It was late evening on Friday, March 27, 1964, when avant-garde transmissions suddenly appeared on radio sets located in south-eastern England, and on corresponding coastline areas of other European countries.
Those first test transmissions consisted of hodge-podge mixture of sound, and the next day the same formula was introduced as regular programming. They began with a British cover version of Buddy Holly's American song "Not Fade Away". That song was in this instance, more a statement of a hope than a statement of fact, because the reason why the mv Fredericia (renamed 'Caroline') from where those broadcasts originated, had dropped anchor within earshot of London and its Crown civil servants, was to prod the men with power into a reaction:
Would 'Caroline' be allowed to stay, or would it be forced to go?
As if by magic, a mailing address at 54-62 Regent Street had also appeared within the delivery route of a Royal Mail postman, and requests for reception reports from listeners began to be incorporated within the station's daytime-only regular transmissions. They were targeting defenseless English housewives with a strange sort of programming, best described as an all-day version of the BBC Light Programme radio show called "Housewives' Choice'.
It wasn't brash at all. It was very laid back and seductively friendly in a formal sort of way that would not disturb the daily chores of Mrs England as she vacuumed her floors or hand-washed her family's breakfast dishes. By the time her husband got home it was time to turn off the Radio Caroline transmitter for the day. As for children returning from school in mid-afternoon, they could hear Frank Sinatra, or the Rolling Stones, or some theme from a cinema film, but nothing to really excite them.
It was the BBC from a boat.
But what was Radio Caroline?
Who was behind it?
While a few 'serious' publications began to delve into answering that question, most of the daily press concentrated upon the more political aspects of the story.
The British airwaves were the property of the British Crown, and 'Radio Caroline' was affront to all that was 'British' with its approach to law and order. This was not America where crassness ruled the day.
All of those American products that filled all of those British homes had been disguised as British 'cover versions' to make the 'Wild West' crudeness of those 'Yanks' disappear from view. Instead of being 'American' all of those products were seen as being 'British'. Yet in reality, the world of the British housewife revolved around American products, only she did not think of them that way.
This was early 1964, and the Pilkington Committee had already pronounced a curse on all of those American television program imports that flooded ITA franchised areas with 'Cowboys and Indians' and 'Cops and Robbers'. Housewives should be spared from this sort of audio abuse while they tended to their "little ones" or scrubbed their floors at home.
So the question of who was behind Radio Caroline went unquestioned once a public relations firm told the popular press that it was an Irishman in his early twenties. He had a rich father and somehow this Irishman had teamed-up with out-of-work English actors to create a daytime commercial radio station broadcasting from a boat.
Well, that explained it all.
The Irish with few exceptions, were really on a par with those "colored people' who had begun to arrive in England. They were just not civilized in the way that the English were. The Scots were those people in a northern area adjoining English counties, so they were not civilized either. Harry Secombe "got away with" on behalf of those coal mining male singers in Wales because he could sing properly, and besides which, he was friends with Peter Sellers, and Peter Sellers was a pal of Princess Margaret and her 'Set' of "upper-crust" friends who all loved the BBC 'Goon Show'.
But who were the people at 54-62 Regent Street?
No one seemed too concerned at the time because for awhile, the issue was not of concern. Someone there was receiving the letters delivered by the Royal Mail, and that was all there was to it, or so it seemed.
But behind the scenes, the British Crown was taking stock and beginning to investigate, and it seems that the blanket of obscurity would not last for long before a hurricane wind of wrath descended upon the person or persons receiving those letters at 54-62 Regent Street.
They would be brought to account.
Answers would be demanded.
There were many different offices located at 54-62 Regent Street, and those businesses were spread over many floors at that same address. (See our companion Blog All About Caroline, for examples.) Yet this unanswered question about 54-62 Regent Street is the primary question that should have been asked and answered, because it was the key to answering the questions: "who bought a ship; anchored it off Harwich, England and had begun broadcasting in defiance of the wishes of the British Crown?"
So that is the question will be focusing upon:
How did a business with the name 'Radio Caroline', suddenly crop-up out-of-the-blue at 54-62 Regent Street?