Friday, March 06, 2009

The Boat that Rocked

Here's the movie I can't wait to see. It'll be out next spring. It's from Richard Curtis who gave us LOVE ACTUALLY, and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (a movie that would be in my top five comedies if it weren't for Andie McDowell) and is about subject matter near and dear to my heart -- pirate radio.

In the 60s when the British invasion was exploding in the US, the only radio in England was the BBC and they were playing Mozart and "Cricket Talk". So some industrious folks started pirate radio stations just outside international waters (Radio Caroline being the big one) and gave kids the Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders and Lulu hits they deserved. This is their story. A story that MUST be told.

If you have memories of listening to Pirate Radio stations, would love to hear them.

And here's the trailer.


John R said...

Ah yes, Auntie Beeb... The Home Service (News,) The Third Program (Classical only) and The Light Program (no such thing as Pop music.)

And then... In 1965 I went to boarding school in the south of England and my ears were opened to Pirate Radio. What's this? The Who? John Mayall? Cream? Jimi Hendrix? I don't think the British Invasion would have been able to gather her troops if not for the Pirates. I remember Caroline, London and Luxembourg, though Luxembourg was on the continent of course. There were many more. The magnificent (and late) Kenny Everett was our hero for the next 2 years (and after that, once he was on BBC's new Radio 1 when the British government finally acknowledged that Rock and Pop music really existed.) Heady days.

Looking back it seems to me that before 1967 there was more pop music on BBC TV than on BBC Radio.

And now when I visit the old country I hear crappy commercial radio just as it is here in the States now. Thank God I have an iPod.

Long live rock!


ps The movie looks intriguing, I'm beginning to really like Philip Seymour Hoffman, and with Bill Nighy and Emma Thompson it could be fun.

Anonymous said...

Aw, apparently the trailer video is no longer available.

By Ken Levine said...

I just played it. It works fine for me.

Anonymous said...

Gimme! Gimme!
And we're gifted Kenneth AND Phillip....and THE Nighy!!!!!
sweet comedy=my own personal Jesus,
chocolate a close second.

Ken, looks excellent!

Tim W. said...

Ironically, in Canada it seems to be impossible to find a classical radio station, especially after CBC 2 changed format (a stupid decision, in my opinion). I love both classical and modern music, but I do mourn the slow death of classical. Could the remake, which will undoubtedly happen, feature a ship that plays classical music?

And how on earth did Andie McDowell get to be on two of the funniest comedies of all time, Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral with nary a skill other than looking good on screen and taking up space? Well, she WAS in Hudson Hawk so it evens out a little, I guess.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

In the meantime, Curtis also wrote the delightful television movie of The Nr. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (directed by Anthony Minghella), which is going to be a BBC television series soon (although I am not sure what the team doing that is).

Chris Ayers said...

Yeah...Andie MacDowell isn't at her best in "Four Weddings" (but really, when has she ever been at her best?), but I do love it so.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but there was Radio Luxembourg, which played "pop" music, at least in the late 50s. What the pirates brought was advertising.

Anonymous said...

Back in Seattle in the mid eighties, I was working at KJET and one of my co-workers landed a gig on a UK pirate called "Laser Hot Hits".

He didn't stay long. He said they were aboard ship about 3 weeks at a time. Never going ashore.

The British government apparently sanctioned any business that bought advertising on Laser so there were no monies coming in. Paychecks bounced (when they showed up at all).

When he did have a chance to go ashore, it was to France or Belgium because they were closer. Getting into the UK was a problem, and as he didn't have any money anyway, he tended to stay aboard ship.

"Laser Hot Hits" went under (not literally) soon after my friend came back to the states.

BTW Ken, have there ever been any nibbles on your Bakersfield radio screenplay?

Anonymous said...

I have a great book on Radio Luxembourg called "Radio Luxembourg, The Staion of the Stars" by Richard Nichols.

Radio Luxembourg started it's English service in 1933 (with commercials) using a long wave signal. In 1951, the company gave the long wave signal to it's French service and switched the English service to medium wave at 208 meters or 1440 KHz. It's as 208 that Luxembourg really became popular.

Still, the pirates had an opening. For one thing, 208 only broadcast from 6 P.M until 2 A.M. The other problem was the "208 Fade" which meant the South of England including London didn't get the best signal. So, there was room for a daytime commerical station broadcasting to London.

