Welcome to the LASER558 page

Part of the Canadian Broadcast Directory website

UPDATED: Sept 2007


News:

I will try to get some of the last shots of the communicator and post them here soon. With the end of the Communicator, there will not likely be any more updates to this webpage unless something new surfaces with any of the old personalities out there. I will keep this site running as long as funds allow! My intention with this website was always to preserve as many details about Laser 558 as possible on the 'net..a sort of virtual Laser 558 museum! Read thru the history of Laser and the Communicator here, feel free to email me anytime with questons, comments or additional information....and enjoy!

November 2007: The Radio Caroline website has the final story about the Communicator "Funeral for a Friend" here.

August 2007: Well folks, thats it for the old Laser radio ship! According to an article posted in the Orkney Island newspaper this past summer, the old Laser radio ship the MV Communicator, now owned by a local businessman (purchased from Dave Miller at the superstation a few years ago is being broken up for scrap steel. The ship, currently beached at the St Margarets Hope docks has been in poor condition for the past few years. According to Andrew Banks, several offers to purchase the ship, presumably for continuing use as a radio platform all fell through. Several photos have surfaced on the internet of the ship breaking progress and the latest ones from August show large pieces of the ship have already been removed along with the 1224 mast. So long communicator...thanks for the memories!

Nov 2004: The Superstation Orkney RSL has ended. A 3 month special events broadcast by Dave Miller and his team using the MV Communicator and a 25 watt FM signal atop the mast covered most of the Orkneys, an island chain to the norht of Scotland. The MV Communicator was outfitted with new studios and was towed to St Margarets Hope where she operated as The Superstation . Dave now intends to apply for a full time permanent FM license for the superstation. The permanent station would be "land based" and not use the Communicator.

April 2004: News from mvcommunicator.com is that the old laser ship is now back in England and is currently in Lowestoft. Restoration work continues but still no official word on what exactly the new owners intend to do with her.

Oct 2003: Just returned from the NAB Radio show in Philadelphia where we bumped into, of all people, John Catlett, former Management Icon from LASER558 ! An update in the "where are they now" section below will follow shortly!

Sept 2002: Charlie Wolf update direct from the man himself: "I am pleased to announce that the rumours are true: I am returning to 1089/1053 MW TalkSPORT starting this weekend. Ill be in my old slot (Saturday 1A 5A/Sunday 1A 5A/Monday 2A 5A). The show will bring back the kind of outspoken opinion and debate that you have come to expect and off course, your hard-hitting phone calls as well.By the way, for those wondering, I am not giving up my shows on RedFM, but will be working for both stations and hopefully gaining a lot of air miles."

Sept 2002: Dan Johnson wrote in to tell us that Q the Beat was not successful in their bid for an FM licence and has ceased operations on 1224 Khz so once again the Communicator radio ship is off the air.

June 2002: Interview via E Mail with Paul Rusling transcribed to the website. See below under the "where are they now" section!

April 14 2002: News from Holland that Q the Beat is now on the air again on 1224 from the former laser radio ship MV Communicator. Some newer pictures are up at this site which shows that a new containter with a generator has been located near the ship for power supply. Q the Beat had gone off the air while it worked towards an FM licence application. The future of the ship had been in limbo but apparantly rumors abound that there were many suitors for the Communicator and its 1224 frequency so even if Q makes the jump to FM, sounds like there will be lots of demand for the old girl yet! By the way, we have found that NOZEMA, which as far as we can tell is a sort of privatized division of the Netherlands government called the "Dutch Broadcasting Company " set up to manage ALL commercial and public broadcast transmission facilities in Holland is the actual owner of the Communicator. Commercial stations that are licenced in the Netherlands apparantly don't actually own and operate their own broadcast transmitters and facilities...they sort of "lease" the use of them from this department of the government. If you have any claification on this, please email me!

Feb 16 2002: Mick Coren wrote in to confirm that Q the Beat on 1224 has gone dark. Q along with new partners Clearchannel intend to move the station to FM and are in the process of applying for an FM licence. Q is the station in the Netherlands that was (until the end of 2001) using the original Laser radioship the MV Communicator as its AM broadcast platform.

Jan 20 2002: Charlie Wolf is now "on the air" at RED FM in Cork, Ireland...see the notes below in the "Where Are They Now?" section! Good Luck at RED FM Charlie!

