No.24: Ray Clark in conversation with Tom Anderson

Ray Clark has interviewed numerous people involved with Radio Caroline for documentaries and his book, Radio Caroline: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked (reviewed here).
One of his interviews was with long-serving Caroline favourite Tom Anderson.
Tom joined Radio Caroline in June 1976. He left for a while but returned to the ship in April 1979 and was was one of the DJs taken off by lifeboat the night the mv Mi Amigo sank in March 1980. He was closely involved in the fitting out of the replacement ship, the Ross Revenge, and presented the first show when the station re-launched in August 1983. Unhappy with the poppier direction the station was taking, he launched the late night ‘Caroline Overdrive’ rock service on 1st January 1986.
This interview took place in 1994 and we are grateful to Ray for sharing the recording with us.

RAY CLARK: How did Caroline Overdrive come about?

Robin Ross, Dixie Peach, Tom Anderson

Left to right: Robin Ross, Dixie Peach and Tom Anderson on the Ross Revenge. Photo courtesy of Hans Knot.

TOM ANDERSON: Well Overdrive came about probably from my dissatisfaction with the daytime format, shall we say, at the time. Caroline as a station had become far more pop orientated than the album station I had originally joined back in the seventies and, with all due regard to those that wanted to make it a success doing that, I saw little point in going through all the hardships of being on a ship at sea and all that that entailed, to be there for no purpose other than to repeat the music that everyone else was playing. So by various means I managed to twist Ronan (O'Rahilly)'s arm and ended up with him giving me the 963kHz frequency at night, after the Dutch and “the Gods” (religious programmes) had finished. Hence Overdrive was born. It was really Fergie McNeal and myself sat down with a pile of records and a load of ideas. We spent a couple of months putting it together and put it to air. We were the only two (DJs) initially, at which point when we wanted to go ashore, we obviously had to recruit others - various people such as Mark Matthews and Nigel Roberts, otherwise known as “Bhagwan”, came along and got involved. Really, after Fergie left it became Nigel's and my baby, if you like, and we carried it on from there. The idea was to be as far removed as possible from the daytime format and I think if you talk to Peter Philips (who was in charge of the daytime service) he will say we wanted it so far apart that we never shared a record.

click to hear audio Tom on Caroline Overdrive, 2nd January 1986. This is an edited version of a recording shared on the Radiotrefpunt (radio meeting point) forum by Vincent. Our thanks to him (duration 3 minutes 33 seconds)

RC: Thanks. Tom, if I can get you now on your interpretation of the Caroline ideal of Loving Awareness...

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson on the deck of the Ross Revenge. Photo by Stevie Lane, shared on Facebook by Grant Benson.

TA: Costs you a lot of money (laughs). Lovely concept but a friend of mine once sat me down and said “Tom, this idea of Loving Awareness, doesn't it actually mean you just get ripped off by everybody?” and I said “well you're obviously a bit of a cynic but, at the end of the day, I suppose the answer has to be ‘yes’ - but you take that risk. It's really a very simple concept. The idea is just that if you're nice to people, they will end up being nicer to you. And I think in general terms if you just got that across then the idea works. If it made people think - if it made people even be cynical about it, then it worked to a certain extent. Unfortunately by the time the eighties came along it was very much a me-me-more-more generation and the yuppie brigade grabbing everything rather took away from that because the Thatcherite years, without being political, were definitely aimed at one's pocket and no more. I think the demise of that era has rather said it all for me in that people are beginning to realise that you do actually have to be a little nicer and you can't be so self-centred and grabbing as perhaps we were in the eighties. So the concept of the idea is there. It has possibly suffered a bit from being seen as a legacy of the hippy era but again I don't think that's a bad thing. We're now seeing this year (1994) the proposed commemorative festivals in the New York and Woodstock areas, commemorating the greatest music festival of all time at which love and peace was, of course, the message.

click to hear audio Tom Anderson and Tony Allan discussing Loving Awareness with Dutch colleagues Marc Jacobs and Rob Hudson on Radio Caroline, 24th June 1979. This studio recording is from Marc's collection and was shared on the The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Martin van der Ven. Our thanks to both of them (duration 6 minutes 4 seconds)

RC: Finally Tom can I ask you about the restart and the day the ship came back, in '83?

Tom Anderson, Marjo Marcus, Blake Williams

Left to right: Tom Anderson, Marjo Marcus and Blake Williams on the Ross Revenge. Photo shared on Facebook by Marjo.

TA: Can I remember the first day, I ask myself...? I remember being seconded into the final days - or final months - of fitting out (the Ross Revenge) in a little shipyard in Santander, up in the river by Bilbao. We were eventually towed out from Spain and dragged up to the North Sea. Lots of people were quite interested in this vessel with a rather large mast being towed, including a French destroyer which shadowed us for about half a day. When we finally got to our location, believe you me, we didn't even have a working studio. I was still in fact building them and Peter Chicago was busy installing the equipment as such but we were there and we were ready. But don't ask me what the date was. I'm afraid I've forgotten. It was rather an inauspicious start, at the end of the day. Various plans were made and then somebody came up with the bright idea “oh well, Tom, you were the last voice heard on the old Mi Amigo before she sank. You ought to be the first to go on - however you're going to do it like this”. Which really didn't go down very well with me because it wasn't what I wanted to do. I personally would rather forget that actual opening broadcast - although, within a few days, things did settle down quite considerably and obviously everything went fairly smoothly. But the actual very first broadcast is barely something I'm proud of.

click to hear audio Tom reopens Radio Caroline at 12 noon on 20th August 1983. This clip is taken from a longer recording available from Our thanks to Ray Robinson (duration 1 minute 45 seconds)
click to hear audio It is the ‘Knock Deep Tea Party’. Tom Anderson and Blake Williams celebrate American Independence Day with a bit of friendly rivalry on 4th July 1984. This clip is taken from a recording shared by Hans Hendriks on the The Offshore Radio Club Forum. Our thanks to him (duration 4 minutes 30 seconds)

Back to Ray's chat with Kevin Turner.
Ray's conversation with Bill Rollins is over the page.

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