I&I Survive

 

Whilst working at Better Badges I became friends with Leroy later known as ‘Lepke’ as we made a badge for him called ‘I&I Survive’. His concept and beautifully imagined by Megan Green, the in house designer. This would lead to a long friendship and later the creation of ‘Dread Broadcast Corp’

 

The purpose of this blog is to preserve the story as I remember it. There may be a few dates and names missing but I will do my best to be as accurate as possible hoping correcting some myths and mis conceptions……Had been intending to write this for some time but the sad passing of Lepke on 15.03.18 has prompted me to do so. So………………….

The Station is Born

Let's put the period into context...late '70s the world was a whole different place to what it is today here in the UK.. Just 3 TV Channels, only a few independent commercial radio Stations, no internet, mobile phones or the luxuries we take for granted today. The music business was a different place too, hey music was only available on Vinyl and to a minor part pre recorded cassettes. Mainstream radio was dictated to by major record companies that had the power and resources to promote their product so it was rare to hear or have hits from non mainstream artists. Sadly Reggae didn't get too much exposure occasionally the odd hit would surface, soul and funk were more likely to get programmed. Radio exposure of Reggae was extremely Limited while there were a few DJs at Radio 1 that were fans their capability to play the music curtailed by play lists. Here in London there was a weekly radio program inherited from Steve Barnard on a Sunday hosted on alternate weekend by Tony Williams and David Rodigan. There had been a show on Capitol where Tommy Vance presented (not sure here but that was short lived) on a Saturday night. Rodigan went to Capitol and presented on Saturdays his two hour show, so at least a little more music on the radio.

 

So the way music was consumed was by going to Reggae dances and certainly buying records in the abundant record stores that existed. By 1979 I was lodging in Latimer Road and still working at Better Badges on Portobello Road. Lepke was still working for Honest Jon’s now relocated in Portobello Road just a couple of doors down from Better Badges. We’d see each other on a regular basis, he got us records and made tapes so the BB office rocked to reggae as well as rock.

 

Lepke was a regular at Latimer Road as he would drop in as he passed by, it was the age of casual hospitality. He was also the house DJ at the 100 Club on Oxford Street where I hung too each week on Thursdays, it being reggae night. I loved Thursdays as what little money I had left I could spend as knowing the next day pay day. My friend Charlie Wood by this time was also playing in a rocksteady big band he co founded, ‘Nightdoctor’ and if not hanging with Lepke and I, he would also be playing at the 100 Club. It was a care free period, people mixed freely and friendships were formed.

 

Joly who I worked for at Better Badges bought a radio transmitter, said transmitter I found under our work bench one morning, with a massive tangle of Ariel cable. He used it to transmit from the upper floor to the basement when he was working down there. I left Better Badges just as Lepke left Honest Jon’s, he passed by and told me he had been given the radio transmitter by Joly and to be honest didn’t think too much about it until a couple of weeks later he told me he had it set up in his garden and was going to transmit on Sundays. So got a phone call asking if I was tuned in, I had actually forgotten to try plus didn’t have a radio. Charlie got his music centre that had a built in radio and no we couldn’t receive anything….’Rebel Radio’ was born but unheard outside Neasden.

 

Sundays

So a radio station was born albeit on a minimal scale. At this time Lepke along with, as far as I know, teamed up with Dr Watt and Chuckie two DJ friends of his….Dr Watt specialised in revive reggae and Chucky a lighter style. They would record their sets and upload onto an open reel tape so once set up the station would run for a few hours when the BBC’s Sunday ‘Rocker’s Time’ ended. Lepke wanted to brighten up the Sunday afternoon and bring some music to everyone. He was a great club and party DJ knowing how to vary styles to play for everyone and this he bought to this evolving station.

 

He really wanted to provide programming for all, young and old, black and white, true comprehensive entertainment and wherever possible community news. The weekly calls about reception came in and each week we had to report no reception, both in Latimer Road and further into Ladbroke Grove. I learned later from Miss P she got the same call each Sunday and like we folk in Latimer Road either forgot to try and/or simply couldn’t receive.

 

One fateful Sunday the DTI paid Lepke a visit having tracked the signal. Although respectful enough to allow Lepke to finish his Sunday dinner they seized the transmitter and busted Him and Dr Watt …a radio station now without any signal, not good. This is where I got further involved on many fronts. Firstly word had got out about this station and it seemed like a good idea to make cassettes of the shows. I had a little experience of tape duplication so would get the open reel tapes and take to a place in Kings Cross and have duplicated onto cassettes investing the little dole money I had. We’d then sell them recoup the initial investment and any profit went into saving for a new rig. Before I knew what’s what Lepke and Dr Watt would call for me at Latimer Road and off we’d go drumming up support for this station that was blooming. My links with Better Badges came in handy too as Megan Green, the freelance in house designer, mentioned earlier, I gave scraps of plundered graphics that she brilliantly turned into the station logo and later T Shirt design. She did this out of friendship to not only myself but also Lepke who she knew from when he sold records in Honst Jon’s when that shop was on the Golborne Road, she was an avid music collector. Remember this was the age before Thatcher and the greed economy, sort of post hippy. People acted differently and supported one another without ulterior motives. That T Shirt was put into production through 5th Column a T Shirt printers that worked closely with Better Badges in so far as we worked for the same people/bands.

 

 The name ‘Dread Broadcast Corp’ came to me in a stoned state one night lying in bed as a parody of the BBC, in those days was just around the corner from us in Latimer Road on Wood Lane. When I ran that past Lepke he stopped laughed and it was adopted.

