Sunday, 24 June 2018

Fantasies of A Geriatric DJ

This DRAFT typos abound. SORRY.

You have never heard of  me but unless you live on the dark side of the moon you will know who my older brother is. 

He is still around you know, my brother.  He will be eighty years old next birthday and has been retired for half of his life. Yes, decades of spending money and living the high life while I still have to work, with no pension I have to put some money into my pockets. I guess I am lucky in that I still enjoy what I do.

1959, Birmingham England.  Having failed the eleven plus examination then never having excelled in secondary modern school my parents refused to let me stay on at school to sit GCE examinations.

"You can get a job," Dad said. "A proper job, not like your brother."

The number one record in the current charts would earn that older brother of mine more money than my father could possibly make as a wages clerk in a factory. It would take him two, perhaps three or more, years to match it.

Parents in those days were never close to their children. At the end of the decade with austerity still controlling everything and teenagers starting to discover lives of their own the gap widened between the generations. My brother and I were friends, not bosom buddies but we got along well enough. Neither of us understood our parents. 

Brother ? As I write this story I cannot keep calling him brother but I do not want to give his identity away.  My brother the rock and roll star. I had better invent a name for him. I am Max, that is my name, let me call my brother Jim, or Jimmy.

My friends would boast that they had a mate whose brother was a rock and roll star. The teachers at school, I am sure, held it against me.  I enjoyed the adulation and smiled at the scorn of our school and its small minded teachers. I envied my brother and his success but Jimmy and Max were never destined to become Don and Phil Everley. I could not sing. I still cannot sing.

"I can give you a job Max," Jimmy said.

Dad glared at us both. It was one of those rare times when Jimmy was at home and not playing his guitar somewhere or other in the country. The whole family was together. 

"I have employment for you my lad," my father said. 

"And what would that be Dad ? Sweeping the factory floor ?"

"To start with but there are prospects. He may be able to get an apprenticeship."

I just kept quiet but when Jimmy and I were alone later I started to explore my options.

"So what would I have to do if I worked for you ?"

"Strictly speaking it would be the management company you worked for."

"So what would I do ?"

"Fetching and carrying, working with the road team to set up and break down all of the stage and equipment."

"Sweeping the floors ?" I smiled. 

"It's hard work being a pop singer you know, nobody realises that, but it is a life of fun.  You would be a part of that fun." 

Be it a factory floor or be it a pop singer's stage, I was not sure if sweeping either had any fun in them ?

But FUN my life was. 

I left school on Friday 24th July 1959. That week end Bother Jimmy was part of a two night concert in Birmingham Town Hall. We all then moved the show to Liverpool, Stoke on Trent, Manchester, Newcastle, Blackpool, London and finally Brighton. Seven locations, twelve shows in two weeks.

"How old are you son ?"

"Sixteen in November."

"Just a kid. You are a good kid, I've watched you at work. Do you have a passport ?"


"Better get one, you are going to need it."

I am not sure  which weighed more, the speakers or the amplifier. Both were heavy. I was always pleased when they were in place and working to Mike, the producer's satisfaction. He would have us move them, adjust them then move them again. If it took is fancy he would have us move the entire setup again and again until he was satisfied it was just right. He was not an easy man to please but he was an easy man to work with if that makes sense.

When it came to setting up the microphones, please do not ask me why, I was assigned the job of testing them. Everything was tweaked then when Jimmy and the others  came on stage to rehearse I would make the final adjustments. 

If the sound equipment was heavy, and it was, getting it ready for the show was so much easier than the less heavy but far more complex lighting rig. It would have taken the nerve and the skills of an agile monkey to match the way we climbed up and swung about the scaffolding.

Finally, and I mean finally, when all came together, when Jimmy and the others took to the stage to perform I was proud to be a part of it all. Only a stage hand, a small stage hand but I was proud.

The moment the audience was allowed into the hall we all had to keep well out of sight. This was the time for the stars, not for we small and insignificant grafters. I would so much have loved to see close up the faces of those who had paid to see my brother sing and play is guitar. Without us all and our hard work they would be nothing. If I were on stage anything I did could not match the adulation of Brother Jimmy. I often wondered what it felt like for him.

Girls were an enigma to me. I had been to an all-boys school, I do not have a sister so have little knowledge of the opposite sex. I understood, or thought I understood, the mechanics but only in theory, nothing at all in a practical sense. I did wonder constantly, as does every adolescent, what it would be like.

The pay for my job was good. It was far better sweeping a music stage than ever it was sweeping the factory floor were my Dad worked. When we were not on tour I was still paid. When my rock and roll star brother had a recording session I would sit and watch but the whole process was long and if I am honest boring.  I did not understand that side of the business, it was not of much interest to me.

"I think it is time you stopped just testing the microphone and started using it."

What did he mean ?

"I cannot sing," I explained.

He smiled. "I know that but it is your birthday so today I am going to give you the job of announcing your brother and the other acts on stage.  You have a good voice so let's use it." 

My heart beat hard. It was the job of the producer to stand on stage and introduce the artists. Mike was a good producer but on stage the was boring.  The last thing I would be on stage was boring. 

The night of my sixteenth birthday we were in Sheffield. 

"Here," Jimmy said, "You cannot go out on stage in your overalls so here's a birthday present for you. Wear this."

I looked amazed at the gift.  "Thank you."

In the dark at the back of the stage a drummer beat out a roll followed by a crash on the cymbals. I leaped onto the stage as the lights came up then grabbed the microphone from the stand to deliver the words I had so carefully rehearsed. 

"Bop bopa-a-lu a whop bam boo."

I paused nervously as I waited for the applause. The audience erupted. Dare I say my next line ?

"You've heard," I said bravely, "of Marty Wild, The Teenager In Love. I am Max, the teenager not in love so any of you ladies who would like to change that today is my birthday so I'll see you after the show."

I blew kisses and flung my arms wide. Girls screamed. 

Although I could not see him anywhere I could sense my brother smiling and saying "Get on with it !"

After the warm up act it would be Brother Jimmy. I waited in the wings for my next stage appearance. 

"That was quite something," He whispered behind me. "What's next ?"

"Wait and see."

"Don't you upstage me !"

"As if I would." I had every intention of doing just that.

