Masters of the Airwaves – the rise & rise of underground radio

Masters of the Airwaves

The rise and rise of underground radio

Dave VJ & Lindsay Wesker

Masters of the Airwaves

You couldn’t find two more qualified authors to write on this subject, both having had a long pedigree in the music industry. Dave VJ (Vinyl Junkie) has worked in record sales as well as being a club DJ, a radio DJ and a co-owner of a company that organises holidays for the mature club-goer. Lindsay Wesker is also a club and radio DJ, as well as an author, song writer, script writer and journalist, and he currently works for MTV as a music editor. Both are lifelong enthusiasts of music, and their knowledge of black music is encyclopaedic.

The first time I flicked through this book, I knew that it would be something that I would go back to again and again. It is one of those books that one places on the coffee table, knowing that it will become a well-loved friend, something that visitors will pick up and muse over with a cup of tea or coffee. Every inspection reveals a newly discovered fact or a surprising photograph of a familiar name in the business. It really is a very modern history book about black music radio in the UK, comprising a treasure trove of stories and information encompassing the 70’s and 80’s and beyond. It takes you on a journey into the studios, homes and offices of the people who were active in the sphere, and is a compelling read for black music aficionados everywhere.

The book is divided into easy to read sections, and the collection of photographs within is a joy – like looking through a family photo album, with pictures of much-loved music industry heroes who have been inspirational throughout the years. The opening section consists of an ‘in memoriam’ section, paying tribute to some of the pivotal names who have passed away, and following this, Dave and Lindsay give their personal observations and experiences of pirate radio, legal radio, and the music business.

The duo hit upon the unique idea of sending questionnaires to all of the people that they wanted to interview, this was a great initiative and kept their task feasible – eliminating the time and effort involved in interviewing over one hundred busy DJs, presenters, promoters and musicians. The questionnaires were brilliantly simple, asking for comments on British radio, influential broadcasters, events which shaped black music radio history, the amount of black music played, the effect of the internet, and the impact of unlicensed stations. Reading through the responses is like being part of a focus group where the reader is in the midst of differing opinions, healthy debate, and perspectives of others that are both thought provoking and insightful.

The back section of the book is a series of lists. Readers of music reference books tend to cherish a list, and going through them evokes many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as one is reminded of long forgotten radio stations, shops, and clubs. There is also a list of top pirate anthems that will have the reader reaching for their music collection or YouTube as the yearning to rediscover the songs becomes an obsession.

This book is a treasure trove of rare gems, a reminder of very good times – evoking powerful memories and taking the reader back to a pivotal time for music. On the journey through life, most people pay no heed to the fact that history is being made, but on reflection, decades later, the huge significance of everybody in that particular scene and how they shaped the future of music becomes evident. Dave and Lindsay have produced something a little different here, a fun DJ history lesson interlaced with some inside research and music industry discussion, and my goodness it works. I am keeping mine on the coffee table – I will love watching my guest’s faces as they read through, nodding and smiling at being transported back to a point in time when the music really moved them.