July 4: CLEARCHANNEL UPDATE: Chris Latiers website had a note back in the winter of this year (2001) that the US company Clear Channel Communications, which is possibly the worlds largest owner of radio stations with upwards of 1170 stations worldwide had purchased Q The Beat, the station which currently uses the former Laser558 radioship Communicator for its 1224 AM transmitter site in Holland. I've have been in contact with Clear Channel's PR department and they have CONFIRMED that the station has been purchased and is now owned by Clear Channel. However, they had no other details at all about the station and suggested we keep an eye on their website for future press releases and developments. This is important since the future of the Communicator undoubtedly rests with whomever owns Q the Beat and if that station ever decided to move to FM and/or change transmitter sites, the future of the Communicator may become doubtfull.

March 1, 2001: Well, the website is done! Welcome to the new Laser558.org page! The mission of this website will be to collect information on the background of the station, and to collect the most extensive library of links to other LASER558 websites, along with what we hope is the best set of links to LASER558 pictures and audio archives on the net. We also hope to keep updated notes on where the staff are now.

If you can help, or you want your pictures or audio posted, or you have a LASER website, then by all means email me!!! we will, of course, always credit the sources of information, pictures, and audio.


WHAT WAS LASER558?

LASER558 was an american style CHR (Top 40) station, hosted by American DJ's, operating from a ship called the "MV Communicator", anchored in international waters in the North Sea. The station officially launched in the spring of '84 and ran until the generators quit in the fall of '85. The station returned in 86-87 as LASER HOT HITS on 576AM. In both episodes, the station was also plagued by antenna mast collapses due to the extream winter weather on the North Sea. Following surrender from the Laser HOT HITS days in 1987, the ship was sold off and moved to Portugal but I don't believe it ever made it to air and the Communicator sat there until 1994 when Holland FM came to the rescue and purchased the ship for use as an unmanned AM relay platform on 1224. In 1994 the ship was sold again to Q radio. Based on photos from Hans Van Dijk from as recently as the summer of 2000 and notes from Chris Latiers, the ghost of LASER558 lives on! The Communicator was, until 2002, still being used as an AM transmitter site where it is pumping out the hits once again for Q The Beat 1224 AM near the town of Almere, not far from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

While on a trip to France and Europe in 1984, I happend to come across this station using my sony 2001 receiver. Below are a few airchecks of the station that I happened to record while on the Normandy coast of France. Some of the poorer quality clips were recorded back in Paris. The station primarily served England but could be heard all over Europe. Using a 10 or 25 kw CSI transmitter fed into a wire antenna in the shape of a "7" supported by fore and aft towers on the ship, the station often had a killer signal on 558khz AM. When I returned home in Sept 1984, I wrote to the stations PO Box address in NY City, I was able to get a "Communicator" club card, a postcard of the ship, and poster of the on air personalities which I will post below as soon as I can scan them in! If you remember this station as I do, you will recall that it was an awesome station, the first of its kind in Europe, with its American style top 40 format and announcers. I have read that the station officially posted a cume of OVER 9 MILLION listeners during its haydays! Some reports say 15 Million, and I've read at one website where they claim Laser had 20 Million listeners! All of this was due to the fact that at that time, the UK broadcasting act did not allow this type of radio and there was no one playing "Top 40" "All Hits...All the time".

The following were recorded by me in Normandy and in Paris in July and Sept of 1984. These are now MP3 streaming files..you'll need Realplayer to listen. They are all very short clips...less than 60 sec's.

Here is the "communicator club" card front and back

Here is the post card from Michael Dean, front and back;

On the back Its stamped "Laser 558 All Europe Radio PO Box 1892 New York City, 10163 USA" and its signed "Thanks for writing to us, Michael Dean" and Its also stamped "Reception Report Confirmation, Date 7 Aug 84 time 12:00 Keep Listening!"


LINKS: Other Websites with pictures and audio from LASER558:


WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

After some searching on the 'net, I've found the following in case you are wondering "where are they now"??? I've also updated this list with some info from Keith Skues book "Pop Went the Pirates":

Craig Novak e-mail'd in a note in June 2001 to say that he now owns 6 radio stations in upstate NY. Craig in real life is Alan Bishop and he has some interesting info to add from his time aboard laser (April '85 untill the ship surrendered in the fall of '85). I asked Alan about the "real reason" the ship was brought in and about how he got hired on in the first place...


I got involved with Laser after reading an article in
Radio and Records in 1985.  In the back they were
advertising for DJ's so I applied.  Two weeks later I
was on an airplane headed for England.  It was
fantastic.  The day I arrived there was a big storm. 
The next morning I turned on the radio in my hotel and
there was no Laser.  When I went out I found out why. 
The front tower had fallen down.  It took a couple of
weeks to build a new one.