For a second time I danced across the blowing kisses and taking bows. "It's my birthday girls, see me after the show and help me celebrate."

Sheffield, that was where I was celebrating my sixteenth birthday. Being allowed to compare the show was my best possible birthday present. Mum and Dad did remember to send me a card and gave me a book token, how exciting.

"Max," Brother Jimmy said, "I have another birthday gift for you. Use that book token Mum and Dad sent you to buy a travel book for America. I have won a singing part, just a supporting part, in a movie being filmed in America next year. You are coming with me. you did get that passport ?"

"Not yet."

"Hurry up and do it !"

"America ?  Movie ?"

"Yes, a singing part but only a supporting role. I am not the star."

"Hollywood ?"

"No, Hawaii."

"And I will raise your pay," Mike said walking to join us. "You did OK tonight, from now on you will introduce and compare every show." 

"Really ?"

"Really !"

My own part in the touring show. AND I was going to America. Some birthday. In the excitement I had forgotten all about my invitation to the audience to celebrate my birthday, it was not a serious invitation anyway. 

"Hello Max, I am Julie. This is Tina and her boyfriend Richard. I don't have a boyfriend."

"I've got a car," Ricard explained. "The girls have an idea for a birthday treat. You up for it ?"

"Sure," I said excitedly.

Richard had a Ford Consul. My Dad didn't  own a car, he did not earn enough as a factory wages clerk to drive one. Jimmy had passed is driving test but was always taken everywhere he wanted and needed to go. As soon as I was old enough I would learn to drive.  

"Jump in."

"Where are we going ?"

"We thought we would drive up to the moor," Tina said.

"But it has been snowing," I protested. "There will be a lot of snow on the moor."

"We hope so," Richard smiled. "We are going to have a snowball fight."

"A naked snowball fight, "Julie giggled.

When we got out of the car the ice cold air hit me. Surely we were not going to go through with this ?   It was a joke. The November moon was bright, I could see my new friends clearly. If we did as Julie had suggested we would be able to see each other as clearly as if it were midday. No darkness to cover us up !

"Come on," Richard said taking his jacket off and placing it with care on the snow. "Max this is not a for ladies first, here and now gentlemen lead."

Surreal is not a word I knew or understood when I was sixteen years old. The meaning came with age and experience. Experience ?  Another word, three words, experience would teach me but that night high on the moor above Sheffield they meant little to me Rite of passage

I copied Richard and took my coat off. "Everything ?"  I said. 

"Everything," a trio of voices said before someone added, "even your shoes and your socks."

Richard and I started to look like something you may find in Health and Efficiency Magazine.  It was strange, I felt warmer standing there dressed only in my pants than it had been wearing all the clothes I had on when we left Sheffield Arena.  

"Off !  Off !"  Was that Tina or was it Julia ?

I looked at Richard, in the moonlight our eyes met and there was a transfer of thought. As one we turned to present our backs to the ladies before removing our final items of clothing.  As I bent forward to step out of my pants a snowball hit me hard on the bottom. That was cold !

I scooped up a fistful of snow to retaliate, turned and threw it.  Soon Richard and I, neither of us phased by our nudity, were firing volley after volley at Tina and Julie. Neither took any notice of the bombardment as they danced taking off their clothes to be as naked as we were. As naked as the day they were born. 

This was the first time I had seen a girl naked. I tried to look at what this represented without actually staring at the two bodies. Were Tina and Julie staring at me ?  No, not staring but looking. 

The four of us leaped about throwing snowballs and ducking the ones aimed at us. We chased one another but deliberately the pursuer failed to catch any prey. We were having great fun. This was not sexual, this was not dirty. Naughty perhaps but it was fun. For the first time in my life I had seen a girl naked and she had seen me naked. 

My birthday present delivered, my rite of passage walked there came the moment, not planned and with nothing spoken, when we knew it was time to get dressed again. It was colder with our clothes on ! In the car Richard turned the heating up as high as its primitive engineering would allow.

"Happy birthday," Richard said.

"Happy birthday," Tina said.

"Happy birthday,"  Julie said but not before she had kissed me.

Surreal, that word again. "Are you sure, Jimmy, that is who the star of the movie is going to be ?"

"Of course I am sure. It is in the contract I have signed. You will meet him, you are coming with me." 

Today it would be said that I was to be my brother's PA but there was no such thing then as a PA, Personal Assistant. I was to be is secretary for the duration of is filming. 


"Secretary ? You don't look like some hot chick with a typewriter, not from where I am sitting."

"No Sir. I am here to help my brother."

"Sir !" He looked about him then smiled kindly at  me.  "Sir ?  I am far too young to be called Sir. I do have a name you know."

Of course I knew. The whole world knew the name of the greatest rock and roll star. Even my dull parents could not claim ignorance where this man was concerned. He was talking to me !

My dull parents. Christmas moved slowly.  Christmas with Mum and Dad, dull old Mum and Dad. Surely a pop star and his microphone jiggling younger brother should not be spending Christmas with Mummy and Daddy.

"You be careful in that America !  It's not a country I would want to trust. You mind out for those red Indians.  Why do you have to go there anyway ?" 

"They do not have Red Indians in Hawaii Mum. It's for work, you know that."

"Funny kind of work if you ask me," Dad said. "Haven't I always said so ? How much are you getting paid ?"

That question was directed to Jimmy but I answered it telling my parents what I would be receiving. That silenced my father but I was not going to leave it there. "Better than sweeping a factory floor !"

Christmas nineteen sixty and the New Year at my dear old parents Birmingham home, stuck as it was in the mindset of World War Two, was a long and drawn out process. It was, however, short compared to the time I felt it took us to complete the complex journey to America. 

A car pulled up to collect us. I could sense pride in my Mother as she saw the uniformed driver open the doors for us. I knew she was hoping the neighbours were watching.  Dad, of course, was at work fixing the wage packets for those who swept the floor at the factory where he worked. Even the factory's managing director did not travel in a car like this. 

We drove towards London Airport. There was the new M1 Motorway which had opened the year before. Riding along its wide carriageway was exciting. 

"Can this car do one hundred miles an hour ?  Can it do the ton ?"

"A Bentley can do anything," our driver said, "and this model is called The Flying Spur."
Jimmy turned his head round to look at me then said, "Let her go."

