radio Luxembourg Top Twenty was broadcast every Sunday night live from Luxembourg itself. The remainder of the English broadcast material emanated from the studios in Hertford Street, in the heart of the Mayfair district. The building contained two studios; four edit suites and three floors of storage and office space. An aged gentleman named Fred, provided tea and buns at, seemingly, every hour of the long working day. Fred was also an active bookies runner!

All material recorded at Hertford Street was flown to Luxembourg on 16" reels of tape, recorded at 30 inches per second. The quantity of tapes was an enormous air freight commitment. The used tapes came back by land. For those interested in the more technical aspects, the tapes recorded at Hertford Street and re-cycled after transmission were often edited heavily from programme to programme. Thus, a one hour tape ready for re-use after block erasure, could contain as many is sixty manual edits - if the edit had not been done well, the join would ‘bump' over the heads affecting the new sound and necessitating a re-take. To obviate the same thing happening at the same point, the tape could be pushed into the head with a pencil just as the join went through. We got good value from our pencils!

Four weeks after I joined the sound staff and after much pressure from the Musicians Union, Radio Luxembourg had their needle time cut by 50%. This caused a massive gap in the scheduling and compelled the management to seek alternative programme material. Thus, many music shows were recorded for later transmission.

Over the following four years we were recording just about every band and singer in the land.

  • Ted Heath Orchestra
  • The Squadronaires
  • Ken Mackintosh Orchestra
  • Norrie Paramour Strings
  • Big Ben Banjo Band
  • Billy's Banjo Band
  • Primo Scala's Accordion Band
  • Eric Winstone Orchestra
  • Cliff Richard & the Shadows
  • Kenny Ball's Jazzmen
  • Chris Barber with Ottilie Patterson
  • Humphrey Lyttleton Jazz Band
  • Joe Loss and his Orchestra
  • Harry Gold's Pieces of Eight
  • The Eddie Calvert Shows
  • Frankie Vaughan Shows.

In the slack off-peak advertising periods, we made filler programmes. Interviews with Frank Sinatra, Johnny Ray, Mel Torme and Stan Kenton gave me the opportunity to act 'producer' and make up several 1-hour programmes using these interviews interspersed with record tracks. Yes, I actually met Stan Kenton! I had a signed photo that he sent me in the forties. I showed it to him and he told me he actually remembered signing it - adding, he didn't t have too many European fans in those days (the old smoothie!). Stan could talk nine to the dozen. Later, I interspersed his dialogue with Kenton tracks to make up (I think) three one hour programmes. Given the time I could have probably made thirteen!  Frank Sinatra wasn't particularly verbose and only the charm of interview David Jacobs got a interview worth broadcasting.

 How I got to become Chief Engineer at Radio Luxembourg is something that would take more time than allotted here. Those that know me will be even more mystified. I often managed to burn myself with a soldering iron. However, as further described in CUE TAPE TED, I more than earned my corn.

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