 

Now we had a radio station ‘DBC-Rebel Radio’ but alas we were off air. The station had strong visual representation in flyers and T Shirts and we were attracting a lot of attention, Europe’s first Black Radio Station made up of this group of varied peoples……

 

Transmitters

So tranmitters not something you can go down your local electrical store and buy so we had to have one built. We ordered a rig that seemd to take an age to arrive, seemed the guy building had no intention of building one and when he eventually presented a rig it was less that uselss and didn't last being switched on. Not sure how but we discovered the 'Our Radio' people who had a rig they'd lend, the deal being you were responsible for it until it was returned. This worked well for a few weeks, we'd rock up to their place and borrow..hey we were up and running again, this time on a Friday evening 6pm 12 midnight. We also started using our main site the Edwood Woods estate where there were three bocks all the same to choose from. Thing was with other stations popping up and the incident of the base jumper at Trelick Tower councils were tightening security but at our site we had three sites to use all good and not all secure..We were truly up and running.Then we discovered the guy who eventually built our rig.

 

 

Re Transmitters

Dr Watt remembers

 

 

Lloyd Rainford Hi Mike, on the day of the first DTI raid in Neasden the year was 1981, Lepke and I immediately went and picked up an FM transmitter that we had ordered, (this had been previously planned) I can't remember from where but I do remember it was on the last page of the A5 sized A to Z - long before Sat Nav. We then went to my house and recorded a cassette where we told about the raid. We got a cassette player from somewhere - I can't remember where and then we went to some flats in College Park and set up the transmitter and played the cassette I can't remember where the aerial came from, but was where the First FM Tape came about that I up loaded to Sound Cloud about 4 years ago.

 

 

 

Up and Running with Sponsorships

So up and running now, alas not on our own transmitter. We had several financial donations to get our own and an attempt was made but obtaining a radio transmitter no easy task. One was ordered from a builder that proved to be a rip off, it was made and blew up as soon as it was turned on, the builder never apologised or offered to replace so their action were deemed less than liberal and after many an attempt to get a replacement we gave up. Then the builder of the rig we evenntually used was discovered, not sure how he was found but he was a god send. A young guy building rigs from his bedroom at his parent’s house in Kensington. The guy was a genius and built a really reliable rigs, truly plug in and play, he advised Dr Watt about making an Ariel which was made and bingo we were away. No need to use the ‘Our Radio’ rig, new site and ready to roll.

 

Earlier in the 70s Lepke had gone to New York and stayed with his mother who resided there at that time. When there he was intrigued by the wide variety of music to be heard on the multitude of FM radio stations, rock n roll, Latin including Spanish language, black music stations etc etc. One of the influences he bought back with him was sponsored programming, this was where record labels, shops etc would sponsor a show and it was what we did. It served a few purposes, first and foremost revenue, which was sorely needed and of course diversity. We had several labels sponsor slots.

 

Cha Cha Records was a label that licensed Channel 1 product, so was releasing some amazing product real authentic Jamaican productions. The label also was producing local artists most notable Female Lovers Rock artists…so we’d have sponsored slots. Thing was Cha Cha was run by a chap called Errol a very affable guy who had his office behind the Hawkeye shop (one of the many Harlesden shops). Hawkeye had a label too, but for some reason wouldn’t entertain an advert, at that time, their label had many hits so felt they didn’t require more promotion. We’d rock up to Cha Cha Monday morning for our advert fee, Errol had the first coffee machine I ever encountered (pre days of coffee shops) and I enjoyed a cup of strong fresh Blue Mountain coffee, set me up for the day, Lepke and Dr Watt not coffee drinkers had to wait for me to finish my cup..also although the Hawkeye manager would sort of resent us going behind the shop counter we always got a warm smile and greeting from Daddy Ernie who worked there, he was hip to the whole trip.

 

Starlight Records were over the road from Hawkeye and on our Monday visit list. Popsie, Ben and Desmond ran several labels too some of which being re-issued today, The Starlight Label, Black Joy etc. They appreciated our rebel stance and were happy to support, so they too would arm us with handfuls of new releases and take the occasional sponsored spot.

 

Orbitone was run by Sonny Roberts and his shop was down by Willesden Junction station. Sonny was older and more straight laced but a good business man and musicologist…he was actually the man responsible for Trojan records and Island records too, google both their histories he may or may not be credited but he was. Now Orbitone released many different genres of music. Soca, although a Jamaican he realised Soca under represented in the UK so produced and licensed Soca from the Caribbean and America, Big People’s Music which was the reggae music softer and more sentimental this appealed to the older community so it served us well and finally what was referred to as deep ,soul, again like Big People’s music, we garnered an audience from the older generation one of the aims of the station…play for one and all !  Sonny knew how to program and would pull out tunes and select a running order and even request who should present, usually Miss P but other DJs could and would present and a professional approach was required. His shop was incredible to visit on a Friday or Saturday he always had several people at the counter building piles of music to buy, he noticed and told us our shows influenced his sales so we knew we were building a listenership.

 

 

 

Initial Line Up

 

 

So up and running with our shiny new transmitter, great broadcasting site and extended roster of DJs. The roster of DJs now presented a broader base of Black music as was the whole ethos of the station established by Lepke. Unlike other stations that were popping up the station wasn’t for self promotion of the DJs but a service to the community at large. Many of the other stations had club DJs presenting playing soul and funk in the main, these genres were also presented by mainstream Radio, good as they were IMHO nothing too special. Here’s how the Friday night 6 hours of programming ran….

 

Chucky, Chucky’s brief was a lighter side of reggae  giving new releases exposure. Sadly no longer with us he was a long time friend of Lepke the perfect DJ for this spot, he was also the House DJ at the ‘Apollo Club’ the Willesden club owned by the Jet Star company (more about them later)

 

Dr Martin & Smiley presented jump up blues and vintage R’nB. Their shows were short sharp and jumping to say the least. Two friends who shared a love of this genre and it was a way too short 30 minutes of good time music.