Jimmy was sitting in the front next to the driver. I was in the back so leaned forward to look at the speedometer. I watched as it climbed quickly to ninety then continue upwards to ninety five, ninety eight, one hundred, one hundred and five, one hundred and ten. I glanced away from the dashboard to look as the countryside sped by. I found myself wondering if the aircraft we would soon board could match the cars speed. 

That Pan Am Boeing 707 probably did go faster than the car yet as magnificent as it was it took forever to reach New York. I got to use my new passport but saw nothing of America other than Idlewild Airport before we had to board another Boeing 707 to Los Angeles. 

Not a Bentley t
his time but eventually on the ground a  Cadillac Fleetwood drove us to Paramount Studios in Hollywood. The cast members all had their own rooms in the studio compound. All these years later I still get tired when I recall those flights.  As I write my story I keep speaking of words we use today which had no meaning when I was a teenager, jetlag is another to add to my list. 

"Elvis Aaron Presley's the name," he said.

The two of us were sitting on the terrace of the artists' lounge at Paramount Studio, Hollywood, California.

"It's my real name. Your brother sings under is real name doesn't he ?"


"Not like that Cliff Richard fellow you have in England. He is Harold Webb if I am not mistaken."

I had no idea what is name was. 

"You don't have to look at me like that you know, just because I can sing a bit.  My legs end up in an arse the same as yours do. Although I expect my arse is a bit older than yours is."

"I am sixteen."

"Lucky you, I'm twenty six myself."

I wonder now if those reading this story believe the conversation took place, it did.

"Your brother is quite a star back in England."


"It is good to have him here, having a limey in the movie will make it more appealing in England."

Good as he was I did not think Brother Jimmy could do that.

"You don't sing yourself ?"


"Can you mime ?"

I could but I was not about to confess to the king of rock and roll that I would mime  to his songs in front of my bedroom mirror. "Never tried,"  I lied.

"Here's a deal," the great man said. "I can sing and I have no problem remembering the words to a song, I have only to hear it once and I have them permanently in my brain. But when it comes to the words I have to learn for the film, words in between the songs I just can never remember them. I get scared in front of the cameras."

Surely not.  I did not say it aloud but I did think it. Surely not.

"If you will help me to learn my words, you become my stage buddy, and I will fix it for you to be in the movie and sing with your brother. Only you can mime."

My mouth fell open.

"Is it a deal ?"


He took my hand and shook it firmly. "Now what kind of beer would you like to drink ?"
"I'm only sixteen, I'm not old enough to drink."

"Listen, if you are old enough to be in an Elvis Presley movie ten you are old enough to have a beer with your new buddy Elvis."

I have drunk many beers in my life and that one at Paramount Studio was by no way my first but I have never tasted better, before or after. 

I do think that Jimmy was pleased for his little brother Max, I am not sure.  "Eat your heart out Don and Phil," was all he said.

In the story for the movie Elvis Presley played the part of Chadwick Gates who returned to his home in Hawaii after military service to pick up is surfboard and start is life again.

"You don't have military service in England  any  more  do you ?" Someone asked us the next day.

"Not any more. We used to call it National Service." Jimmy explained. "My Dad did National Service, he was in the army at El Alamein."

"A war hero."  

"I don't think so,"  I explained. "He cleaned Montgomery's boots."

That first day at Paramount Studio we had costume fittings, script sessions, make up tests and everything anyone could come up with.

I would still have to do all the menial duties for my rock and roll star brother but now I was to become a star in my own right. Max Robinson appearing in Blue Hawaii alongside Elvis Presley. Would my name appear in the credits at the end of the movie ?  

"When do we actually go to Hawaii ?"

"In six weeks time."

We worked from early in the morning until late afternoon. How much was there that had to be done for  British pop star and is tone deaf younger brother to be prepared for small parts in a Hollywood movie ?

There were times away from work, special times to relax. The studio thought it would be a good idea and spared no expense to show two British boys some of the sights. We were taken to Tijuana in Mexico, I was not keen on that place. I wanted to go to San Francisco but was told it was far too cold at that time of year. I doubt it would have been any colder than  Birmingham in January.

Elvis avoided joining us on these trips, he could not go anywhere without fans mobbing him. That did happen a bit to Jimmy back home but there were ways to step round his identity and fame.  When Paramount said it was taking us to Arizona and Nevada on a three day trip Elvis said he wanted to come along with us.

It was in the Nevada Desert, somewhere between Reno and Virginia City our friend climbed on to a rock, held out is arms and said, "There is not a living soul as far as I can see."

Even at the tender age of sixteen with my limited adolescent life experience I did not envy him his fame.

Finally, finally in March we were ready to move from Hollywood to Hawaii where the real work would start.

All of the tracks had been recorded in the Hollywood studio. These would be added to the master film during editing. On the set the  tracks were played through speakers but the cameras did not pick up the sound.   We all sang along. It did not matter that my voice was off key.  When everything was eventually brought together it looked natural and convincing. 

While I have been typing up my scribbled notes for this story I have been playing the album. Jimmy and I are somewhere in each song but my favourites are:  Blue Hawaii, Rockaula Baby and Aloha Oe.

In late April we returned to Hollywood and Paramount Studio.

"Well that is it," Elvis said. "Went quite well at the end of the day if you ask me. Thanks Max for your help with my lines. I appreciate it."

Everyone involved in the production came together in the theatre to watch the film. Yes, it was good. Jimmy and I may only have had small parts but we were in every scene where Elvis sang, as this was a musical we were on camera for most of the movie.

The film was not going to be released until November. Paramount had carefully selected the date for maximum impact to try and get the album into the number one spot for Christmas.

"So I guess you are off home to Limeyland."

"Max wants to see San Francisco before we fly back to London, England." Jimmy put emphasis on the word ENGLAND. "We thought we would take a Greyhound Bus up there then fly from San Francisco to New York and finally home."

Elvis nodded. "I have never been o San Fran. Hey, when you get to New York how about you stop off and join me on the Ed Sullivan Show ?"

I wondered what the Ed Sullivan Show was.

"I will get my people to talk to his people ten we can fix a day to suit us all."

San Francisco ! What an important part that city was to play in my later life. I will tell you of that later. I do not know why I wanted to make that first visit but I did.

