Very loosely based on Radio Caroline, which operated in the mid-60s from a ship anchored in the North Sea and broadcast to Great Britain as an alternative to the BBC, which had a monopoly on British airwaves. The writer/director, Richard Curtis, has taken the basic story and altered it greatly to make it a metaphor for the little guys up against Big Government. The actual situation was far from what is portrayed here, but that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t good. It never set out to be a documentary. We had fun watching these people, and the music could hardly be better. This was the sound track of my generation.
It took me back to 1967, living in Marin County, where the first “alternative rock” station got its start. That was KMPX-FM, which began broadcasting album-based rock at night and quickly revolutionized radio. Before that, FM was the backward child of radio, most stations playing elevator music or foreign language programming. Cars didn’t even have FM radios, if you can believe that. Noisy disc-jockey Top 40 AM ruled the world. Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue changed all that, with DJs who didn’t mind a breathing space between cuts—which could be whole album sides of rock, folk, or jazz—and who, if they weren’t actually stoned, sure as hell managed to sound like they were. We listened to everyone from Sun Ra to Dr. John’s “Gris Gris” to Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead and Jimi, all music AM radio wasn’t playing. Now that would make a good movie. I hope somebody makes it some day.