 

The ‘Sponsored Slot’, as written about previously labels and shops could buy a slot and present a self programmed selection…for the most part ‘Orbitone’ records took this slot and it proved so worthwhile as Soca music got a look in. Not sure but it may well have been the first Soca programming to feature in a radio show.

 

Dark Star and Lady Di presented a soul show…Dark Star who was Lloyd Bradley selected and his wife presented. Star ran a soul sound system and later went on to become a renowned journalist and author. Lady Di had a wonderful style of presentation and the first of two wonderful female voices championed on the station…more about that later.

 

The Ranking Miss P, Lepke’s sister had her ‘Something For The Girls’ show..After much nagging by Lepke, Miss P got a show together. Dr Watt helped setting her up with a home studio to record. She was a busy young mother with two children but managed to find time to record a show. She soon had a regular audience as her voice so Radio friendly…..again more later.

 

Graeme Ewens and Charlie Wood briefly presented an African music show. Another first as I believe the first dedicated African Music show. Graeme a journalist and later a record label owner along with Charlie who was a musician, my landlord and co founder of ‘Nightdoctor’. They did a sterling job until along came Gus ‘Dada’ Africa who they stepped aside for. Gus had been a DJ at Dingwalls, a musician and had a great presentation style with a wonderful Nigerian accent that was so natural.

 

Dr Watt, the revive master…Dr Watt played the tunes you forgot. One time sound man Dr Watt had/has a great record collection and selected an essential set each week. Having his own home studio where he produced high quality shows. His atmospheric shows utilising echo and effects led to the highlight Lepke.

 

Lepke- ‘The Dread Outta Control’ I’m taking credit for this handle, again a parody of the Mikey Dread handle and it stuck. Lepke’s shows were something else. He took a great deal of time to produce in his home studio. Space echo, synn drums, duck calls, Jingles all mixed up to make a truly wild program. Phone competitions too, how ? yes how as recorded shows  all will be explained later.

 

So there the initial 6 hour programme. This line up would change but this was the basic. The station now a diverse one some firsts, Sponsored programs, Soca and African selections, Reggae new and old and most importantly two wonderful female voices and presenters.

 

DJ Selection and Voices

It wasn’t a written rule but selection of Djs was by choice of Lepke who would invite people rather than entertain those who applied to present. Anyone asking to join was asked to make a demo tape which effectively put people off and not many came up with one. The idea of inviting people to join was in order to have people who it was felt would join the small group and to encourage diversity too.

 

There were a few who were invited that simply couldn’t or wouldn’t entertain the idea. Gus ‘Dada’ Africa rose to the challenge and we were very pleased to have had him on board. He took to radio presentation brilliantly selecting varied African music and his voice on the mic was clear strong and unique. Communication obviously the key to a great radio show, crediting tracks titles and artists then there were the community announcements that were made. I do believe this African music programing was ahead of it’s time and very educational.

 

Now of course great pride with having two wonderful female presenters. Lady Di would present the soul show where her husband Dark Star (Lloyd Bradley) selected. Her voice was natural and she presented without any nerves, well not that any were noticeable. Then there was The Ranking Miss P, her voice was featured on many jingles but once her home studio was set up she made her show. A wonderful voice that garnered her many male listeners who fell in love with her expressive voice. It was with great pride these two ladies were on the station. At that time it was very unusual to have female music presenters so in retrospect we can safely say it was ground breaking and paved the way for many to follow.

 

Jingles

 

 

Jingles were a large part of the station’s identity. Most were produced by Lepke who produced them in his home studio…He had a mixing board a two track Revox, Space Echo and other effects. On hand there was a local friend ‘Devon’ a sound system MC ‘Pebbles’ and the ranking Miss P who sang a few plus she also produced some in her home studio later. Jingles were bespoke and Lepke took their production very seriously and was a stickler for perfection as any producer should be. Those voicing used to be less serious but the end result was always awesome. There were a few jingles made for the station out of support and respect. Early on Michael Prophet voiced the ‘It’s so nice’ jingle used years later on the DBC CD compilation for Trojan. At the time of making Michael was in Ladbroke Grove hanging with Eastwood and Saint and very much the upcoming star, a unique voice and  later went on to greater things. He loved the station and happy to make his classic Jingle. Early days too ‘King Sunny Ade’ the Nigerian superstar was asked by his producer Martin Mesonier to make a jingle. He was making his ‘Ju Ju’ album at Island Records, I think Graeme Ewens had a hand in this venture too and made a Jingle over one of his track intros, two takes one in English one in Yoruba, incredible would love to hear again. Later a tale of my interview with him.

 

I bumped into Papa Levi at Island one time, got speaking with him and asked if he’d make some jingles. He did and a great surprise on a subsequent visit to Island to have a cassette handed to me by Trevor Wyatt. On it several Jingles he cut for us, fast sharp an relevant. Lepke was so pleased as at the time Papa Levi and Saxon were being championed by the station.

 

Finally  ‘Prince Lincoln’ cut a tune for us. Prince Lincoln was residing in Ladbroke Grove, I had previously got to know him through Better Badges, but then he being a friend of Miss P made his classic. Lepke, Dr Watt and I had been out running around town one super hot day and ended up back at Miss P’s. She sat us down in her music room and as she left to fetch iced drinks switched on her open reel tape and out came this song just Prince Lincoln and an acoustic guitar. We looked at each other absolutely blown away. This we used to end the Trojan CD how could we not ?