We were two movie stars but nobody knew who we were. I liked that. As we walked over The Golden Gate Bridge in comfortable obscurity I smiled at just how easy it was to be famous. 

I looked out from The Golden Gate Bridge towards the hills of San Francisco but before my eyes could properly see the shoreline the scene was dominated to focus on the island of Alcatraz. Neither Jimmy nor I had ever heard of the place before arriving in the city but were told it was a national prison housing some of Americas hardest and most dangerous criminals. Why spoil a beautiful place with such a small yet horrible thing on that small island ?

Chinatown was a funny place I have to say. Until that visit to San Francisco I had never seen a Chinaman before, few Englishmen had. We learned why they were originally imported to California to work on the railway, a bit like the way our ancestors imported Irish navies to build our canals.

We did not have such things in Birmingham but London had trolley buses which were powered by electricity from a network of overhead cables.  San Francisco had the strangest system of public transport, still has the strangest system of public transport, I had ever seen. Thick wires ran in slots down the middle of the road.  Wooden boxes with wheels hooked on to these cables to be dragged up and down the hills and carry passengers throughout the city.

One of these hills was called Nob hill. Nob ?  In England that is a rude word. Could you ever think of Birmingham calling a road Cock Mountain ?  Oh well, America !

Time to make our way back to Birmingham and home.  After Hawaii, after Paramount Studios and Hollywood, San Francisco was a bit of an anti-climax. At least there was not an earthquake while we were there. 

I tried to sleep on the aircraft but close my eyes as I did slumber would not overtake me. It was exactly the same on the Boeing 707 to London. Perhaps I could sleep in the car back up the M1. We never did appear on the show Elvis wanted.

Car ? We were not met by a Bentley or any other kind of car ! We were met at London Airport by a shining bus from the Midland Red Company.  Reporters and photographers were there to welcome us home and report on the Brummie Rock and Roll Stars. To my utter amazement Mum and Dad were on the bus.

"You actually met Elvis Presley ?"

"Of course Mum."

"What was he like ?"

"Shall I tell you what he said about himself ?"

"Oh yes please !"

"He said,"  I smiled, "his legs ended in an arse just like yours do !"

Mum made to slap me across the face but thought better of it. Just as well, too many camera lenses were pointing at us !

Of course the newspapers were primarily interested in Rock and Roll Star Jimmy but one ran a special feature all about me and my friend Elvis Presley. When I gave that interview on the Midland Red Bus I did not talk about legs and arses.

There were no tour dates but Jimmy spent the next six weeks in the studio recording a new album. Did we call them albums back then ?  Or was it LP, Long Playing record ? Why was making a movie so much fun and making an LP utterly dull ?
Another birthday. I was eighteen years old when Blue Hawaii was released. Then the real work started over again. We were both to make appearances in cinemas up and down the length of Britain. There was a new Jimmy Robison Fan Club organising it all. There was not a Little Brother Max Fan Club but my role in Blue Hawaii was the same as Jimmy. OK, I did not sing but I was excellent at miming.

It was the cinemas in the evening and the record shops by day. Signing autographs, smiling and promoting the music of Blue Hawaii and my friend Elvis Aaron Presley.

He sent me a birthday card, Elvis did, signing it Your Buddy Elvis.

We went down to London, to the Odeon in Leicester Square for the opening night of the film. The second night planned for us to be in the foyer of The Geaumont Cinema in Birmingham.  We were to be there for a full hour before the film was due to start. The moment the doors opened and the crowd pushed their way inside one person separated herself from the dash to Brother Jimmy. I recognised her of course.

“Happy Birthday Max,” she said. “I am sorry it is a bit late but I wanted to give you the card myself. Can I give you a kiss as well ?”

“Yes, please Julie. Yes please !”

The crowd pushed her aside as people decided they may as well have my autograph as well as Jimmy’s. She was gone.

As we travelled round the country, cinema after cinema, record shop after record shop, I wondered if she would come again. I hoped I would see her again.

Blue Hawaii was the number one album, or LP, for Christmas. We gained nothing from these sales. Even though the film was a huge success we were paid no more than the flat fee Paramount had paid to us.

New Year 1962. I had spent not very much money at all ! I had not had the chance. A new tour programme would give Max and hid Magic Microphone wages as I introduced each act on stage. I decided I would treat myself. I would learn to drive. Enthusiastically I went out and bought myself a car. I had it delivered to my parent’s house as I had yet to have my first driving lesson. Triumph Motors delivered it on the back of a truck from their factory in Coventry.

“How much have you spent on that ?”

“Not that much.”

“You have not got it on hire purchase have you ?”

“No Dad I haven’t.”

“So where did you get the money from ?”

“Paramount Pictures.”

“Paramount Pictures ?”

“There’s plenty more in the bank Dad.”

“How come ?  You were only a lacky, Jimmy’s the one who is the star.”

I never did like my Dad.

“I do not want to lose Max and his Magic Microphone but I have a friend who has an idea.  I think you should speak to him.”

British pop music was changing and while Jimmy could still get his records into the charts his were not any  more the immediate choice of the teenagers. Cliff Richard, Harold Webb, was appealing to a wider audience. Adam faith, his real name was Terrence Nellhams, had lost his popularity. He only ever released two LP albums.  Jimmy did not disappear from the pop music world as did Adam faith but he was no Cliff Richard.

I never met The Beatles, even today I have never met any of the Fab Four. There’s only two of them left now, Paul and Ringo.

I knew Keith Richards and I met, let me try to remember; Gerry Marsden, Cilla Black, Dave Clark and even Freddie Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers.

“That friend of mine,”  Mike said, “he is coming to the show tonight.”

We were in Rotherham, wherever Rotherham is. It was so easy to forget where we were at any time. We would arrive, set  up, perform, breakdown, sleep and move on. I do, however, know for certain we were in Rotherham.

“So who is this man and what does he want ?”

“His name is Carl and I will let him explain face to face what  his idea and plan are.”

“So you are Max and his Magic Microphone ?”

I nodded.

“Quite a mouthful that. Why not Max’s Magic Microphone ?”

I shrugged mu shoulders. I did not feel like saying much.  Carl was a domineering man, I sensed that immediately and I did not like him. What was it he wanted ?

