THE HISTORY OF THE MUSIC MACHINEIn the Spring of 1990 Radio Veronica was being transmitted on 101.6 FM by myself and the rest of the station's management. The frequency was amicably shared with fellow London station Q-102. The two stations between them broadcast from Friday evening to Sunday night. However during the week the frequency was vacant. Not wanting to lose our frequency to another station the management's proposed to keep a low power transmitter operating on 101.6MHz during the week. At first it was decided for it to just transmit a 1KHz tone, this was soon dropped in favour of a continuous music tape. In May 1990 the Music Machine commenced transmissions. There were no DJs only some jingles between the records including one mentioning "The Music Machine" and this is how the station name came about. After a few weeks a telephone number was given out on air and due to increasing popularity DJs began to be heard on the station.
The station was then broadcasting Monday to Thursday 5pm to 9am. Programmes were two hours long and repeated throughout the night. The transmitter power at that time was 20 watts fed into a half wave dipole.
At this time DJs that could be heard on the station included myself, Garry Stevens, as well as Mike Andrews, Steve Roberts, Tony James, Tim Stuart, Mike St John and Ruski (on the radio). The format was a mixture of oldies, eurorock and light rock and pop. The station suffered two minor DTI raids within the first few weeks of commencing transmissions but then was left alone for a period of three and a half months. This was largely due to Eric Gotts refusing to raid the station as he had said that compared to the other stations we were doing no harm. This information came from one of Eric's colleagues, who will remain nameless. Sadly Eric retired and things were about to change for the worse. At least it can be said that Eric came good in his last few months recognising that we were purely anoraks and nothing more. A few weeks later Eric's young and enthusiastic replacement took over, the Music Machine then suffered five raids and as many attempts at returning. It was November and the decision was made to suspend transmissions. DJs then concentrated on running Radio Veronica which then also suffered heavily from DTI raids. Nothing more was heard from the Music Machine and the DJs became involved in various other radio projects.
In May 1992 Mike Andrews persuaded me, with a bit of arm twisting, that it was about time the Music Machine returned. Within a week it was heard testing on Sunday evening with 1 watt and even with this low power, the broadcast got a good response. After a couple of weeks the power was increased to 5 watts and the transmission hours were also increased to seven days a week 8pm to 8am. The station was proving very popular and transmitter power was increased to 30 watts fed into an aerial with 3dB gain so making the ERP approx. 60 watts. This inspired more ex-DJs to submit programmes. DJs at this time included Garry Stevens, Mike Andrews, Tony James and Stuart Ross. Soon after Tony James moved out of the area and as a result was unable to do any more programmes. Duncan James joined the station replacing Tony, no relation. A few weeks later two more DJs joined. They were Phil Thomas and Steve Martin; at the same time the format of the station was broadened. The format remained as oldie, euro, light rock/pop from Sunday to Thursday. On Fridays there was a rock service alternating between Phil Thomas and Steve Martin and on Saturdays a classic rock programme was hosted each week by one of the other DJs.
After several weeks of successful broadcasting the Music Machine started to get raided. In fact raids took place every Tuesday for four weeks running. As a result the management and DJs decided to reduce transmission hours to weekends only, dropping the rock and classic rock formats. The hours became Friday to Sunday 8pm to 8am. The DJs remained the same except for the departure of Stuart Ross and the inclusion of Garry Lee. In the Spring of 1993 Nigel James joined. The rundown at that time was: Friday....Garry Stevens and Duncan James, Saturday....Garry Stevens and Nigel James or Garry Lee, Sunday....Mike Andrews or Phil Thomas. With occasional programmes from Tony James and Steve Roberts. The Music Machine changed frequency several times, 105.6MHz, 106.1MHz and 101.75MHz were successively used to avoid interference from other stations. The transmitter was resited to a higher location and the transmitter power increased to 100 watts ERP, producing an excellent signal across the whole of London and the surrounding counties.
Part of the Music Machine's great success was due to the fact that the link transmitter, timer and audio stages were never traced. This was because the link transmitter frequency was 455kHz sent down the neutral side of the mains. So in fact the transmitter appeared to just be plugged in to a normal 13amp socket with no audio lead or receive aerials attached whatsoever. On the first occasion when we installed this sophisticated link system, for a tongue in cheek laugh with the DTI (Eric Gotts and co), we attached a dummy link receive aerial socket and Band 3 aerial, which in fact were doing absolutely nothing. However if it was unattached from the rig, due to some clever and frustrating circuitry, the transmitter would drop carrier to give the illusion it was no longer receiving a signal from its band 3 aerial. Accordingly Eric and co spent 2 hours trying to locate the Band 3 link transmitter, scanning frantically but just hearing static !!.....Sorry Eric. Upon taking our main transmitter and on closer inspection, they realised how they had been conned. It's true to say that even when they knew how the transmitter was linked, on their numerous revisits they were unable to ever trace the link transmitter, due to the fact that if you stood a foot away from the transmitter on the roof of Shropshire House, Edmonton or moved down into the basement, the signal was exactly the same. In fact the link transmitter, audio stage and timer were all in the electrical trunking in the main electrical intake room.
The Music Machine used several studios, all were slightly different but generally comprised of the following:
Two record players
Two compact disc players
Three cassette jingle machines
A high quality microphone
An echo/reverb chamber
These were fed into a ten channel mixer then through a compressor/limiter then recorded on a HiFi cassette tape deck. The programmes were played back on an auto reverse tape player with a HiFi pre-amp and are sent via a highly sophisticated link system (never traced) to the main transmitter.
The music library had in excess of 40,000 tracks along with some 15 station ID jingles and about 400 other jingles.
The station was self sufficient and had several in-house engineers.
The station received reception reports from as far away as Kettering, Cambridge, Newhaven, Chelmsford, Hastings, Bedford, Reading, Oxford and Gillingham.
|Popular Music Machine sticker 1|
|Popular Music Machine sticker 2|
|Popular Music Machine sticker 3|
|Popular Music Machine poster 1|
|Popular Music Machine poster 2|
|Original Music Machine poster|
|Music Machine main studio picture1|
|Music Machine main studio picture2|
|An Alternative Music Machine Studio|
|Early Link Transmitter and timer|
|Early Link Transmitter, audio stage and timer|
|Link Transmitter and audio stage|
|One of many Music Machine transmitters|
|After a typical DTI raid|
|Re-installation of transmitter and aerial after raid|
|SWR meter showing Music Machine on air|
|Music Machine back on air after raid|
|Main studio being re-equipped ready for Radio Nova|
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Listen to Garry Stevens on the Music Machine