On 20 April 2020, we said farewell to a highly innovative Irishman who changed the world with his singular vision and desire to make the world a better place through the medium of music. His grandfather (The O'Rahilly) was an important figure in the quest for the independence of Ireland, a leader in the Easter Rising, who died in the fighting in Dublin in April 1916. His parents owned the private port of Greenore in Carlingford Lough, County Louth.
Ronan O'Rahilly was an Irish businessman best known for the creation of the offshore radio station, ‘Radio Caroline’ and as manager of George Lazenby, who played James Bond. Prior to his involvement with ‘Radio Caroline’ O'Rahilly ran the ‘Scene club’ in London's Soho district and managed a number of pop music artists, including Georgie Fame and Alexis Korner. He recorded a Georgie Fame record on his own independent label, unheard of at the time, and took the record to the BBC to try to get it played. He discovered that the record industry was dominated by EMI and Decca. He then tried to get it played on Radio Luxembourg and again found that the shows were 'owned' by major labels EMI, Decca, Pye, and Philips. They were essentially 'payola' shows and featured only music from the paying label. He said, "I have recorded the guy, so I can't get it played, so we have to start our own radio station.“ He set about creating the pirate radio station ‘Radio Caroline,’ which broadcast from a ship, the MV Caroline anchored in international waters off the coast of Essex, England.
Thank you for the joy and inspiration, Ronan.
This one’s for you.
The only music being broadcast in Ireland in the late '50s-early '60s was via BBC Radio, who controlled everything with their monopolization of the airwaves. Their Light Symphony Orchestra kept us in a state of continual brain-dead compliance. Aker Bilk’s clarinet lulled us into a real sense of bewildered nothingness, while Matt Munroe and his shiny suits made us cringe with mind-numbing, soul-destroying passivity. Perry Como’s sickly-sweet crooning turned us into zombies. We wanted more, we needed more. We were sliding deeper into a pit of unconsciousness. We wanted to lash out. We wanted to let our hair down and open our minds to something else. We wanted to climb the stairway. We wanted to fight in the streets. We knew there had to be more but where was it, and when would it arrive? Then, one silent night, the saviour, ‘Radio Caroline’ sailed into our dry harbor, and finally, Ziggy would get to play his guitar . . .
"Back then the radio was kept hidden under the pillow when the new world dawned in the dark lightness of night. Back then the North Sea was the liquid platform and the ethereal fluidity coursed astride the wavelengths. Back then new sounds invaded the eagerly awaiting shore, adding fuel to the dying embers. Back then the pirates defied the established quotient, afloat on the high sea, blasting the music across the waves from rusted, leaking vessels, in glorious triumph."
Excerpt from "Turn Out the Light."
© John A. Brennan 2021. All Rights Reserved.