“Do you have any money left from what Paramount paid you ?”

“Most of it.”  I had only spent money on the car. I had not had even one lesson.”

“I am starting a radio station,” Carl started to explain. “I have sold my house and put all of the money into buying an old fishing trawler.”

What was he talking about ?

“The ship is to be called The Jolly Roger, we will anchor her outside the three mile legal limit then broadcast non-stop pop music all over the country.”


“Oh I can do it, nobody can stop me, Radio Jolly Rogers will be a pirate radio station.”

“That sounds illegal.”

“It is but nobody can do a single thing about it. We will make money broadcasting adverts and nobody can stop us.”

“What about the BBC ?”

“Lease of all the BBC !”

“So what do you want me for ?”

Carl hesitated as he gathered his thoughts. He had been very pushy and speaking with a force behind his words, now he was changing his tone. “I would like you to be a presenter on the station, bring your magic microphone and be a DJ.”
“A DJ ?”

“A jockey rides a horse,” he explained. “A presenter will ride the records and become disc jockeys.”

I knew what a DJ was.

I would like you to be one of our DJ’s, to be Max’s Magic Microphone.

I liked that idea a bit.

But then this Carl continued. “I need two thousand pounds to finish equipping the studio. I do not have two thousand pounds left and I can hardly ask the bank to lend it to me to start up a pirate radio station !”

Was he really about to ask me to lend him the money ?  Ridiculous !  Never !

“If you invest money in Radio Jolly Roger and become a shareholder I will make you a director, Director of Music.”

“I’m only eighteen and a half,” I explained.

“And I am thirty-eight and a half, do you think we could make a good team ?    Two pirates ?”

This was crazy. Almost as crazy as being in Blue Hawaii with Elvis Presley. As crazy as buying a sports car when I could not drive. I did not like this Carl man but I fancied myself as a radio DJ.

Mike came in to the room followed within moments by Brother Jimmy.  Their arrival made me pause in telling Carl the last person who would give him any money would be me.

“So am I going to have to be man of the microphone, Mike of the Microphone ?”

“Having you play my records may save my career,”  Jimmy smiled.

How come they both knew Carl ?

“I think I’ll ask Dad for advice.”  What a stupid idea !  Why did it ever come into my head ?

The scorn Jimmy then heaped upon me made me feel utterly stupid. Even Mike was laughing but Carl did not understand.

“What will happen with Radio Jolly Roger if I say no ?”

“Take dad’s advice you mean ?  If I had listened to our father I would be sweeping up rubbish from the factory floor, either that or putting pennies into envelopes along side him as a wages clerk.”

“I do have a Plan B,” Carl said.

“And I am that Plan B,” Jimmy said. “I will give Carl the money but I can not become a DJ on the country’s biggest radio station. You can. You can be the biggest DJ sensation in the world. Stop following behind me, get out there and become a star in your own right.”

“But –“

“Stop the buts Max.”  jimmy was almost shouting. “Get on with it. Bring Elvis Presley to England and have him live on Radio Jolly Roger !”

“How much of a share will two thousand pounds get me ?”

“Twenty-five percent.”

“I’ll give you two thousand five hundred and you will give me a one third share.”

Elvis Presley never did come to England but Max Robinson did become Director of Music at Pirate Radio Jolly Roger.

Carl stretched out his hand, shook mine firmly and smiled. It was not just the money, he wanted me to be part of his radio station. OUR radio station. My attitude towards him changed completely.

The boat and the intended radio station were called Jolly Roger but the company owning everything was Brandon Lewis and Associates. There was no Brandon Lewis but it was of that company that I was a shareholder and director. We had a one room office above a flat in Hull where Carl lived. There were two bedrooms, he slept in one while I crashed on the floor of the other which doubled as our office.

From that office I started to recruit my disc jockey team. I knew enough of the music scene to directly approach the kind of people the station needed.

Randy Raymond, he signed up quickly, I knew he would be good. Nicholas whose tag line I set as Knickerless girls should not climb trees !  Tint Tim whose trouser waist size was almost the same as the boat.

“Only guys,” Carl said. “No girls.”

I had presumed a DJ would be a lad but why was Carl saying No Girls ?

“You don’t want me to recruit homos do you ?”

“Don’t be silly, of course not but this is to be a music boat not  a shag tub !”

“Perhaps we should call it Radio Wank !”

“We can put stuff in the tea,” Carl laughed, “like they do in prison. Shagging will be perfectly permissible but only off the boat, ashore on dry land.”

Shagging ?  I was heading towards my nineteenth birthday and had never had a shag. Was I normal ?

Sebastian Thoroughgood, Seb Goodie, I added him to the team. That made three, four if I counted myself. Carl said we needed a team of eight. While I was busy recruiting he was busy selling advertising.

Number five, Ponytail Pete. Twenty-two years old, he must have been growing his hair since the day he was born to get it that long. I had met Pete somewhere when my brother was playing.  He sold tickets in the kiosk at the theatre, I can not remember which theatre it was. 

“I’ve got a mate,” Pete said. “His name is Joshua Morgan.”

Morgan, wasn’t that a pirate name. Pirate Morgan. Number six.

Oswald Charles Bainbridge. If you ask me, the moment I first saw him I decided he was a homo. With a name like Oswald Charles Bainbridge he had to be a poof didn’t he ?  Number seven.

Carl brought in a guy to look after all the radio stuff, we called him Wireless Willy. Did he have a wireless willy ?  I had no idea.

The fisherman who Carl had bought the boat from agreed to come back and sail her. Not that we were going to sail anywhere.

DJ number eight.  I could not find number eight. “I think we could manage with just seven,” I said to Carl.

“The Magnificent Seven,” he smiled.

I did not like Max’s Magic Microphone.  I was nineteen and still a teenager, I changed my name to The Eternal Teenager. Marty Wild’s song Teenager In Love would be my theme tune.

Would I ever be a teenager in love ?

A birthday car was sent to the office of Jimmy’s fan club. It was three weeks later when I got it.  The card was signed Love Julie but there was a letter inside it.  She had been to the show that night in Rotherham.  I had not seen her.  Julie said she had waited outside for me. I was inside with Carl. She gave up waiting, left and went home.

