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Tony Blackburn hijacks Radio 2 Breakfast to celebrate 60 years of pirate radio

Tony Blackburn has taken over the breakfast show on BBC Radio 2 in a stunt to celebrate 60 years since the launch of Radio Caroline, and by implication the birth of pirate radio.

The legendary old-school deejay interrupted Zoe Ball’s regular slot saying: “We are back, the pirates are back! Zoe Ball has been locked out of the studio. I’m here, anarchy once again. We ARE pirates, we’re pirate Radio 2 and here we go, and for the next hour I’m going to play you proper music. Here it is.”
He then somewhat dampened his own argument by playing Caroline by The Fortunes, with his own 1960s jingles played between songs. Blackburn added that his pirate colleague Johnnie Walker would have been with him but he’s slept in.
Blackburn later gently mocked Radio 5’s current 30th birthday celebrations relative to his own achievements: “I understand that Radio 5 Live is celebrating 30 years. We laugh at them,” he said. “We actually laugh at Radio 5. Celebrating 30 years for goodness sake. Unbelievable.”
Of course, no pirate takeover would be complete without a plug, in this case for Blackburn and Walker’s upcoming series Clash of the Pirates which starts tomorrow (Friday) at midday.

To say the takeover set social media alight might be an exaggeration, but it was definitely noted:

Others were more impressed:

For some, it was clearly just a matter of giving Blackburn’s smooth delivery time to grow on them:

And the ever reliable Pathé – a mainstay of UK media of even longer standing than Blackburn himself – was on hand with a reminder of the smooth DJ’s glory days on the high seas:

Radio 2’s head of PR was also on standby with footage of the pirate attack as it happened, which never happened in Blackbeard’s day:

For those too young to have the faintest idea what any of this is about, in the dark days of heavily regulated radio broadcasting before the internet, pirate radio was illegal transmissions which frequently played music that couldn’t be heard on the staid government-owned channels of the day. Among the first, and best-known, of these in the UK was Radio Caroline, which got around the regulations by broadcasting from five different ships in international waters off the coast of the UK (hence the term pirate) between 1964 and 1990.

The term would later also be applied to the urban music stations broadcasting using transmitters on the roofs of tower blocks in cities like Manchester, London and Birmingham in the 80s and 90s, before the internet rather stole their thunder in the early 2000s.

Listeners in certain areas, including Poulton-le-Fylde, can still tune into Radio Caroline on DAB to this day, although the ships have now been retired.

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