Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age Paperback – 24 Aug 2012
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"A treasure. . . . [Adrian] Johns portrays the British radio pirates not in the warm glow of sentimental memory that the period usually enjoys but in the historian 's cold bright light." --Randall Bloomquist
...a fascinating slice of Sixties sleaze...with implications for our times. --The Independent
"...a well-written tale of the high C s." --The Economist
About the Author
Adrian Johns is a professor of history at the University of Chicago. Educated at Cambridge University, Johns is a specialist on intellectual property and piracy.
Top customer reviews
Adrian Johns has researched the story of Radio Caroline and the other stations and the killing of Reg Calvert with great diligence. He has written an excellent and exciting book which will bring back the days of pop radio in the early to mid 1960's to those of my generation as well as inform all readers of the dramatic impact the Radio Pirates had on broadcasting and the media. I have learnt a lot from the book; the history of the these pirates is fascinating. 'Death of a Pirate' really is the real story of the Radio Pirates, the development of British broadcasting and the shooting of Reg Calvert, not only that, it's a great read!
Crawford's plans came from McLendon. The author also tries to explain the "Rosebud" and "Atlanta" names by suggesting that they were the work of Smedley and Crawford. However, the real story begins with Gordon McLendon of Dallas who was both a movie maverick (hence "Rosebud" from 'Citizen Kane') and proud of his Atlanta, Texas roots that began his broadcasting career.
The originator of 'Radio Atlanta' was Gordon McLendon and it was to have been funded (like GBLN before it), by Herbert W. Armstrong. Then Atlanta merged with Jocelyn Stevens' 'Radio Caroline' (named after the 'Caroline' stylesheet for 'Queen' magazine by Editor B. Miller), and it was decided to steer clear of both politics and religion since the original 'Radio Caroline' plan was aimed at trying to overturn the 'Pilkington Report' with its finding against commercial radio. That was not the original plan for 'Radio Atlanta'. Armstrong had to wait for the arrival of Don Pierson's 'Wonderful Radio London' before he was able to expand to 7 days a week beyond the Mondays and Tuesdays schedule over Radio Luxembourg.
This book is really a pick-up from the earlier Chapman work (the author admits this in his previous work on copyrights and piracy that begat the present work - which I also bought and have read. It is also an academic work, unlike the present book.) This book is also a trek with historian Coase who wrote about the BBC and ended up in Chicago. But the author does not understand the nature of the BBC as a Crown chartered corporation - it is not a "state corporation" as such. There are many other misunderstandings in the work but its strength is perhaps in its weakness.
It is really a work of laissez faire advocacy in politics and business as applied to the UK through Oliver Smedley. Therefore the "Death of a Pirate" is really a side issue while the author goes out of his way to relate many details about the 'Radio City' broadcasting staff that are covered in more precise detail with audio on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame web site.
The author laments that there is a lack of academic work on this subject, but in so doing he has to ignore the work of Dr. Eric Gilder who many other authors have 'borrowed' from in order to create their own works. At one time Chapman contacted us for assistance, but we were engaged in our own research and publications, and so we turned down his request. Our own archives draw upon the library of documents handed to us by the late Don Pierson (WRL/SRE/BR offshore stations) and years of research into the Gordon McLendon 'Radio Nord' venture. In addition to working with Crawford we also met other leading figures such as Ted Allbuery and the engineering staff responsible for 'Radio Nord'.
Unfortunately the real story of 'Radio Caroline' ('Radio Atlanta') and the other stations has yet to be told in detail, but we are trying to cover the topics of offshore radio, piracy, copyrights and basic freedoms in our own series of published academic articles which we will eventually combine into a single volume on the subject of offshore radio.
Our suggestion is buy this book - if you have an offshore radio library. It is not a complete work but it is a handy addition for some of the orginal documented material that it does contain.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
However, excessive detail about the personalities and wrangles of otherwise-forgotten British entrepreneurs makes it unnecessarily difficult for readers to discern and judge the arguments for and against central control of media and bandwidth. Had the book been 80% as long as it is, it would have been much better.
When Johns explains about British licensing fees, he seems to assume most will understand what they are and what part they play today. This is information that would make the story more complete for the reader. As it is, it seems to jump from educating about freedom of speech/broadcasting theories, the history of British radio and the death of Reg Calvert.
The politics of the 30's is gone into and their effect on society, especially the airwaves and the question of a state monopoly; the legal restrictions of copyright and BBC restrictions are examined. The book is much of a montage of information.
What is really only touched upon and probably would have been of wider interest are the pirates, their stations and the rise of rock and roll in the 50's and 60's when many of these pirate stations flourished.
This is not really about the people but radio and the establishment of who could choose what is on the air waves. There seems to be lingering confusion on specific motives and the exact thinking of most of the characters in the book; but it would still be of interest to those who wanted to learn of early radio history especially in Britain.
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