The London Pirates

Radio Invicta (88.7 AM, 90.2 FM, 92.4 FM, 103.6 FM) 1970 – 1984

Coverage: Londonwide

DJs: Roger Tate (aka Bob Tomalski), Tony Johns (founder) Steve Walsh, Gilles Peterson, Steve Devonne, DJ Abbey, Lindsay Wesker, Pete Tong, Barry Stone, Tony Monson, Steve Chandler, Chris Hill, Chris Brown, Andy Bailey, Andy Jackson, Alan Moore, Bob Adams, Debbie Gopie, Mike Strawson, Nicky Flavelle, Doctor Shotgun, Froggy, John White, Nigel Grant, Oliver, Roy King, Peter St Crispian, Steve Marshall, Chris Hill, Sean French, Tom Holland, Jeff Young, Tony Cleveland, Darren Fogel, Mastermind Roadshow (comprising Herbie Laidley, Leroy, D.A., C.J., ‘Cuts it Up’ Max*, Secret Dave*, K.C.).

* aka Max LX and Dave VJ (later becoming The Hardrock Soul Movement)

Launched in December 1970, Radio Invicta was Europe’s first Soul station, and is remembered with much fondness for its pioneering musical output and enthusiastic DJs who preferred to run the station as an outlet for their love of Soul music rather than as a business enterprise. It was the first pirate station to utilise tower blocks for its powerful 100-watt transmitters, gaining rooftop access with a set of Fire Brigade master keys which they had acquired and illegally drawing the power from the mains supply situated there. From 1981 onwards it was raided heavily and the broadcasts became more irregular before finally ceasing on Sunday 15th July 1984, on the eve of the new Telecommunications Act.

In 1982 Black Echoes magazine reported that Invicta was attracting 26,000 listeners each weekend. The founder Tony Johns featured in a 1982 edition of The London Programme about pirates in which he claimed upwards of 50,000 listeners. Bolstered by this popularity Invicta raised a 20,000 signature petition in 1983 to campaign for a broadcast license but its efforts were ignored by the authorities.

Although essentially a Soul station it was ideally placed to pick up on the Electro records emerging from the States and for many Londoners the first time they heard Hip Hop outside the clubs was on the shows of Steve Devonne and Mastermind.

The Mastermind Roadshow was a Harlesden based DJ collective who joined Invicta in 1983. Since 1979 they had operated a Reggae and Soul sound system stage at the Notting Hill Carnival where they later hosted appearances by Whizz Kid, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, and Richie Rich as well as breakers and body poppers. They were involved in the first Disco Mix Club (DMC) competition at Hammersmith Palais and also the Tommy Boy “Big Beat Bust Out” Mastermix competition in 1983. Perhaps their best known work was mixing Morgan Khan’s series of Electro albums and their appearance at UK Fresh.

In 1984 they had a Sunday show on Invicta between 2-4pm. By May 1984 their mixes were broadcast on Wednesday night to Thursday morning (12-3am). The Wednesday night shows consisted of the latest Hip Hop/Electro releases, live scratch-mixing, and their own remixes of tracks.

Steve Devonne (formerly Stevie Knox) was a young Lambeth-born DJ who played Soul every Friday night at the Maze Club in Soho, and was one of the first London DJs to play Hip Hop on the radio. His show went out on Sundays from midnight and featured the Echoes Electro Chart rundown. In January 1984 he had a Sunday show between 12 noon to 2pm, just before Mastermind. After Invicta’s demise he joined JFM and Solar Radio.

On the 27th and 28th July 1984 Devonne appeared at the Albany Empire, Deptford, for a two day “Breakdown Spectacular” organised by the South London Press. This event featured breakers, poppers, rappers and scratch DJs competing for prizes such as stereos, trainers and records, as well as the chance to battle Manchester’s premier B Boy crew Broken Glass. DJ Whiz Kid attended and graffiti was provided by Dean and Dolby D.

It is probable that other Invicta DJs played Hip Hop but they are unknown at the time of writing.

© Copyright Lindsay (2013)