Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Radio in the Movies #1 - "Pirate Radio"

I watched the movie "Pirate Radio" this afternoon. It's directed by Richard Curtis who also wrote "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill." British radio in the 1960s was completely controlled by the government which refused to air rock music. This spawned a group of illegal ship-based broadcasters programming popular music from international waters, the most famous of which was Radio Caroline (generically named Radio Rock in the movie.) The ensemble cast was underwhelming even with Philip Seymour Hoffman playing the lone American DJ called The Count. Kenneth Branaugh's performance as a government suit bent on outlawing pirate radio is absurdly over-the-top and a subplot about a character named Carl finding his father is just lame. Sometimes it seemed like Curtis wrote the screenplay based on songs used on the soundtrack (Leonard Cohen's "So Long Marianne" fit just a little too perfectly into the script.) Given the subject matter I really wanted to like this film but didn't. Apparently "Pirate Radio" came out in Britain last spring under the title "The Boat That Rocked" and totally bombed at the box office. They trimmed 20 minutes for the American release but no amount of cutting can save this turkey.

KQLZ "Pirate Radio 100.3 FM" was a "Rock 40" station in Los Angeles, California from 1989 to 1993. They aired a mix of pop hits and rock songs claiming to play everything from Madonna to Metallica to Milli Vanilli. The station was masterminded by Scott Shannon who found great success in the 1980s with Z100 WHTZ in New York City. Unfortunately, the ratings never materialized, Shannon was fired in 1991 and KQLZ is now known as one of the most high profile failures in the history of radio.

Here's a t-shirt I received from Radio Caroline who were, amazingly, still broadcasting in 1998.

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