The London Pirates

Solar Radio (93 FM, 102.5 FM) 1984 - 1988
Solar Radio
Unit 1
8-20 Well Street
London E9


Coverage: Londonwide

Jingles: “The station with stereo separation”, “Solar: probably the best soul station in the world”, “It’s the Electro show on Solar Radio!” (Bill Mitchell)

DJs: Tony Monson (founder & programme controller), Steve Devonne, CJ Carlos, Chris Forbes, Jez Nelson, Paul Buick, Les ‘The Mix Doctor’ Adams, Mastermind (Dave VJ), Gilles Peterson, Bob Jones (aka Jonesy), MJ (aka Wayne Nevers), Dave Brown, Mike Gee, Gary Kent, Graham Gold, Dave Collins, Helen Mayhew, Tomek, Louis St Clair, Sammy J (aka Sammy Jacob), H (aka Henry Jacob), Roberto, Mark McCarthy, Peter Young, Tony Hodges, Andy Valley, Gary Taylor, Marc Damon, Jude James, Clive R (Richardson), Alan Sullivan, Steve Goddard, Jerry Green, Barry Jameson, Mark Richards, Barry Tee, Gary Van Den Busch (aka Disco Gary), Alistair Wright, Brian Hurst, Paul Dodd, Roger Barry, Adrian Sykes, Jim Colvin, Barry Stone, Robert Allen, Mark Wells, Hector Selector, Nick Lawrence, Dave Gregory (aka The Lone Ranger), Ralph Tee, Steve Bernard, Alan Sage, JM, Steve Hobbs, Randall Lee Rose (aka Lee Randall).

SOLAR (Sound Of London [’s] Alternative Radio)

Solar was formed in late October 1984 by Tony Monson, an authority on Soul and Jazz music who had previously worked as a DJ for Essex Radio and Capital Radio. He had for many years compiled the weekly ‘Street Sales Chart’ for Echoes magazine. The initial line up was formed of the eleven DJs who had left Horizon and within days it began broadcasting on the old Horizon frequency of 102.5 FM. It was later joined by some DJs from JFM when it closed in early 1985. At the height of its popularity in 1985 Solar reportedly pulled in 1.5 million listeners, seriously challenging Capital Radio’s claim as the sound of London.

The station closed down voluntarily on Sunday 29th September 1985 in order to be allowed to bid for a community radio licence (this being one of the conditions). When the initial application failed it restarted stereo broadcasting in November/December 1986 on 93 FM, but suffered heavily from frequent DTI raids and the theft and sabotage of its transmitters by competitors. It was also deliberately jammed by rival stations. In August 1987 it lost several DJs to TKO, including Graham Gold and CJ Carlos. Solar struggled on for another fourteen months before finally disappearing in October 1988 after a DTI raid. When the second round of legal licenses were announced a few days afterwards, Monson decided to bid for one. In December 1988 he combined his bid with that of Kiss FM’s but ultimately lost out to it. He later joined Kiss when it finally won a license.

In early 1985 ex-Invicta DJ Steve Devonne hosted the Electro Show on Saturdays between 7-9pm. As well as reading out the Groove Records chart and playing the latest tracks he would play mix tapes* and raps sent in by listeners, hold competitions and read out dedications. The emphasis was on listener participation and he actively welcomed criticism and suggestions. 

On Saturdays between 7-9pm ex-Horizon DJ CJ Carlos also read out an Electro rap top ten (as supplied by DJ Abbey of Bluebird Records, 155 Church Street, Paddington). The majority of his show appears to have been structured around the chart, with a weekly competition to win all the records featuring in it. Dedications, requests and fan letters were also read out between tracks. Carlos’s previous shows on Solar featured mainly Soul and Jazz Funk so it is probable he was an occasional stand-in DJ, though he still had the same 7-9pm slot in 1987. 

Chris Forbes was regarded as Solar’s resident Hip Hop and Electro expert and in early 1985 he broadcast a Saturday Electro show with a similar format to Steve Devonne’s, perhaps as a stand-in for him. Forbes also DJ’d with Tim Westwood on Thursday nights at the People’s Club in Praed Street. According to Solar’s own Newsletter of Oct/Nov 1985 Forbes worked with Roger Johnson on a remix of Doug E. Fresh’s ‘The Show’. He later joined Capital Radio.

Solar was also the home of the legendary Les ‘The Mix Doctor’ Adams, whose ground breaking mixes occasionally featured Hip Hop and could be heard on Saturday nights from 11pm-1am. In 1987 Jude James read out the Echoes Street Sales Chart on Sundays between 7-9pm.

With so many DJs playing Hip Hop or hosting shows over such a short time period it is at present difficult to establish who presented the regular slot or whether it was done in rotation. 

When Solar restarted broadcasts on the new frequency of 93 FM it featured a Sunday Hip Hop show, this time fronted by former Horizon DJ Nick Lawrence. Recordings of his shows are known from at least April 1987 onwards but it is thought the show predates this time.

* One mix he mentioned receiving on Saturday 20th April 1985 was from a certain ‘Undercover’ from Camberwell SE5, possibly DJ Undercover from the group Hijack, who had also submitted mixes to Tim Westwood on LWR.

Echoes advert from December 1986

© Copyright Lindsay (2013)