Radio Luxembourg 208 – Your Station of the Stars – on Radio 2

There’s a 2-part documentary about Radio Luxembourg starting tomorrow on BBC Radio 2.

BBC – BBC Radio 2 Programmes – Radio Luxembourg 208 – Your Station of the Stars, Episode 1.

I was thinking about this radio station on Saturday. I started watching the Eurovision Song Contest, something I’ve not done for many years. I wanted to see Englebert Humperdinck and some of the other contenders.

I saw about 5 or 6 acts before giving up in horror. I went over to YouTube to watch probably my favourite ever Eurovison song: Après Toi by Vicky Leandros. The first time I heard this song was on Fab 208, Radio Luxembourg, probably played by Paul Burnett. And I loved it straightaway, even told my Mum the next day that it would win the contest. Which it did.


Radio receiving equipment

The first wireless (yes, it was called ‘wireless’, in those days) I can remember is a big old wooden one that my parents hired from Radio Rentals. I loved playing with the dial, tuning in to foreign stations, not really knowing what I was doing. My Dad listened to the BBC Home Service but while he was at work, my Mum would listen to the Light Programme. The Third Network was too posh for us: they played classical music which, sadly, meant nothing to my parents.

In early 1965, my Nan gave us a large item of furniture that she had no use for. It was a radiogram. A combined radio and record player. Well, at this point, we had no records at all, so for that reason, and probably, it was far too big for our house, it was taken away again.

Smaller radios were becoming available, and more affordable, so eventually the rental wireless was returned and for the first time, as far as I’m aware, we owned our own in the house. I used to listen to the pirate stations, Radio London and Radio Caroline but if Dad caught me, he’d retune the receiver. I really think he thought that if I were caught, I’d be sent to jail, merely for listening.

Well, it got to the point where I wanted to listen to the wireless. I swapped my beloved train-sets for a small, portable transistor radio that I could listen to in the privacy of the room that I still shared with my sister. It was at this point that I listened to Fab 208, Radio Luxembourg, under my bedclothes.

I admit, I did watch a lot of TV as well. It was exciting when we installed our first television set. Of course, it wasn’t ours, it too was rented. It was Pay-As-You-View. There was a meter attached to the back which we fed with 6d coins (six old pence is 2½p) and each tanner would provide us with half an hour’s viewing. Needless to say, the picture would disappear half-way through Doctor Who almost every Saturday afternoon. there was enough money in the meter for Dad to get through Grandstand on BBC TV and the wrestling on ITV. But not enough for Doctor Who. Just saying. But I did then, and still do, prefer the simpler medium of radio. Some say the pictures are better. Some say you can do other things while listening whereas TV demands your full attention. You’re free to use your imagination more. I don’t know, all of the above, maybe.

But now with my first radio under the pillow, I could go to sleep listening to music from Luxembourg and if the atmospheric conditions allowed, the American Forces Network (AFN) from Germany. This was all on the long-, medium- and short-wave bands. Plenty of French stations to choose from too, although I usually moved on by them.

But, now, much as I enjoyed the listening experience at the time, I do occasioanlly yearn for my old train-sets.

So, this takes us up to about 1970. VHF radio was new (now called FM) and for a while it was a technology that remained strange to me.

Radio Luxembourg: 20 years on

Radio Luxembourg closed down 20 years ago. To commemorate this anniversary, The Radio Academy has organised a special evening in London on Monday 28th November. Follow this link for more details: Radio Luxembourg | The Radio Academy.

I remember listening to Radio Luxembourg mainly in the late 1960s and early 1970s: sometimes, literally under the bedclothes late at night. Reception was a bit unreliable. After dark, the radio waves bounced off the ionosphere which was rising, and so the sound faded in and out. Nowadays, with FM and DAB, we don’t have to put up with that sort of nonsense!

I swapped my trainsets for a transistor radio much to my parents’ disgruntlement, but as I became more interested in listening to radio and especially pop music in those days, my trainsets were, after all, only collecting dust…. Forty years on and now, of course, I would love to see those trainsets just one more time.

Anyway, it was on Radio Luxembourg (Fab 208) that I first heard Todd Rundgren’s song ‘I saw the Light’. And if I remember correctly, it was several weeks before I heard it broadcast on Radio 1.

When I first heard Vicky Leandros’s ‘Après Toi’ in 1972, I somehow knew it would win that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. I should have put a bet on it.

Unfortunately, I have no tape recordings of any Radio Luxembourg show. But I just found this site which looks fairly comprehensive:
This Is Radio Luxembourg; Your Station Of The Stars; The Great 208.

If you’re going to the Radio Academy event, maybe I’ll see you there.