Back in the day I helped run a pirate radio station out of the garage of one of my friend’s homes. It was modest – a bunch of high school kids and an overzealous dad with some FM transmitter knowledge – Howard Stern we weren’t. Even still, our signal could get almost 20 miles on a good day, and we rebelled even then against the stagnant radio selections of the day. We mixed Dr. Dre with Portishead. Mary J with Megadeth and so on. The playlist was very much our own creation, and summer nights in Alabama have never been the same once we went off air.
But to really appreciate pirate radio, you must look to London. Born out of BBC restrictions in the 50s and 60s, the “pirate” in pirate radio actually derived from the off-shore ships that would broadcast rock and roll to the masses. The culture evolved over the years, especially in the dance scenes and spawning such MC’s as Wiley and Dizzee Rascal, and help spuring genres like D&B, 2-Step, dubstep, and grime to the masses. This 16 minute documentary from Palladium shoes goes into details about how the pirate radio stations i