Radio Luxembourg was the absolute supply of our material.
Pavel Chrastina remembers Radio Luxembourg
So, you listened to Luxembourg?
Please, it was not just listening! It was a revolution! It was a revolution in music consumption for my whole generation and maybe also for the next one. I discovered Radio Luxembourg when I was studying at the Faculty of Electrical engineering in Poděbrady. Just after my admission to the Faculty, in 1957, I met Pete Kaplan there. He was much further than us, who were only listening to it, he already could play the songs on the guitar. I don´t know anymore if it was Pete or someone else who told us: „Look, there is a station 208 m. on medium waves, tune it and play it.“ Indeed we had till ´57 some access to a great station, belonging to the American army in Munich , AFN Münich. They played early rhytm´n´blues and more during daytime . We could feel the rock´n´roll already back then, but we weren´t well acquainted with their structure. Sometimes, we caught them, other times it was more difficult. So in ´57, we tuned from Munich, to which we listened rather occasionally, to Luxembourg. As we were students of electrical engineering, radios were our specification, the popularity went super fast. In the student house, where we were mostly accomodated, no one went to sleep before they said at 1pm: „We wish you good night!“ and everyone switched the radio off and went to sleep. And the next day, everyone talked about that in lectures and lessons of practice.
Do you remember the radio you used to listen to Radio Luxembourg ?
We were electricians so we produced a special radio, that...- I should tell you about the theory. Nowadays, in order for radios to properly catch the frequence, they must make a compromise between the strenght of the signal. But if you don´t care about this compromise and tune it to only one frequency, you´ll get double out of the radio. Those that did not study electrical engineering, don’t know this way of doing it. So, we produced this device tuned on 208 m, my small private work of art, and I must say I got it all from it. Although we were in Poděbrady, close to the strong sender of Kolín, we hardly heard Prague 1, at the other end. We could catch Luxembourg in super high quality. Guys were coming to gape at it. It did not have to necessarily be in such high quality but it was more comfortable to have a full signal. And this was the seed out of which Samuels band with Kaplan and Jirka Doležal was born. And we gobbled it first by listening and then we tried to play just simply what we heard by means of small primitive amplifiers, that were in fact the endings of ordinary radios. At that time, I started as a pianist, but Pete told me later: „Learn to play guitar, here are the first three accords, Cdur, G dur, go somewhere to Elbe river and learn it before tonight...“
What role did Radio Luxembourg play for you?
It was a resource of our repertoire! We listened to the songs we liked a lot. I must say our English was miserable at that time. As he already spoke English in highschool, Pete was better in understanding. Well, it was simply the very beginning of this music and it was huge. Radio Luxembourg was the absolute supply of our material. I must say that, beside two ot three rather tramp songs brought by Pete, our first repertoire of the student Samuels band, consisted in 95% of songs taken from Radio Luxembourg. So, we could not exist without it.
Did all your friends listen to Radio Luxembourg?
Well, more or less all the students listened to it in the student house. There were almost no room where people did not listen to it. Some people might not have, but practically while passing the corridor, you could hear Radio Luxembourg from almost every room (laugh). It was very trendy. It was the only radio at nighttime. All of them used to put it on as a pleasant music background. We considered it as a resource of what we played, so it was more important for us. We also started to make the first very primitive recorders. At that time, a recorder was almost unavailable. On the market, there were perhaps two and those were very expensive. So we made them ourselves, recordeing on tapes and what we liked we played afterwards. They are still stored in Kaplan´s heritage – the tapes are full of Radio Luxembourg broadcasts.
How do you remember listening to Radio Luxembourg?
We used to be mostly in our rooms, rewriting our notes from the lectures and stuff. We did so that we arranged among us to send one person to a lecture who afterwards passed his/her notes to two three other friends to copy. And then, while copying the notes, we suddenly saw a reminder „Don´t forget, it´s King Elvis today!“ It was a kind of programme called Rocking Boys, lasting only fifteen minutes, with the best Elvis´ rock´n´roll hits, because it was his golden time, with Cliff Richard.
Do you also remember other programmes?
The broadcast scheme repeated regularly. The essential programmes were perhaps three of which I frankly do not remember the names. It focused sometimes on British music too, but the American one dominated on Luxembourg. And there were also such programmes, specialized in different styles of rock´n´roll already at that time. And, of course, my godness – I almost forgot to tell you – hitparade was there! It was the highlight, it was the Top Twenty! I think it came regularly once a week, if I´m not wrong, on Sundays and we simply had to hear it and know what was the contemporary hit. We were fans of it and were observing how our favourite song was going slowly down (laugh).
Till when did you listen to Radio Luxembourg?
We really kept listening to Radio Luxembourg till the beginning ´60. Then, we played so often that the nights were filled by playing, we did not have much time anymore for the night listening sessions. To be honest, those four years with Luxembourg during our studies were great. All of us were absorbing the music like mushrooms. Thanks to it, Samuels band had someting to play. It´s true that the radio simply stigmatised all of us.
Could you summarize what impact Radio Luxembourg had on you?
Fundamental! Without Radio Luxembourg, my coming out among the rock´n´roll musicians would be God knows what. There were musicians that came to rock´n´roll via different music and did not listen to Luxembourg as often as we did. It was for us simply a revolutionary station playing revolutionary music and we did not want to hear anything else.
Was Radio Luxembourg an inspiration for you?
We tried to play what they played more than it would have inspired us to do our own production. But the impact it had on us surely shows in what we produced later with Janda (Petr Janda – Olympic band leader). It was simply the foundation. It was impossible to develop the music without the rock´n´roll foundation. It means that it was something that I had go through. I don´t know what to add. Radio Luxembourg was essential.
Till today, I know to say with a perfect English accent the sentence: „Radio Luxembourg, your Station of the Stars.“
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