Oh Julie !

Radio Jolly Roger went live on air at one second past midnight on Monday 1st April 1963. Carl had been very clever telling the press there would be a special April Fool announcement broadcast on 703 metres on the medium waveband. Even the totally stupid BBC picked it up and told the country. Pirate Radio was born.

The Eternal teenager became the very first pirate radio DJ, playing Marty Wild and Teenager In Love.

The second record played was for my friend in the snow, Julie – Juliette by The Four Pennies.

Of course I played something from Blue Hawaii, the wedding song. Elvis Presley was not able to listen, the signal from 703 on the medium wave, would not reach so far but I did hope that Julie was listening.  Julie who ?  I did not even know her second name.

The law really was strange. Broadcasting without a licence was a crime but  there were no licences to have. Only the BBC was allowed to broadcast radio.  We were outside the three mile legal limit where British Law had power so there was no way we could be arrested. When we went ashore we had broken no laws on the land so we were quite free.  The office in Hull was not broadcasting so everything there was perfectly legal.

Our audience figures went up and up and up.  We could tell this from the ever increasing demand for advertising space and the number of bags of fam mail arriving in Hull.  Those bags of mail inundated my DJ team with requests to play. The BBC was a good friend to us ! Carl called it the Bullshit Broadcasting Corporation, their news reports never stopped telling people what we were up to.  Thanks entirely to The Bullshit Broadcasting Corporation Carl was able to put up the advertising rates.

The Christmas 1963 number one record was I Want To Hold Your Hand by the Beatles. I so much wanted to hold Julie’s hand.  1963 would be my last Christmas as a teenager,  Would I always be a teenager NOT in love ?  In November I received my usual birthday card from Elvis Presley but there was nothing from Julie.

I was famous, I received fan requests every day asking for my autograph. I was the star of pirate radio. I was Director of Music at Radio Jolly Roger. But I was nineteen and I was a virgin.

I decided I would organise a party on Wednesday 1st April 1964 to celebrate our first birthday as a pirate radio station. The Beatles were again at  number one with She Love You.. Would Julie ever love me ?

The year began with The Beatles and was dominated in the charts up to April and beyond. Of course Radio Jolly Roger played The Beatles but I instructed my team not to make us a Beatles only station.

Dear Max

I hope my letter reaches you. I am not sure if all of the letters I have been sending to you through your brother’s fam club have found you in the North Sea.  Now I have found your radio station’s office in Hull I will try writing to you there.

I listen to Radio Jolly Roger all the time. I am so proud when I  tell my friends I know DJ Max’s Magic Microphone.

Do you ever get any snow in the north Sea ?

She had put her address at the top of the letter.

I wanted to write back to her, of course I wanted to write back to her. I honestly did not know what love was. Being in love ?  Before my twentieth birthday I so much wanted to be that teenager in love. What was being in love like ? What would it be like to be a teenager in love ?  I had less than seven months to find out.

From the ship letters had to go to Hull via the supply boat which came in twice a week. Those letters would then be posted but they were not a priority to the office staff. The next boat was due the following day, not my letter but I would be on it.

“You deserve a shag break,”  Carl said. “You’ve not been off the boat since day One.”

“I am not going for a shag !”  I protested.

“Well you can play with your joy stick here, you do not need to go ashore for that !”

“Get knotted !”

I did wish that I had learned to drive. That car of mine was still sitting in Mum and dad’s driveway, new but no longer worth the money I had paid for it.  How was I to get to Sheffield from Hull and then when in Sheffield how was I meant to find Julie’s home ?  Could I just turn up and knock on the door ? It was not going to be easy. I will spare you the details but, no, it was not easy.

I moved to press my finger on the door ball, hesitated then pulled my hand back.  I went through the motion again.  On the third attempt I would press the bell, I determined I would.  I would force myself. While I was still plucking up the courage the front door opened.

“I am sorry,” the lady said, “I keep telling him to fix that bell. Did you knock ?  I saw you from the window.”

“Sorry, no,”  I said.  “is Julie at home ?”

“You’re Max from the radio, Max and the microphone thingy.”

“Well yes.”

“I listen to you, I love your show. Can I have your autograph please ?”

I could feel my face going red.

“Is Julie at home ?”  I asked again.

“Julie,” she turned and called. “You will give me your autograph won’t you ?  Please.”

Julie appeared. “I see you have met my Rock and Roll Mum,” she giggled.

Put me in front of a microphone and I can speak to the world but trying to find the words I had so carefully prepared for Julie left me dumb struck.

“How long have you worked at the radio station ? AT Jolly Roger ?”

“I don’t actually work there, “ I said trying to impress. “I part own it. I am Director of Music.”

I did impress. I wish I could find the words now all these years later to adequately describe to you the look on her face.

“So I have a wealthy businessman as a boyfriend,” Julie said.

“Is he your boyfriend then ?” Her mother said excitedly.

“I hope so, or I hope he will be.”

Was I really, truly about to become The Teenager In love ?

“I thought we could go somewhere for a meal, that  is if you are free,”  I said nervously but excitedly.

“Can I come as well ?”

“No Mother !”

“Do you have a car with you Max ?”

“No, it’s in Birmingham.”

“Take mine. Are sure I can not come as well ?”

“Mother !”
“I know it is a little unusual for women of Mum’s age to drive,” Julie said as she backed the car out of the drive, “but I don’t have a dad.”


“My dad was a GI.  He and Mum were married when he was stationed here during the war. They then went back to America where I was born.  Dad never left the army, he went to fight in Korea where he was killed.  Mi was small at the time.  Mum and I moved back to England.”

“To Sheffield ?”

“Yes, I am a Steel City Girl.”

“A Steel City Girl who has a driving licence. I’ve got a car which I don’t drive, you can use it if you like.”

“Really ?”

“It does not drive well on the North Sea, t he tyres keep getting stuck in the waves.”

I guess that is what people call making small talk.  It was the first time I had ever used small talk, it was the first time I had ever tried to chat up a girl.

“I came to see you and your brother when you were in Rotherham.”

“Rotherham ?”

“Yes, I waited outside for ages after the show but you never appeared.”

Rotherham !

“Where are we going ?”

“You said we were going to eat.”

“Yes, but you are driving, where are you taking us ?”

