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Once upon a time, it was 1964 to be exact, a time Rock'n'Roll was to be turned upside down and thus revived by British bands emerging from Liverpool first, from all over the British Isles later, the excitement swept over 'round the world. America called it the British Pop Invasion, all ignited by The Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show in January of 1964, which made them start off their U.S. career with an explosion-like outbreak of Beatlemania, the launch of their recording 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'.
On the European continent, especially in Germany, Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, there had been dedicated followers of British pop earlier on, listening to Radio Luxembourg at nighttime, on medium wave, where signal fading made up its characteristic sound. Personalities such as Lonne Donnegan, Adam Faith, Billy Fury, Cliff Richard, John Leyton, Helen Shapiro, to name just a few, had become sort of trademark for the finest music, besides of the old American rockabilly heroes like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochrane, Brenda Lee, The Everly Brothers, just out of sight. Girl groups topped the charts. Remember the Shirelles, the Marvelettes. And the surf sound from the U.S. West Coast, the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Ronny & The Daytonas....
A great time to live in and to listen to the music.
It was Easter in 1964 when Ronan O'Rahilly's Radio Caroline took to the air from a ship in international waters off the coast of Britain. Soon she was to rule the waves. Within a couple of weeks there were two Caroline stations, Radio Caroline North operating off the Isle Of Man, Radio Caroline South off the Essex shore of Clacton-On-Sea, sending a strong signal to London and the South of England.
If you got stuck to your radio and listened in at nighttime, with a more sophisticated aerial even all day long, you could follow these off-shore broadcasts by Caroline, 'Wonderful' Radio London, 'Swinging' Radio England even from Westphalia in the north-western corner of Germany. (More on the history of Radio around the British Isles and Western Europe in Paul's Radio Museum.)
Thus the soil had been prepared for something originary German....Radio ABS FM. You should consider that in Germany, as in other European countries, there was practically NO English or American pop or country music on the air on a daily basis. Maybe there was an average of about one hour a week. German listeners had the chance of tuning in to AFN, the American Forces Network in southern Germany, the British Forces Network (or BFBS) in northern Germany, and in Westphalia and the Black Forest, there was the chance to find a Canadian military station on the FM dial. In Westphalia, there was Radio C.A.E., operating from Fort Victoria near Werl, with the amazing power output of 250 watts.
The Initiators and Good Boys at the Same Time
Winfried Jackson and Heribert E. Severing from Altena in Westphalia, Germany, liked all kinds of rock'n'roll, they played the guitar and teemed up with some friends to establish a group called 'The Phantoms'. They tried their best, musically innocent as they happened to be at that time. An intro theme tune had to be found, it was 'Wipeout', made famous by the Surfaris in 1963. (Herb and Winfried weren't quite sure about the intro, thus using the Ventures' 'Walk Don't Run' and the Chantays' 'Pipeline' as well, now and then.) Keeping up with the latest musical developments by listening to U.S., Canadian, and British sources, they improved their musical skills and lingual abilities day by day.
Daydreaming about having a real COOL station around Germany, they played around with the idea of spreading music by means of the airwaves by themselves, which was strictly forbidden in Germany (and in all other European countries). They started on a small two-transistor device, ending up with a wayward TV receiver. Justifying themselves by considering monitoring physical phenomena, like electromagneic wave spreading, fractioning, etc., especially while operating in the hilly area of the Sauerland, steep ridges all around, they started transmissions without a bad conscience.
Believe it, or not, there were transmissions in German as well as in English from the very start. And it wasn't to last for a long time, until ABS fm started its French service, coinciding with a lot of good recordings coming out of France at that time. You may remember singers like Richard Anthony, Johnny Halliday, Adamo, Françoise Hardy, Christophe, Jacques Dutronc, to name just a few, who became famous beyond the borders de la République Française, Belgium, or French Canada.