 

Competitions

Lepke’s shows were so well produced by himself and planned to a T. All shows were pre recorded so links from one recorded show to another were planned and structured. The cassettes were cued so as put into the player and the play button pressed immediate play making a near seamless show. So seamless many thought it was a live broadcast , that would come later. Lepke ran competitions and he came up with a brilliant idea. He found a working phone box that could take an incoming call note the number and use that as the contact for his competitions, plus of course we had a mailing address for competitions….we used our mail order address the much used 286 Portobello Road. So once a phone box was found and the number taken Lepke would run the competition advising the phone line open for a short period. He worked out a point where he’d race off to be at the phone box ready for the competition, it worked brilliantly, like much else we were fairly low tech as this was in the days before mobile phones. Later on when we were live, one evening Lepke returned to the studio with a tape player having done a phone line phone in. He was grinning not letting on why but all came clear when he plugged the tape player into our rig in the studio , he pressed play and a ‘Prince Charles’ impersonator came on, it was hilarious whoever it was kept on about how he and Di were tuned in and ranking, I wish we still had that tape, priceless.

 

It was also a great way to get a response of how far we were transmitting too, seemed we reached a 35-40 mile radius so the listenership had a potential to be huge and testified to the brilliance of the transmitter builder.

 

The Clash

We had great support from several groups and 'The Clash' were there for us too. Lepke had got to know Joe Strummer through record shops, Honest Jon’s, Rhythm Records, Maroon Tunes etc plus of course in the Grove. So the Clash got word to Lepke that they wanted to make a Radio Show at the time we were using the ‘Our Radio’ community radio transmitter. They never, contrary to rumour were actually on DBC, they were introduced to the ‘Our Radio’ people went away and produced an hour long program. This program was a mix of RnB,Reggae and tunes that turned them on. They were also at this time working with Mikey Dread who cut a smokey track for them plus included a reference to DBC,  as well as Joe giving a time check for people to tune into DBC ,If you can find tapes of this show well worth getting. Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon took the plunge went and collected the transmitter set it up and broadcast their show. They also chipped into the DBC transmitter fund, we would see them, well Joe Paul and Mick Jones about the place, they were fast becoming the huge band they eventually became. A short time later they asked DBC to work with them.

I got a call one Saturday morning from Kosmo Vinyl their then tour manager/PR person asking if we’d DJ a show and after party. I took his number and an hour or so later hooked up with Lepke and we worked out how to do it , called him back and confirmed. He offered a sum, a very generous sum so hey ho. This was for their Brixton Academy gig on the ‘Combat Rock’ tour. So Lepke and I went and picked up Miss P and off we went, just had to carry records if I remember correctly plus of course our box of merchandise, T Shirts, badges etc. Set up on the stage that was dressed in military colours, Lepke and I went to set up in the entrance hallway just as the doors opened. In ran the audience to gain best places in the hall. We were in the hall and Miss P came running out telling us ‘they are going crazy in there’ I don’t think she’d ever been to a rock concert let alone a punk rock show. So the show done we took up our place in the foyer, Lepke and Miss P DJed the after party as I sold T Shirts etc. All done we waited for the money we’d been promised, the band’s manager was none to co operative and I remember Joe saying to him in no uncertain manner ‘Pay the fucking money’ which he did through gritted teeth, the band were happy we were happy and great evening had by all.

 

DJ Changes

After a while changes of presenters happened..The first to change were Dr Martin and Smiley. Dr Martin was busy with his managing ‘Nightdoctor’ (more about them later) and his partner Smiley was setting up a business so together they gave notice. Now their replacement DJ was ‘Luke the Duke’ who was/is a radio enthusiast, in fact he was responsible for the Medium wave transmitter going to Joly. His shows were still RnB with early Rock n Roll too bringing in his more rockin’ approach. The soul show also changed presenters, Dark Star and Lady Di stepped aside why I can’t remember but they were replaced by Chucky’s brother, ED real name Edgar. ED was fun and so different to his brother in so far as he messed about in a nice way but his soul selections were always spot on mixing soul and funk. There was another soul presenter, the first person from outside our immediate group called GT, I can’t remember if he alternated with ED, he may well have done, a nice guy but didn’t have the connection with the group so eventually he left for good. More changes later, the station never stood still it was an evolving thing.

 

Nighdoctor/UB40

Two bands that arose at the same time gave support to the station.’ Nightdoctor’ and ‘UB40’ started out at the same time, around the time of the The Two Tone explosion but concentrated on reggae rather than Ska revival.

 

So ‘Nightdoctor’ founded by my friend, landlord plus later DBC presenter Charles Wood and his long time friend Roger Saunders. They were a large band half in London and half from High Wycombe. They specialised in ‘Rocksteady’  and featured an impressive horns section. It was a multi racial band and gigged both in clubs and college circuits. Obviously the London base being Latimer Road, DBC and the band were friends and all supported each other, more later about ‘Striving to Be Free’ the Station’s 12” single cut with the band.

 

UB40 as most will know were from Birmingham, also a large multi racial band but more pop orientated, although later they made their ‘Labour Of Love’ series of covers. They struck lucky getting a recording deal and went on to become a huge world conquering outfit.

 

Not sure how but UB40 did a UK tour and had Nightdoctor as support. Unusual for the time a small fee was earned by Nightdoctor as in those days support acts used to pay to play. Doing two nights in Birmingham Lepke, Dr Watt and I went and were allowed to sell DBC merchandise and also Nightdoctor T Shirts. No grief or hassle from UB40 it was their way of showing support. UB40 had an impressive touring set up with their own cook who when done with food duties would set up their merchandise stand, an organised flight cased set up. The band were totally organised and partied hard too looking after Nightdoctor as well. Coming back to London it was two nights at Hammersmith, here our DBC stall was joined by Linval from the Specials who came hung with us selling shirts too, all enjoyed the nights, so big respect and thanks to both bands.

