Johnny Flux on the roof of Shivering Sands Fort. Photo courtesy of the man himself.
“I was a happy bunny on Radio City, and my presence there was due in no small part to Screaming Lord Sutch. My group had supported him back in
the 60s at various gigs (Chatham Town Hall springs to mind, as does the California Ballroom, Dunstable), and I was, truth to tell a bit of a fan. Much later, in the eighties, I was to produce a record of his. The song was
I'm a Ghost. How sad to hear of his untimely demise.
I like to think he's up there somewhere mid-concert, scaring and thrilling us at the same time. He leans down and spots me in the crowd. ‘Aaaaagh’, he screams, shaking his skull stick at me, at the same time
mesmerically holding my gaze, ‘When ya gonna release my record Johnny? I've got this great idea to promote it.’ Then he scans the pretty girls in the crowd and sings ‘On the level I'm a devil. I'm a
real rockin' rebel. Yeah you'd better be nice to me. I'm a ghost, I'm a ghost, I ain't nothin' but a ghost, ain't nothin' but a real live ghost.’ Well Dave, your track is now resurrected (I knew you'd like that) and
I'm gonna give your fans a listen (click for mp3). I'm sure they'll enjoy your haunting tones and think back to the fun they had being scared witless by you
they rocked and rolled. This song was recorded at Mayfair studios at the same session as Metal Mickey's Lollipop. The latter was also produced by me.
So, back to the plot: as an eighteen year old quiff-laden rocker, frequency hopping around the radio dial, I accidentally caught his broadcasts. I thought ‘Wow! I'll have some of that’. I listened out for
details and soon put a tape together to send to Radio City's office in Denmark Street.
Dorothy Calvert replied and said that they'd like to meet me and soon I was hangin' around the La Giaconda cafe yet again. It was my old haunt in my group ‘Davy Jones and The Manish Boys’ days. (Yus, ole
David Bowie's fledgling backing group, or maybe he was our singer, the jury's still out on that one.) I was soon hob-nobbing with Terry King in the Giaconda. He had booked us for loads of gigs around the country,
not to mention the tour with Gene Pitney, Marianne Faithfull and the Kinks. I was the lead guitarist with Day-Glo pink hair. At the end of the tour, at only eighteen years of age, I applied to Radio City for a job. It
was the last time we played together. I got the gig and the band decided to split. Jones had metamorphosised into Bowie and was soon on his way to stardom.
Reg Calvert was a partner in the business with Terry in an upstairs office at 7 Denmark Street. Together Reg and Terry had great success with the Fortunes, starting with You've Got Your Troubles. I adored that track to pieces - that and Everyone's Gone To The Moon by Jonathan King - but I digress.
It's a good job I did like the Fortunes track, because it was used by the station not just to promote the single, but as a warning to home base that something was amiss and that the station manager, Eric Martin, should
contact them by radio to see what kind of help was needed. Nearly always it was the transmitter that was showing signs of throwing a wobbly!
Eric was a card. Station Manager and Chief Shopper. Very ‘country gent’ complete with a RAF type moustache, fairly well-built with hound tooth jackets and pin sharp creases in his grey trousers, he always
wore a tie and sported a ‘posh’ voice to match it all. He drove a Jag, in which he'd carry all manner of goodies for the station, doing the shopping from the local stores, from fruit and veg to meat and fish
which he'd send out to the forts on Freddie Downs' boats Harvester 1 and 2. This would keep the deejays and engineering staff in grub for a week or so.
Mr. Martin (due respect - he must have been middle-aged) was the owner of the local record store and his father owned a chain of pubs. He was so taken up with the world of broadcasting that he ventured onto the airwaves
from time to time as ‘Rick Martin’.