We brought the ship in in November 1985 because none
of us felt safe.  The engineer in charge of the
generators.......didn't know
what he was doing.  Due to lack of oil, the main
generator for lights, power, etc for the ship siezed
up.  We had no lights at night.  There were numerous
problems like that.  The people on Caroline were there
for "Loving Awareness" and a strong belief in changing
British radio.  Most of us on Laser were there for fun
and didn't really want to die as part of it.  It was
the decision of the Captain and myself to bring the
ship in out of safety concerns.

Steve Masters e-mail'd me in March of 2001. Steve in real life is Dan Crafton, and he says he's alive and well and working for the Voice of America. He also has a consulting business "International Media Consultants" which recently was involved in some of the programming for a special events shortwave station in Europe. Dan sent us this picture from the first on air days at Laser558. As soon as I confirm the names for the faces I'll post it here but I'm sure I recognise Jessie Brandon as well as Ric Harris and David Lee Stone in there along with Steve Masters.

After some more "net research" I was actually able to correspond with Charlie Wolf in the summer of 2000 and he gave us the following updates on past Laser personalities:

-Dave Lee Stone, unfortunately died about 3 years ago after a drinking binge. 
He had been suffering from pretty severe depression over the years.  
Tommy Rivers is here - in London as bureau chief for CBS Radio.  John 
Catlett (the former manager) has just moved to Bombay India where he is to 
oversee the setting up of a (I think the first) commercial radio network.

-Jessie is still in DC.

-The transmitter was looked after Joe (can't remember surname, he went by 
Mighty Joe Young).  We used to have to keep the modulation down, due to 
interference with RTE radio, but he would come in at night and say -- 
Charlie, don't tell anyone, but your show is so good... I've just turned the 
mod up to 125% pos. peaks.  The generators are straining, but you sound loud 
and proud!!

After the Laser era, Charlie Wolf joined ATLANTIC252 which is a longwave AM station in England where they carried on the LASER558 style. He was with Signal FM and also did a show on Big AM which was networked to what was Signal 2, Manchester 1458 AM, and on AM for the Pulse in Bradford. He then did the overnight talk show at TALKSPORT radio in England before moving to RED FM, a new station in Cork, Ireland.


THE HISTORY OF LASER558:

The most detailed history of how the station got started that I can find on the net is "The Laser 558 Story" and also in the book "Pop Went the Pirates" by Keith Skues which is available from www.amazon.co.uk. Many of the websites I've found (links are below) have photos, audio clips, and station history. And thanks to Hans van Dijk and Live365 you can listen to hours of Laser558 and relive what is arguably the most infamous CHR radio station of the 80's, A station that some might say single handedly cause a broadcast revolution in Europe!

From Keith's book: When the station launched in '84; the Ships Captain was an American, Tim Levensaler. He and Holly Michaels later married. Levensaler left the ship in the summer of '84. The list of DJ's from Keiths book includes Jessie Brandon, Christine Carson, Dave Chaney, Michael Dean, Paul Dean Ric Harris, Erin Kelly, Steve Masters Craig Novack, Tommy Rivers, David Lee Stone, Liz West Charlie Wolf, and Might Joe Young (Joe Vogel) who was also the station/transmitter engineer. The first group of Announcers in the spring of 84 was Ric Harris (am drive), David Lee Stone (mid mornings), Jessie Brandon (afternoons), and Steve Masters (evenings). They were joined by Paul Dean, Holly Michaels, Charlie Wolf, and Tommy Rivers for the summer of '84.