 

Support

 

 

Yes the station garnered great support form a wide set of people and companies. Previously written about bands who gave support, it was also companies that supported. At first there was of course ‘Better Badges’ who helped with the printing of flyers,cassette labels etc establishing the strong visual image of the station and then of course 5th Column who printed the T Shirts. All involved in both organisations were superbly supportive. Then there were small independent record labels who so appreciated having an outlet for their product. If I recall correctly ‘Danny Ray’ the first to take an advert for his ‘Playboy’ single, so too ‘Bob Andy’s’ label ‘I Anka’ run by Janis Punsford always there with support too. Having a mailing address helped too as we’d find singles posted in to us. The Reggae music industry was hampered by lack of airplay and effective promotion plus distribution, this we recognised and tried to help.

 

The main distribution company in those days was ‘Jet Star Phonographics’. It was a wholesale outlet in Harlesden so would also be paid visits on a regular basis. Very occasionally they bought adverts but were always helpful with asking labels to leave promo records. As previously written radio exposure by DBC could help sales, we noticed when Orbitone who took a sponsored slot reported certain tunes they included would sell faster on a Saturday after their being played.. Jet Star also noticed too as now there was a specialist radio station to expose and promote.

 

While we never had direct contact with ‘Virgin’ former employees were very keen on our operation. Gaylene Martin worked as a PR would mail us music and put people in touch. Then too ‘Jumbo’ who had been A&R for ‘Frontline’ helped too by supplying records as he was now setting up his ‘Earthworks’ label specialising in African music, his input was so helpful and truly appreciated.

 

We would also visit ‘Island Records’ weekly, again the staff there loved what we were doing with support and encouragement. The promo dept had a large cupboard full of promos they’d open the doors and say help yourselves, another company that appreciated radio exposure. Never met Chris Blackwell but we heard he was really into what we were doing. He donated some wonderful equipment, mainly speakers. They had a tape duplication dept and when they updated the cassette decks gave us several of the older ones which we shared around the DBC studios and to Djs. Later they set up an interview with Gregory Isaacs who was riding high as the ‘Cool Ruler’ and also with ‘King Sunny Ade’ but more about those interviews later.

 

We also had support from ‘Y’ records….sadly I can’t remember how we connected but personally I’d known ‘Dick O’Dell’ and ‘Linda Jenks’ from years before but we connected. Now we had a bank account at the ‘Bank of Ireland’ in Shepherd’s Bush and ‘Y’ records were over the green from there. We’d pop into their offices when going to the bank, the whole ‘Y’ record family loved what we were doing and as one person once remarked ‘we tune in as we dress then go out and rave’. They set up a small standing order which was a truly wonderful bit of support.

 

Support #2

 

 

Closer to home in Ladbroke Grove two other supporters. We used to obtain our tapes from the Market TV shop on Portobello Road. The owner was always very friendly and gave us a discount as we were purchasing quantities of cassettes both for recording shows on and also for duplicating, duplicating until we used FO Records services.

 

We must never forget ‘Dub Vendor’ who would supply pre 7”. That was a period of time when Jamaica was producing major quantities of singles and there was a market for imported copies, new titles on a weekly basis. ‘Dub Vendor’ had the Record Shack next to Ladbroke Grove tube run by Martin Redman, the shop would buzz on a Friday and Saturday. So Lepke would be supplied with a selection each week that would feature in his show, credit and thanks would be extended to ‘Dub Vendor’ so a mutual back scratch….they had a larger store in Clapham with a mail order and label, the shack moved across the road and sadly shut as too the large shop in Clapham, the happy days of record stores.

 

ACE cinema Brixton

This could also be in the support section see we used to always go to the Ace Cinema in Brixton on our trips to Brixton as David and his son Spencer were great supporters and used to advertise  their Kung Fu film shows each week as to other cinematic events. One day we visited and they advised they were going to show a 3d Kung Fu epic, ‘here take a look’ they said. Wearing 3d glasses we were sat, that is Lepke, Dr Watt and I, in the centre of the cinema. They put on the film, incredible one memorable scene a flying axe came out of the screen…..that was the heady days of late night Kung Fu films. They also premiered ‘Countryman’ there  which I was sent to interview the star ‘Countryman’ who was completely out of his depth with the whole thing as I was too oh well…….

 

 

 

DBC at Glastonbury 1982

 

 

In 1982 we went to Glastonbury, quite a trip so to speak. Lepke & Dr Watt came by and said we were going so off we went…completely un organised me wearing white jeans no suitable clothing at all, it was a completely spur of the moment thing. Arriving near the festival it started to heavily rain and we got stuck in an incredible traffic jam that didn’t seem to get nearer to the site. When we eventually got nearer Dr Watt put his foot down and overtook the queue and we arrived at the entrance, they we told security we were performing so waved through. Remember the festival was not the super organised affair it has become these last few years. We got into the festival then horror of horrors got stuck in the mud. So we got out of the car, got soaked through and my white jeans became brown with mud…so so uncomfortable. We arrived at the ‘Dub Tent’, now this dub tent was a large Marquee Joly of Better Badges organised. It was big and housed a sound system and his merchandising stall. Pleased to see us I can’t remember if it was him or Hamish McDonald took the system Microphone and announced our arrival to the amassed stoned crowd advising our car stuck in the mud asking ‘any volunteers to help? ’ , amazingly so many people cheered got to their feet came forward and headed out to our car. They lifted it out of the mud and helped it get to the tent so we could unload. The weather was so awful people were coming to this tent for shelter, seeing this Lepke approached Joly and said he should ask for entrance fee, Joly in the spirit of free festivals declined so we took buckets and asked for donations which people did chip in. The marquee hire was huge and these donations went some way towards covering that…the party began many on mind altering drugs and most on the scrumpy cider too. So we had fun with the Better Badges Crew meeting many a person from around the UK who reported they’d read about us, yes the music press gave us plenty of coverage as too TV.