We went to a pub that had a very good steak bar. As we ate Julie told me she was training to be a nurse. “I am a couple of years older than you. Who looks after you boys on the boat ?  Who renders first aid when you need it ?”
“We don’t get that many broken legs,” I smiled.

“So The Jolly Roger is not looking to appoint a Ship’s Matron ?”

Carl, he’s the boss and co-owner, does not allow girls on the boat. Only male DJ’s”

“Perhaps you need a nurse to take care of all those sprained wrists,”  Julie giggled.

I blushed. How did girls know about these things ?  I suppose she was a nurse !

“You said you owned Radio Jolly Roger so why can’t I come and work as Ship’s Matron ?”

“I only own one third, Carl owns two thirds. And I suppose your Mum will want to come as Ship’s Cook ?”

“My Mum has a job, she works in a department store. She is manager of the lingerie department selling knickers to fat women.”

“So she didn’t sell your knickers then ?”

“Cheeky. Besides you have seen my knickers. That night up on the moor. Remember ?”

“And you haver seen my pants !”

“I have seen a lot more than your underwear.”

“Do you mean my socks ?”  I smiled. “Do you want another drink ?”

“Yes please, I will have a snowball !”

Who was chatting up who ? I needed to be the one in charge, after all I was the man.

“When do you qualify as a nurse ?”


“I see.”

“Oh for goodness sake Max and your silly microphone,  can’t  you   tell  I  fancy you rotten ?”

“And I fancy you,”  I said clumsily.

“So that officially makes us boyfriend and girlfriend.”

At last I was that teenager in love. “Is it far to the moor ?  Could we drive there ?”

“It’s not far if I drive quickly. Perhaps another snowball would help.”

“Don’t drink and drive and don’t drive too quickly ion the snow.”

“There’s no snow this time of year,” she giggled. “Only in the mind.”

In my mind it was a raging blizzard of emotion.  I wanted to say it, dare I say it, should I say it.  I changed the sentence slightly. “So it won’t be cold then when we -,” I hesitated.

“When we get there you mean ?”  Julie smiled.

You know what happened next, of course you do. I am going to keep that special moment private and to myself. You can use your imagination if you wish.

Back in the car we turned the radio on. “Who is that ?”

“Pirate Morgan, I put him in charge while I am away.”

“Is he your deputy then ?”

“I don’t have a deputy, this is the first time I have left the boat since we came on air.”

“Max Robinson, you naughty DJ. I can see that Matron Julie is going to have to smack your bottom !”

“Yes please,”  I thought but did not say it !

The Jolly Roger did not have a ship to shore telephone. We may have been the world’s most sophisticated radio broadcaster but when it came to personal communications RMS Titanic was more advanced. The Hull office had a telephone, of course it did. People would call there then messages would be relayed by radio. It was not possible to call the ship direct. I smile now, writing these words. I hope my younger readers can understand a world without computers, mobile phones and the internet.

That night I hoped Julie, MY Julie, would stay with me in Hull but she said she had to get home. Surely we had both planned a night together. We had, hadn’t we ?

“I want to stay with you, honestly I do, but Mum will probably want the car back.”

“Please stay.”

“Oh Max I would like to.”

Did her mother really need the car ? It sounded like an excuse to get away from me. Did Julie really love me ?  If she did then why would she not stay ? Was ours to be the shortest teenage love affair in history ?

What !  I could hear the door opening. Someone was coming up the stairs. Julie looked at me. It had to be Matty, Scatty Matty, who ran the office but was he doing at such an hour ?

“I saw the light,”  Matty said.  “I hoped beyond hope that  it would be you.”

I looked puzzled. I was puzzled. “This is Julie,”  I said.

He nodded politely towards Julie. “I’ve come in to sort something for you. I was going to do it in the morning before you came back but I was so excited I could not sleep and just had to come back.”

What was he talking about ?

“He phoned !”

“Who phoned ?”

“It was him who phoned, he phoned himself. Not a manager or an agent. He phoned.”

What was he talking about ?  What was so important to bring Scatty Matty back to the office ?  Even if I could persuade Julie to stay what was the point now with Scatty Matty making us into a trio ?

“Who phoned ?”

“Elvis Presley phoned.”

“Oh him. What did he want  that brings you back into the office ?”  Damn you Elvis Presley you are messing things up for me with my girlfriend.

“He wants you in new York.”

“New York ? I don’t want to go to New York.”

“He said it was for the Ed Sullivan Show. He said you would know about that.”

“It’s an American TV show,”  I explained.

Julie looked incredulous.  I liked the effect.

“Tell Mr Elvis Aaron Presley I will only come to New York if my girlfriends can come with me.”

I turned to Julie.

“You do have a passport Julie ?”

She nodded. “Mum and I went to France for a week-end.”

“Good. Matty Sort it. You can tell that Mr Sullivan the same as Elvis Flippin Aaron Flippin Presley, Max’s Magic Microphone is only coming to New York if my girlfriends can come with me !”

“Is this a joke ?” Julie asked. “Are you two scheming to tease me ?”

“Matty get it sorted.”

“Pan Am’s London Office is open twenty-four hours, I will call them and book seats.”

“Get on to it. My girlfriends and I are going to bed. We do not want to be disturbed.”

“I do not sing,” I tried to explain.

“He’s right, he doesn’t,” Elvis confirmed. “the magic in my friend’s microphone is as a DJ and, trust me, not as a singer.”

“But he was in Blue Hawaii.”

“Trust me Mr Sullivan, Max will not be singing on your show.”

He thought for moment, he stroked his chin and looked to the floor as he pondered the mistake of inviting me onto his show.

“We’ll skip the singing into,”  The Great Ed Sullivan said. “I’ll introduce Elvis as an American rock star then he can introduce Max as a British DJ.”

I nodded.

“Elvis will sing and then you can show me how you would introduce him in the style of a British DJ. That should work.  The Elvis can sing, what will it be ?”

“Blue Hawaii, it has to be Blue Hawaii.”

“Then I will show you how to be an American TV host. After that Elvis can sing again.”

“Rock a hula baby ?”  Elvis suggested.

“Do you dance Max ?”

“Of course.”

“That little girlfriend of yours,”  he looked towards Julie sitting at the side of the studio. “does she dance ?”


