So who is Mike Burnett then?
Who's who on RFL
Mike has been involved with pirate radio from the moment he was born (well almost). He first started messing about with tape recording in about 1965 when his dad (Roy) went down to Deptford high st in south London and bought a Fidelity tape recorder from JF Stones.
"I was fascinated by this wonderful piece of gear and as soon as my Dad stopped recording his guitar onto tape I was connecting it up to our radio gram and recording Alan Freeman's pick of the pops.
I never stopped from then onwards and soon after leaving School and getting my first of many jobs, I got involved with a pirate radio station called Sun Radio in 1975. I had replied to their adverts for staff and within a week they had me standing in a Surrey wood next to the transmitter, ready to run off with it if the GPO raided us. And on the second week they did raid us!"
Mike soon started doing programmes and after a short demo Kenny Myers and Tony Randall decided to put him on air.
In early 1978 Kenny Myers got a copy of the old theme music to Radio Free London (Ton-up by Helmut Zacharias) and wanted to restart Radio Free London once again. RFL had started life in 1968 on 225 meters on the 1st anniversary of the marine offences act which closed most of the off shore ships in 1967. It also returned for the first time on FM in 1973.
The most successful era of RFL started on 12 February 1978 and it hit the London airwaves on 92FM with a 30 watt transmitter from a wood in South London.
Mike Burnett was soon involved with the station and was doing weekly programmes along with Andy Allman, Steve Ego, Kenny Myers and many more. During this time Mike spent a massive amount of time finding new sites for transmission and so the authorities didn't find them too easily. "In those days we still had to do a suicide tape change every hour and if they had tracked us down they would probably be waiting for us by the rig and it was down the nick for an hour or so. RFL was transmitting some damn good rock music at the time and was getting a lot of listeners. The music ranged from Mark Ashton's hippie rock right though to Steve Ego's heavy metal and it was a really refreshing listen in the extremely dull days of Sunday evening radio in the UK."
Mike continued with RFL till about 1980 and then went on to start his own radio station called London rock. This wasn't very successful due to short transmission hours. Technically it was excellent with a very powerful transmitter installed in an old building at crystal Palace.
At this time ( 1984) Mike was working for Thames television in Teddington and recording and transmitting all the TV crud he hated so much from the VTR transmission area of Thames TV on out onto the ITV network. After a year or two he moved to outside broadcasts and for a while enjoyed driving all over the place to set up microwave links for things like channel four racing, Wembley, the Epsom Derby etc.
After a year of this he was getting really stressed out with it all, and bravely or stupidly walked out on his 20 grand a year job (Loads of money in 1985).
Mike had what can only be described as a dosing period from 1985 to 1987 and helped build transmitters, set up radio stations and did programmes.
In 1987 he landed his best and last job at MTV europe. This was great as it was very similar to radio, and Mike was totally in charge of the output for the whole of his shift. "You really had to be on the ball as there was a sound and vision mix every 2-3mins for the whole of the 8 hour shift and although you had an assistant loading the tapes, it was a long time to be on air. After a few months it became very easy and we were getting bored and doing all sorts of special effects between music, always changing the playlist to the tracks we wanted to hear and in my case putting myself on air sometimes as the voice over man they had was so useless. No one ever noticed and didn't even check the logging tapes we were recording that would have told the tale. A friend I worked with (Gez), was well into video production and one night fired-up the whole studio system and put himself on air live!! HAPPY DAYS!!" Even a walkman was put on air once!!" Click here for pictures of the Mtv transmission area
"We even used to use the satellite as an echo machine by bringing up the fader from the off-air satellite feed and using the satellite delay as a good echo machine! They couldn't touch us for it as we didn't have an echo machine did we? In fact there wasn't one in the building, in fact it wasn't even on this planet. Try and prove that one Mr/Ms boss".
After about a year of this Mike freaked out again and walked out on this job too. He ain't worked since and is far happier with the simple life.
Radio Free London started shortwave transmissions in 1995 as the response from the FM transmissions in London was very poor as everyone was listening to the dance stations with their powerful transmitters.
Although many of us really hated the poor quality of short wave at first, we are getting used to it now and finding ways to make quiet Pink Floyd tracks heard through all the static and noise.
Mike Now lives in Suffolk and for his sins lives right next to a USAF airbase and is quietly going insane with F15 aircraft thundering overhead. (He is working on ways to take on the USAF single handedly). However this madness serves a radio programme well, and he can be heard every bank holiday on 5805KHz shortwave (international) and sometimes on 819KHz medium wave (819 is for London only).
Normal service will be resumed, when we can be damn arsed to do it!!
Mike Burnett in 1995 And his Rabbit called Chops in 1999
Click to subscribe to Radio Free London message board