 

Then somehow we linked with our friends ‘Aswad’, Ladbroke Grove’s finest. They asked that we bless the stage before their set, how could we refuse. It was a true blessing as we obtained artist wrist bands that gave us back stage passes and access to catering too, a good meal etc. So we took to the stage before their set Lepke and Dr Watt spun some tunes then they took to the stage. It was an early evening and the field was relatively empty but as soon as they started the fans ran to the stage area, was quite a sight. Aswad IMHO the best working band of that time truly rocked, being veterans of rock against Racism and other worthy causes really knew how to move a crowd with song choices and patter between songs, the big and of that time was awesome

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVdkUh00NLU

 

At 16.06 you can see yours truly, sadly Lepke and Dr Watt didn’t capture the camera but we were there, fed and watered, proud and happy and too, returning later to the ‘Dub Tent’ for more partying after….think I slept for a couple of days after returning to London. Note too Levi the percussionist proudly sporting a DBC T Shirt.

Image Dr Watt Hamish McDonald and Lepke...Photo credit Unknown

 

Striving To Be Free

My memory is a little vague on this but as I recall the station single ‘Striving To Be Free’ came together through a late night conversation in Latimer Rd. Dr Martin also managed ‘Nightdoctor’ and I seem to recall he suggested that the band make a benefit record. The Band and the Station were close, remember Charlie both briefly presented on DBC as well as the co founder of ‘Nightdoctor’. Late night tea and entertainment regularly were consumed especially after gigs, I remember that the rhythm to be used was ‘Johnny Dollar’ the current hit dancehall rhythm would be good to jump on. At that time too a St Lucian master musician ‘Iauwata’ had been bought to London by Martin and began playing with Nightdoctor, his contribution totally appreciated. Now the recording was done late one night at the legendary ‘Chalk Farm Studios’, this studio had strong connections to the reggae industry as it was where strings and also synths were dubbed on Jamaican recordings having compatible equipment, so hallowed space. Nightdoctor were rehearsing that day in High Wycombe where they would always rehearse, I think rehearsing both the rhythm and their usual set for some pending gigs. They arrived at the studio but not too sure if the Horn section came too but anyhow…they set up and ran through the Rhythm a few times then time to record. A couple of takes then Iauwata dubbed over the synth horn parts…end of session. This was done mid week the vocals were done the next weekend. I think Nightdoctor went off gigging, as I remember Lepke, Dr Watt and I met Miss P and her partner Oliver at the studio on the Saturday afternoon. Not having any experience of record production I called Chris Lane the ‘Fashion Records’ producer for advice about the voicing. He said make the lady feel at ease, relaxant of choice, dim the lights etc….not needed, I was so surprised at Miss P’s confidence and lack of nerves plus she’d written such a great song. So a run through then a take, amazing she nailed it…done listened back, then into the studio stepped Lepke, Dr Watt and Oliver. ‘Roll the tape’ Lepke said and then he launched into his rap, Dr Watt and Oliver provided backing voices, so glad I wasn’t asked to do so. Again I think in one take and also truly surprised that such strong lyrics had been written and delivered so effortlessly…So great rhythm recorded, two vocal versions time to mix, we lit some spliffs cracked a beer or two and played on the mixing board. Maybe our complete ignorance of mixing added to the atmosphere it worked out well. Tape in the can Lepke took to Terry the dub cutter to master, Terry cut acetates for sound system and was right next to the pressing plant in Acton. Label designed and printed then the 12” pressed. A Ltd press of 500 we took a portion to Jet Star and also to Rough Trade, when they were located in Blenheim Cresc, Geoff Travis saying they would do their best for us. It was also sold by mail order and slowly they drifted out, what a fine collaborative effort.

 

 

 

Fifth Column....T Shirts

Fifth Column were a band of T Shirt printers based in Kilburn, a friendly group of friends who worked on their own designs and tour merchandise for bands like The Jam and The Clash. When at Better Badges we worked closely, together their style and business manner similar. So when Megan Green designed the DBC Station design a T Shirt was in order. We linked with them and a strong bond and friendship was built. Their screen printing at that time was by hand and they developed a way of printing the Red,Gold and Green where the colours fused and blended so the iconic T Shirt came about. They marketed too giving royalties to the station that were put toward our own purchases of shirt, a great loose arrangement that worked oh so well. The station T Shirt was so popular and many a celebrity would wear on stage and in press photographs…unlike other radio stations DBC had such strong visuals. Fifth Column opened a retail outlet over the road from our 286 mailing address in the place that once house Friendz Underground newspaper. Our morning runnings would start picking up mail from our mail box and checking the guys at Fifth Colum, a chat and a laugh then onward. Now Fifth Column expanded and left their Kilburn print works, can’t remember how it came about but we obtained keys to this place and moved in. As far as I recall no contact was made with the landlord so we effectively squatted the place.. Here we were able to store speaker boxes that were used when we occasionally played out and in one room built a studio. The door was painted red gold and green as too the plinth that the twin turntables were housed in…turntables high end Garrard models that were donated by a lady called Sabrina, so with a small disco mixer and tape decks recording of shows was easy to do, no need for DJs to have to go to the other DJs homes, those who had home studios, plus we started to build a library too as vinyl would be sent to us.