“So in the second number you two will both dance,”

Ed Sullivan again pondered, rubbed his chin and studied the floor. When the idea was fully formed he continued speaking. “You start off the dancing then as many of the studio hands as can be spared will come and join you.”

“Let’s give it a try,” Elvis said.

“Are you sure you do not need me to rehearse your lines with you ?”

Elvis feigned a punch.

Julie thought she was in a dream. When I was with Julie I was permanently in a dream. Max Robinson, the teenager so deeply, deeply in love. I never wanted to wake up.

Ed Sullivan, America’s greatest by far TV host, Elvis Presley the unquestioned world’s greatest rock and roll star could not even stand in the shadow of my very own Julie.

“What is a Matron ?” Elvis asked during the break between rehearsal and our going live on TV, live to the whole of the United States of America,

“A matron is the head nurse in a hospital.”

“Really ?  Matron, I like that name. I guess we just call it head nurse in our hospitals. Matron ?  So are you going to be a matron ?”

“Perhaps, one day. But not for years yet.  I do not even qualify as a nurse for a few weeks yet. I have to pass my examinations.”

“So what is this all about you becoming Matron on The Jolly Roger ?”

“I wanted to be the ship’s nurse but Max said women are not allowed on the boat.”
“Garbage !  Max you fix this for Julie.”

“But Elvis.”

“But Elvis my big toenail !  You take Julie on as ship’s nurse or I will ban radio Jolly Roger from playing any more of my records.”

“I smiled.”

Elvis was not smiling. “Max, I mean it.”

“Did you try to get him to change his mind ?”

“Yes Carl, I did, but he is not an easy man to argue with.”

“Form a letter he sent me I can see that. It arrived today. Special delivery.”

I had a lot to do. I had not been away from the boat for long but there was a mountain of work waiting for me. Julie was back in Sheffield with her mother and her final examinations to pass in order to qualify as a nurse.

“Pete’s been getting a lot of fan mail,” Pirate Morgan explained. I have a bit of an idea, why don’t we name a DJ of the week based on the fan mail ? We could get people to write in.”

It was a good idea but where would I come in such a game ? How many would vote for me ? It could be embarrassing if I were permanently in last place.

“Do any of the boys have girlfriends,” I asked, changing the subject.

“I don’t.”

“I wondered what the reaction would be if I brought Julie to live here with me on the boat.”

“What about Carl and his no ladies policy ?”

I explained about Elvis. “He was joking, I think, about banning us from playing his records.”

“There is a way round it.”

“How ? What ?”

“Bring Julie to live on The Jolly Roger not as your girlfriend but as your wife !”

My proposal of marriage to Julie was not romantic and packed with cliches, down on one knee, birds singing and so on but it was overflowing with the deepest love any man had ever known for a woman.. I am certain that Julie's acceptance in those tiny few seconds caused the Earth to spin faster on its axis.

I was engage to be married. We were engaged to be married.

"Let's set a date, the moment you have finished your final examination, Let's get married the Saturday after."

"Come here,"  Julie replied. She then kissed me.

Families had to be told and then we could announce our engagement to the world. Telling her mother would be a happy time for Julie, telling my parents was going to be an act of duty to be done as quickly as possible and in as short a time as possible.

"What are you intending to do about that car on my drive ?"  Always cold and practical, my father.

"I tell you what Dad, put an advert in The Birmingham Mail, sell it and give the money to charity."

"I will."

"Good !"

My mother, bless her, was more excited. "Will Jimmy be your best man ?"

I hesitated. I had not thought about it and made my decision. "Yes, I had thought about asking my friend Elvis Presley but Julie's father was dead and she would need someone to give her away. I know he would do it and what a touch to a fairy tale wedding that will be."

My Mother pulled her hands to her mouth and she was lost for words.

My Brother Jimmy's  music career as a performer was all but over, he had opened a record shop in the centre of Birmingham where he spent most of his days. I went top see him. Never having learned how to drive and now with my car up for sale I went on the 'bus.

Sitting on the top deck pf that Midland red 113 'bus from Chester Road, Sutton Coldfield, to New Street Birmingham I looked at my fellow passengers and wondered if any recognised me. How many were listeners to Radio Jolly Roger. When the conductress came to collect my fare I think she recognised me. I smiled and hoped that my smile showed I was the happiest person alive.

Jimmy's shop was impressive and very busy, the tiller were in overdrive. Three girls were busy attending to ever growing lines of pop pickers buying their favorite records, helping them up the charts and filling my big brother's pockets with profits. The customers did recognise me and begged for my autograph.

Brother Jimmy emerged, took me away to his office to return his business to the way it had been before I walked through the door.

"Very impressive," I said.

"This is just the beginning. You are in the first of what will become a chain of record shops with branches up and down the country."

"Good for you."

A radio was playing in the office. It was, of course, tuned to Radio Jolly Roger. Mark Dinning with Teen Angel was playing.

"That's a bit old fashioned," Jimmy observed. "You need to get your DJ's to play more from the charts."

"It's Rock and Roll, you are a Rock and Roll singer."

"Was. I am a business man now. I have moved on."

"Perhaps you should give Dad a job sweeping the floors in your shops."

He smiled. "So what are you going to do when the government  closes down  pirate  radio ?  It can't last for ever. What are you going to move on to ?"

"I am going to get married !" I declared.

I had thought that my Rock and Roll star brother would have been just a surprised but it was as if he had been expecting the news. He was, however, taken back when I explained I wanted him to be our best man.

"Of course I want you. Who else ?"

"I thought - "

"No," I cut him short. If you had not become a rock and roll star, if I had not followed in your shadow, if we had not met Elvis Presley, if I had not become a radio disc jockey. I would never have met and fallen in love with my Julie. You brought us together, you made me a teenager in love."

"Where are you going for your honeymoon ?"

I hadn't thought about it.

"Hawaii ?"


"San Francisco. ?"

"No ?"

"Blackpool ?"

"Possibly," I smiled.

When Julie returned from sharing our news with her mother we would talk about it.

But I never saw my Julie again.  Driving to Sheffield she was involved in a crash. The doctors said she died instantly. My darling Julie had become a teen angel. Would I see her again one day ?  I could never love another.  I would never love another.

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