According to Keiths book, After several tests in late '83 and early '84 on 730khz with a wire antenna suspended by a balloon, Laser was launched on 558 Khz on May 24th, 1984 using the wire antenna suspended between two towers shown on the postcard on this page. Throughout the summer of '84 Laser became a houshold name in the UK and Europe and by all accounts was hugely popular. In Jan and Feb of '85 the station began to have problems due to wind damage to the antenna and generator problems which kept taking them off the air. In April of '85 the masts collapsed due to a huge storm, taking Laser off the air for two weeks. The UK governement began a blockade of Laser and neighbour pirate station Radio Caroline on August 8th, 1985. They prosecuted any ships that visited the Communicator, and anyone on land who helped promote or support the station. This was popularly known by Laser DJ's and listeners as "Eurosiege 85". Their efforts eventually worked when, cut off from supplies and fuel, the Communicator surrendered and sailed into port on Nov 5th, 1985. The actual reasons for the "surrender" seem unclear ...some say the transmitters quit, some say the generators failed and with the blockade, there was no way to get repair parts. Some say the blockade resulted in Laser running out of generator fuel. Keith Skues book suggests the ships captain at the time, Peter Paternoster, sent an SOS call due to storm damage from the night before and lack of supplies. Some even say the transmitter or generator were sabotoged. We recently were contacted by Craig Novak (Alan Bishop) who explained that it was indeed due to a major generator failure and the fact that without power at night, their safety was in jepardy (see the "where are they now" section above). In any event, the station was escorted to shore that day by government ships and was impounded, marking the end of Laser 558. In a wierd twist of fate, the government ship that had been used to spy on the Laser ship COMMUNICATOR was a small boat called the Dioptric Surveyor. Some time in '85 prior to the surrender, the Surveyor was replaced with a larger surveilance vessel hired from the Gardeline shipping firm. This ship, which eventually ended up escorting the Communicator into port to surrender was none other than the Communicators sister ship, the Gardeline Tracker. There is a picture of this on the 'quick links' page (see links section above).

The station returned in the fall of 86 under new ownership as Laser 576 due to a blunder on the part of the government. When they laid charges against Laser 558, they impounded the ship and sold it off with the ruling that it could not be used as a pirate broadcaster...but the ruling did not apply to any subsequent owners, so the purchaser made some necessary repairs and flipped the station to a new owner who relaunched the station as Laser Hot Hits on 576 khz. But antenna and other technical problems along with government action forced the station off the air again in the spring of '87. The ship, again impounded by the UK authorities, was stripped of studio equipment. The Communicator, with its transmitters and generators intact, then changed hands several times. As best as we can figure, it was sold to a firm in Portugal to be used as an AM broadcast station but the project never made it to air. Some time in the early 90's, Holland FM made arrangements to buy the ship and it was used in the Netherlands as an AM rebroadcaster on 1224khz. Holland FM then sold the Communicator to the Veronica broadcasting society, who later sold it to Quality Radio. In the late '90s, Quality Radio became "Q - The Beat", broadcasting an Urban/CHR music mix. The ship remained in its resting spot in Holland as an unmanned floating AM transmitter site on 1224 khz for Q The Beat 1224 AM near Amsterdam until 2002.

In January 2003 The MV Communicator was sold. The ship was near Almere and Pieter Damave, former technician in the seventies with Radio Noordzee, the Dutch service of RNI, made a visit to the ship and took a lot of photographs some of which you will find at the offshore radio website. The order of events is a bit hard to follow but to the best of our knowledge this is what happened. First, the radio station Q the Beat went dark and the Communicator's 1224 AM transmitters (operated by Nozema) were shut down. Clear Channel, which owned an interest in Quality Radio (Q the Beat) sold its share. Q did not get its national FM license and therefore stopped broadcasting on 1224. Finally, the ship was sold by Nozema to Dave Miller's organization The Superstation. . Then, on the afternoon of June the 25th of 2004, the MV Communicator was towed away from her anchorage at Pampus harbour, which is near the city of Almere. It was towed to the harbour of IJmuiden were more general structural work was done. The new owners set up a website at MV Communicator.com and we did get several emails from Dave Miller, whos one of the new owners, and they promised me to keep us informed.

Photos courtesy of Hans Knot

On Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 May 2004 Chief Engineer Martin Gilbert opened the doors for the very first time to radio enthusiasts who wished to take a look around the former Laser 558 ship. The MV Communicator was located in the trawl dock in Lowestoft opposite the train station in the town centre during the Lowestoft Boat Show. Finally, after months of perparation, the Communicator was towed from Lowestoft upto the Orkneys, an island chain north of Scotland.. She was docked at the ferry wharf in St Margarets Hope where The Superstation operated for a three month RSL from September to November of 2004. Outfitted with newly refurbished studios, a computer automation system for on air playback and a 25 watt ERP signal using a J Beam antenna on 105.4, The Superstation served most of the Orkneys including capital city Kirkwald. This was the areas first private commercial radio station. On air lineup consisted of american Dee Kelly in the mornings, canadian Tiiu Shelley on afternoon drive, and Dave Miller in the evenings. The station has applied for a permanent FM licence but this would be "land based" and would not operate from the ship. Since the RSL is complete, Dave Miller has indicated that the ship is, once again, for sale.


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