By the way, the book states that Radio London started with Two Hundred thousand pounds of pre-sold advertising.

Note: my word verification is wimstong. I seem to remember commercials for it. "I can't seem to forget you, your wimstong stays on my mind."

Anonymous said...

Hmm, the first time I tried it, it said something like, "This video is no longer available" on a black screen. But this time it worked. Whatev.

Looks like fun!

Howard Hoffman said...

When I was a radio pup, I was fortunate enough to start my career at the tail end of the pirate radio era. No, I never was part of it, but I went on a spending spree collecting all the tribute albums and "Best of" collections I could get my paws on once I learned about it.

Incredible stuff. Caroline, Nordsee, Luxembourg, Big L, and countless smaller ones. The dangers they faced day in and day out would have made mere mortals throw their hands in the air in disgust. These guys held on tight - through storms, attempted takeovers, firebombs, electrocutions, distress name it.

I'm REALLY looking forward to this long overdue tribute.

Anonymous said...

There's a different (and somewhat better, IMO) trailer for the film here:

The Corsair said...

I'd love a classical radio station here in NYC that plays Early Music. All they play here is post Haydn. They even go into the 20th C. What about Monteverdi?

Anonymous said...

Now THAT is a great looking trailer! I think Andie MacDowell is fine in both of those films, just sitting there and looking gorgeous.

What the Hell? I got "ouster", a real word?!

Anonymous said...

Richard Curtis has this great ability to make talentless people watchable i.e. Keira Knightley - which is why when I meet him I'm going to murder him.

Anonymous said...

For some reason I loathed Love Actually. It just rambled a long and never formed a cohesive point (for me).

On the plus side he wrote Notting Hill and The Tall Guy, which is brilliant. I do appreciate his quirky characters and originality so I'm more than happy to check out whatever he does. (I'm sure will come as a great relief to him).

Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

A couple of years (thanks to a friend who told me about the pirate radio station he listened to as a boy growing up in London) ago I pitched this very story around town and couldn't get anyone interested in it...Did a shitload of research too. I'm really interested to see what Curtis has done with the story...

Anonymous said...

Richard Curtis hasn't steered me wrong yet, and the concept is an intriguing one. Looking forward to seeing this.

And for those of you looking for good classical stations, Chicago's WFMT (98.7) plays music from all eras. They have a lot of choral and vocal music as well as orchestral, and they even manage a bit of humor (PDQ Bach has been performed, and baseball season doesn't start without "Die Fledermaus").

Unknown said...

"Cricket Talk" Ken? You mean 'Test Match Special'. I'm listening to it right now. Coming up to the end of Day 3 of the 5th Test from Trinidad and it's looking like a draw. Just the two more days to go.

Anonymous said...

my little radio heart is beating faster! Can't wait to see it!!!

BTW, Classical fans (self-promo),
you can hear 1000 years of classical music from 6am-6pm (PDST) on

Not bad for a classically trained cantor/chiropractor/rock & country jock!


Anonymous said...

got to see it in a test screening, you will enjoy. Love Nighy, he can do no wrong by me, even though he does crap like Underworld.

Anonymous said...

This looks pretty awesome. Can't wait to see this flick. I hear about pirate radio all the time from Jim Ladd on 95.5 in LA. I also seem to remember a show on maybe 971 back in the early 90's with a guy named Conrad and it was called Pirate Radio. This is very rich subject matter for a movie and hopefully it's great.

TCinLA said...

Sort of like KMPX in San Francisco in 1967. boy do I remember that - and the night in April 1968 when they swent on strike and had a party/strike rally at 2 a.m. on Walter Landor's ferryboat down at the docks - the first night that Creedence Clearwater ever played for a public audience.

There really was a time whern "the music will free your soul." I have heard so many stories from European friends about the pirates and I have to agree, this is one movie I am planning to go see on opening night.

iODyne said...

Just home from seeing and LOVING TBTR, as I knew I would because I am 60 and it's MY music too.
and while I ADORE Bill Nighy (since the 'Still Crazy' year) he was rather looking like Lance Link.

Branagh CHANNELLED Peter Sellers character in I'm Alright Jack.

KB was the evil guy in St.Trinians too - is he getting these castings because nobody likes him? I know I would rather be married to Greg Wise, so good onya Emma.

Anybody reading this who actually knows Richard Curtis - please tell him how very joyously his film was received by this old Mod.