 

So sometime Summer of ’82 the Column had a party, they’d moved into a print works in Camden they asked that we come and if possible set up some speakers…we took the Tannoy Lockwoods that ‘Island Records’ donated to us, a pair of superb top of the range speakers that sounded so so good. We went to the party a fine affair where the beer and other things floated about and Lepke along with Dr Watt entertained in fine style. Small hours of the Sunday morning  we wound up and decided to leave the speakers as to lug them up the stairs to their Kilburn storage place too much at such an hour. Then come Monday morning the usual trip to Portobello Road to see Chris Townsend at the door of their shop, ashen faced and looking very upset. Asking what’s up he informed us that a neighbour in Camden had fire bombed the building for insurance purposes, our beautiful speaker boxes melted and lost. A great loss but worse still Fifth Column lost all their silk screens and other items that were vital to their business. A true tragedy indeed but pleased that they managed to rise again through grit and determination, forward ever…….Happy to say Fifth Column still going strong, the originals selling the business to their staff, larger and automated.

 

Pic credit Fatchna….Sticker for T Shirts to be exported to Japan

 

 

 

 

 

1982 a Very Good Year

 

 

1982 we were up and running, a strong program of fine shows that went out each and every Friday with enthusiastic audience established,  all going well. The summer was fun with the first trip to Glastonbury and later that summer Carnival. More about Carnival activities later but the Carnival of ’82 we had the use of the Honest Jon’s store where we set up a sound outside ‘Honest Jon’s’ sold T Shirts and partied. Lepke truly loved and lived for Carnival and had a great technique for establishing a great focal point for friends and supporters to come, mix and mingle. The usual 7pm curfew he sort of observed where he turned the sound off but after some time turned on again at low volume but would nudge it up when appropriate and accepted by the police, the party continued no problem. I distinctly remember staggering home that year early hours of the Tuesday morning after we cleared up and returned ‘Honest Jon’s’ back to the store it was before…Carnival done summer done I think it was at this point Dr Watt left us returning to a life of work and looking after his growing family, felt strange but…. I too had met and moved in with Carmella who some time later would become ‘Sis C’ more about that later…Lepke and I kept on with the day to day running but we reduced the running around London unless really needed. We had our base in Kilburn and the studio and store place set up Dr Watt’s friend and one time sound spar ‘Papa C’ took over his spot… so one great selector replaced with another. Papa C already supported by providing a place to hang whilst our shows went out and we had the timing down to a T with changing tapes. See he lived in a low rise flat near the blocks where we had the rig, 10 mins before the hour we’d go and change the tape only a couple of times did we have difficulty accessing the roof but no disruption. Now Papa C’s wife loved having us come on Fridays. We always took drinks etc and she kindly fried fish and made bakes (I’ll never forget and she knows I will never). The bonus was she could go out and rave with as built in babysitters, a win win if ever, all around. This place was also very close to Miss P’s place and on more than one occasion she finished off her show with minutes to spare so a quick dash to hers pick up the tape or she’d drop it off…1982 a very good year !

 

First Ladies of DBC

 

We were truly blessed from the start to have two wonderful female voices on the Station. It must be remembered female presenters on the radio were not to be heard. Most Pirates then were music head males. Lepke had the foresight to realise a female voice would be not only a step forward plus his love of diversity came into force too. It was not imposed but allowed to happen organically.

‘Dark Star & Lady Di’ were our original soul presenters. ‘Dark Star’ aka Lloyd Bradley selected and his good lady presented. She presented in a truly professional and natural way, feeling the rhythm and pace of the show, notices and announcements given clearly and concisely. It was sad that this show was short lived, but was truly appreciated but hey that was how it panned out. They had a home recording set up that was effective in producing well recorded tapes and never late in presentation.

Now the Ranking Miss P oh what a talent. I had known her a little from before the station meeting her a few times in Honest Jon’s when Lepke worked there and I would be hanging out. She like I an early market research person ie. she’d get the same call I’d get asking if the MW Signal getting through (this I later learned from her). When up and running on FM she was urged to produce a show. Dr Watt helped her set up her home studio and she was away. She fitted this in with being a mother to two young children and college. When Lepke, Dr Watt and I schlepped around London promoting and selling adverts we would end up at hers for a debrief etc before heading back to where I lodged in Latimer Rd. So Miss P’s show was mid transmission  and she picked up a large male audience, hardly surprising as she always played a fine selection and her voice smooth and seductive. Must be said sometime we’d be transmitting and she would record her show with minutes to spare, either she running up to where we would hang (Papa C’s) or we’d race to hers and pick up the tape, remember her life was hectic with young children and more to contend with.

Not only was she a key Dj but also jingle maker. She made jingles at her home studio and also would make jingles and adverts at Lepke’s studio, these sessions were always fun as Miss P loved working with Devon ( voice of jingles) and Pebbles (one time Coxsone DJ).

Miss P as Lepke’s sister became an integral part of the Station. My working closer with her to follow, as too her introduction to the BBC.

Must be mentioned but will mention in further detail other ladies who got involved with DBC building up to that……..

 

 

Moving On

So end of ’82 I moved on from Latimer Road and was living with Carmella who was later to become ‘Sis C’. We lived the North side of the Harrow Road so on route to the DBC Studio in Kilburn. Was very handy so DJs going to the studio to record could pick up keys and drop off after they’d used the facility. Dr Watt had moved on too and resumed working so Lepke and I would hook up usually with me riding my push bike to Portobello hence acquiring the name ‘Mike The Bike’ We did less running around London tuning people in as the Station had established itself word had spread plus there had been several TV features and music press coverage. We were known personally by people at the NME and Sounds the major Rock Music papers of the day and also Black Echoes. I think unlike other pirate stations we garnered more exposure as such a different station with a different goal. The goal was to establish a Black Radio station for one and all, young and old.

