Station M - Detailed History Part 1
The Station M Story - Part 1
By Dave Wilson
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 was then handed over to Dave Wilson and Roger Dee. Click on the link below to read the second half of "The Station M Story"
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