I remember him fondly as the guy who'd cross our palms with silver in the little nook at the pub, which was the unofficial office. This was The Wall Tavern, on Middle Wall in Whitstable, and the back room was where we
got paid. Not a lot, you might say. Some of us got £6 a week, others as much as a tenner! When I got to Big L, where I became known as John Edward, we were on £35 a week! Still his fondness for brandy gave me
my first experience of booze. Nice man.
Alex Dee was tall and slim with a handsome freckled face. I'm sure he was popular with the listeners, very cool and expert in his technique. Chris Cross had a
slight northern twang, which made him come across like a schoolmaster (in my opinion anyway). He was so enthusiastic about the Beatles and the Stones! He ran a regular spot, which he called ‘5 by 4’. The
respective fans would wax lyrical about their faves. Talking of which there was a little coterie of them that used to send funny and inviting letters to the boys. Carmen Getme (hi Helen!), Rosa Houses and Lydia Dustbin
were the main ones I remember.
|RADIO CITY PROGRAMME SCHEDULE 1965
6.00am “Early Bird Show”
7.30 “Voice of Prophecy” (sponsored) rpt.
8.00 “Breakfast Show”
(8.30-8.45 “Allen Revival Hour” - sponsored)
10.00 “Morning Show”
(mon, wed, fri 11.00-11.15 “Radio Doctor” - sponsored)
12.00pm “Lunch Break”
1.00 “What's New”
1.30 “Afternoon Show part one”
3.30 “Afternoon Show part two”
5.00 “Five by Four Show”
5.30 “Sixty Minute Special”
6.30 “Voice of Prophecy” (sponsored)
Eric Martin writes to offer Johnny a trial period on Shivering Sands. Click to enlarge.
Paul Elvey was an engineer who became an unexpected heart-throb to the fans. He would face the mike from time to time and deejay like a pro.
He was tough-looking and well built in a boxer sort of way. He had similar freckles to Alex. They could have been brothers. If they were a stage act, they might have been called ‘Long and Short’. Paul's East
End accent contrasted with Alex who managed to sound more cultured. Both had the same ginger hair and skin colouring, with Paul's hair thinning gracefully. There must have been fifteen years age difference between them
with Alex, the younger, who was about 20ish.
I loved Radio City and being there was like working in a boy scouts camp, but with even more jollies! Assorted random memories:
Lying on a towel on the sun-baked (and really hot!) orange rusty and grey-painted roof on one of the Shivering Sands Towers and listening to the station output, thinking ‘life just don't get any better than this!’
Percy Faith's Theme From A Summer Place was playing and the sky was as blue as it gets with only flecks of white clouds. It was sunny and everything felt so positive.
There were nights of darkness when the generator packed up, but hey that's what the moon's for! The distant rumble of the diesel-powered generators over in one of the metal tank-like ‘shacks’. Walking along the
access path between the towers on no more than a suspended rope ladder with wooden slats. (Off limits to DJs, only in dire emergency were we to cross over them and always accompanied by someone else. Great at midnight,
with only the moon to see where you were treading. Who needs drugs?)
I was happy in that environment and have many fond memories of those times: Self-heated baked beans and toast, as long as the gas burner worked. Visits from pretty girls, some official, some coming aboard from passing
motorboats eager to see what we got up to. The hair raising (yes, I had plenty in those days!) climb up the rope ladder (always keep one leg one side and one leg the other with the ladder between them . it balances you,
otherwise your weight pushes the whole thing forward and it's hard to make your way up), the dizzying sight of the swaying boat sixty or seventy feet below as I clung for dear life to the rope ladder, the upturned faces
of the boat's crew and other boarding DJs, the fresh salty fragrance of the sea, and Dick Dixon's black leather jacket with his open-necked blue and white shirt, his almost Tony Curtis
waves and flick-down front locks and his after shave, along with his Rs that sounded like Ws, Tony Pine's electronic wizardry with the cassette player (‘just give it a bang if it gets stuck’), Dorothy Calvert's
enthusiasm, Reg Calvert's chats and encouragement ....”