Spring of ’83 Lepke had to go away but this didn’t stop our efforts. As less schlepping around London we just had to check in with those making Sponsored Radio slots, collect funds and also visit Jet Star where promotional copies of tunes would pile for us, remember this is the day of VINYL records and the output was large and varied. Miss P and I did this, her time was limited as she had two children of school age so our times were restricted between the school runs but it worked well still.

There had also been a change DJ personnel…Dr Martin and Smiley left and were replaced by       ‘Luke the Duke’. Luke was more a rockin’ DJ and in fact responsible for Joly at Better Badges obtaining the Medium Wave transmitter in the first place…Dark Star and Lady Di left too and Chucky’s brother ED took over plus there was also a Dj called GT who was a little out of the loop of the DBC family but he left after a while. Dr Watt was replaced by his good friend and former sound system partner Papa C who carried on the roots revival programme……so the beat went on.

 

 

 

Moving On + Carnival '83

So I also returned to working part time, eternally grateful to Carmella who supported me so well, I was glad to be less dependent on her. Joly left for NYC and so gave Better Badges where I had worked to Slim Smith the in house designer and myself. Slim a superbly talented designer and cool calm person was a joy to work with and working part time was ideal. I used to be able to rep for Better Badges when doing DBC stuff and vice versa.

So one time I cycled to ‘Island Records’ when they were in St Peter’s Square. Was a regular visitor there with Lepke and Dr Watt, very supportive in fact they donated so much equipment to us, some PA monitor speakers and a beautiful pair of Tannoy speakers as well as cassette decks when they upgraded their tape duplication facility….anyhow I visited the promo dept and the lady who worked there greeted me ‘Hi Mike how’s DBC ?’ now a guy was there with his back to me and when he heard that turned and told me he was a listener although he lived in Bristol. He told me a friend gave him tapes that friend a friend of Joly’s ‘Andy Leighton’ who got tapes from Joly….see the word spread far and wide. So he said he’d like to make a film could we meet. We swapped numbers and arranged a meeting. Miss P and I invited him to our studio, first thing he said was how much is a transmitter to which I replied ‘oh about £600’ ‘OK’ he replied ‘that’s the facility fee’ ie a fee for using our studio. He arranged to film over the Carnival weekend of ’83. He came with his crew to the studio and filmed Miss P playing, then at Carnival we had set up on the corner of Bravington Road and Portobello Road, he filmed Chucky and Miss P playing and further featured Carmella prettying up the place. A great film as I think the Friday before he did interviews with people on the street before that was well edited in…respect to Roy Chapman who was this Independent producer/director. Now Roy was so impressed with Miss P he commissioned her to make an introductory song for a TV program he was making so Miss P worked with King Sounds and a song was produced. This was the start to Miss P doing main stream media work, voice overs eventually working for the BBC, her professionalism and that voice won through.

 

Interviews

DBC made some radio interviews starting with Lepke and Dr Watt interviewing Norman Grant and the Twinkle Bros. Film footage has come to light just recently of this interview, where it was conducted I am not sure, but the ever affable Norman gave a great interview and they made some station IDs.

Lepke then drafted me in to carry out some interviews, I was quite useless to say the least. I was plunged into it by interviewing the late great Joseph Hill of Culture. Completely untrained in the art we met at our Kilburn Studio, I think I asked two questions the second he answered taking up the rest of The 30 minutes allocated to the interview, I tried unsuccessfully to interject alas he went on and on, it was great though. The next interview I made was with Countryman at the premier of his film of the same name. I think we were invited by ‘Island Films’ to make it. Again unresearched I was bewildered as too Countryman so not a great success.

My next attempt at interviewing was more successful, was with King Sunny Ade. He played a superb gig at the Lyceum to launch his album he made for Island. During the making of this album he made DBC Station jingles which were stunning as in both English and Yoruba. His producer Martin Messonier and our original DBC African music presenter Graeme Ewens arranged this and quite a coup. So his band were staying in an Hotel in Kilburn near our studio. I cycled there with Carmella my partner and we were entertained by the band. They enjoyed the company of Carmella with whom they joked and flirted then a gold Rolls Royce pulled up and out came King Sunny Ade. Also there to interview him was a crew from the BBC. Interview time King Sunny Ade asked us first making the BBC people wait. I gave as a gift a T Shirt and he took the one he was wearing off and put on our one, he beamed with pleasure and thanked us greatly. He remembered making the jingle and told us he loved what we were doing, this time the interview went well he was easy to talk with and took time with us. I believe if I remember correctly there was a press photo and King Sunny Ade wore the DBC T Shirt which capped that one well.

Then with most pride was the interview Miss P made with Gregory Isaacs. She and I went to Island Records in St Peter’s Square, we went to Chris Blackwell’s office that he had there well more of a lounge and sitting there bang on time Gregory. He greeted us, we sat down and Miss P started the interview. He was living up to his name and totally cool,  giving a most wonderful interview. I was really surprised when asked to his current listening, he cited UK Lovers Rock artists telling us how he loved Janet Kay and Jean Adebambo in particular…was a great interview and it was so sad that a year or so later he went off the rails as he so did.

Later when the station went live we had a couple of studio guests of note. Dave Hucker who had kindly given his ‘Sol Y Sombre’ club to us one night as a benefit event/party, came presented one afternoon bringing with him a wide and varied selection as only he can.

The major coup however was Prince Buster who I think was at that time staying with Gaz. Lepke knew the Prince and was a great fan and one Sunday afternoon Lepke had the Prince as a studio guest. They played chatted and had a great time a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.