“Loud, Proud and Illegal” – Steve Jenner

5 stars (out of 5)

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Steve Jenner’s third book “Loud, Proud and Illegal” is an insider’s view of a fascinating period in British social history when revolt against an increasingly unpopular government was manifested in many ways, some of them linked and following similar trajectories. The rave movement on the dance scene and pirate radio were two aspects of this civil disobedience that had close links and some synergies. Broadly speaking, both movements developed from small-scale barely-legal, operations, escalated rapidly, attracted the wrath of the authorities and eventually became legitimate commercial enterprises. 

“Loud, Proud and Illegal” concentrates on the development of pirate radio in the East Midlands, particularly Nottingham, and carries the authenticity of an author who was part of the phenomenon as broadcaster Jake Burnside. The government of the time was keen to portray pirate broadcasting as lawlessness supported by and supporting other even more heinous types of criminality, but, without getting too deep in to spoiler territory, radio piracy was a civil, not a criminal, offence when the phenomenon started to explode across the country. And to balance this up, it’s fair to say that there was an element of mischief involved with some broadcasters. 

Besides giving us ‘fly-on-the-wall’ access, the book also gives us the benefit of the insights of a highly-respected radio professional as Steve draws parallels between the pirates of the sixties, who forced the BBC to create Radio One as a station that appealed to an emerging market, and the pirates of the late eighties/early nineties who opened the door for the final wave of local UK commercial broadcasting licences. And, you couldn’t plan this, but this book is published just after a bloodless coup has removed most of the local content from the local commercial radio franchises, leaving the majority of those franchises in the hands of multi-national broadcasters. 

As always, Steve’s style is direct, punchy and authoritative. The beauty of “Loud, Proud and Illegal” is that it combines the gritty reality of pirate broadcasting with a penetrating analysis of the situation that led to rise of the pirates and an inside view of the vision that converted illegal operations into successful business models. Original pirate material indeed.  

You can buy it here.