Brian Whittle / View of Westminster and Central London from Canonbie Rd / CC BY-SA 2.0. The image has been digitally altered to show what this view looked like in 1997.

This post was delayed due to my tape player developing a major technical fault, which took quite some time to resolve. Now that I’m back in action, I decided that I should upload two Rude FM tapes I made in July 1997.

First, a few words about the recording location. I made these tapes while living near one of the most elevated spots in South-East London, which provided for fantastic pirate radio reception, and by walking several hundred metres I was able to get stunning views of the London skyline (see the images above and below). Coincidentally, Reprezent 107.3 – one of London’s most popular community-licensed stations – currently have their FM transmitter just a few streets away.

Rude FM is a legendary pirate that belongs in the same hall of fame as Kool FM and the Weekend Rush. Founded in 1992, the station was a constant presence on the FM dial, playing hardcore, jungle and drum & bass, and in fact has only recently left the airwaves. Brian Belle-Fortune’s excellent book on the history of jungle, All Crews, has an entire chapter dedicated to the station and its origins. Amongst the key characters affiliated with Rude FM the author mentions DJ Psychic, who held down a regular Sunday slot between 2 and 4pm, playing mellow drum & bass (which was also dubbed “intelligent” at the time). Surprisingly, very few recordings of his shows are available online, so this first upload is an exclusive!

Looking south from Canonbie Road. Original photo © 1997.

Amongst the interesting things mentioned by Psychic during the show are that he was interviewed on a Channel 5 programme featuring Rude FM (I have searched for it but so far can’t find any traces online), and that sending shouts to mobile phones via text messages was a novelty in 1997. The adverts feature Rhythm Section, the record shop that was affiliated with the station, and the Youth Awareness Programme, which provided verified information about drugs confidentially over the phone.

The next tape is on the darker side of drum & bass. The selection is emblematic of the corresponding period in 1997: still maintaining a healthy balance between tech-stepping beats and amen breaks. Side A features a set by Dylan while Side B has an excellent mix by a DJ whose voice is very familiar to me but whose handle I have unfortunately forgotten! There are a few lesser-known tunes on this side, such as Reminiscence by Mace, as well as one of my personal favourites, Warriors, at the very start.

Thanks for tuning in, and look out for more of my Rude FM uploads in the near future.

Update

Many thanks to DJextreme for the track listing of Dylan’s set.

01 Technical Itch – Conscious – Moving Shadow – Blueprint LP
02 Peshay – Phobia – Unreleased
03 Dom & Roland – Aliens – DRP
04 Optical – High Tek Dreams – Prototype
05 Swift – Analogue – Suburban Base
06 Danny Breaks & Dylan – Molecules (Dubplate Version) – Unreleased
07 Dom & Roland – Thunder – Moving Shadow – Industry LP
08 Dom – Drones – Moving Shadow
09 Dylan – Code Breaker – Droppin Science
10 Optical – Shape the Future (Remix) – Metalheadz
11 Dom & Optical – Quadrant Six (Fierce Remix) – Audio Couture
12 Future Forces – Synthesis – Unreleased

This is the second tape I’m posting from my recovered archives. Nowadays, anyone who follows urban dance music will have heard of Rinse FM. However, newer listeners may not be aware of the station’s pirate origins prior to obtaining Ofcom’s community radio license in 2011:

Rinse FM is universally recognised as having played a key role in the emergence of grime and dubstep in the early 2000s and there are many recordings from this period of the station’s history available online. Although Rinse started out as a jungle and drum & bass station in back in 1994, there are relatively few recordings around from their pre-grime/garage days. I happened to tune in to one of their shows on one rainy Saturday afternoon in November 1997 and hit the record button. Note the regular shouts-outs going out to Wiley.

In the years between 1995 and 1999 I recorded a number of tapes of London’s pirate radio stations. Pirate radio was my gateway into the world of jungle music, as I was just shy of the minimum age limit to be (legally) admitted into raves. I remember countless nights when I would be sitting by my table-top FM radio and listening to the likes of Kool FM, Eruption, Rude FM and Don FM. Whenever I would hear something that I would really like, I’d throw in a blank audio cassette and start recording, although I had to make a careful decision each time as good quality tapes were not cheap!

Those years marked the evolution of jungle into drum & bass, and every few months a slightly different yet distinct sub-genere would emerge that is still possible to date with accuracy today. It was an exciting time to be listening to the pirates, as well as to legal stations like Kiss FM and the iconic One In The Jungle show on BBC Radio One. I was pleased with my growing tape collection and felt like I was documenting an important part of the UK’s music history. I also had quite a few pre-1995 tapes, which were copied for me by a friend to help me catch up on what I had missed out on in the early jungle days.


What happened next was heartbreaking: while I was away from home, a flooding accident damaged a lot of our possessions, and it appeared that all of my tapes had perished alongside. That’s what I carried on thinking for about 20 years and until last week, when we discovered that many of these tapes were in fact preserved and had been quietly sitting in a cardboard box in my brother’s garage ever since!

The tapes seem to have survived huge temperature and humidity variations, which simply amazes me. I’ll be gradually digitising and uploading them in the next few months. Rediscovering these tapes feels like entering a time capsule and brings up a mixture of emotions ranging from wistful nostalgia to happiness and gratitude. Below is a July 1997 recording of Life FM, a somewhat short-lived pirate station of which I couldn’t find any other recordings online.