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Dream FM pirate radio

Original Pirate Material – Dream 107.6 FM, June ’95

It’s common knowledge that pirate radio has played a huge part in the evolution and popularity of Black music in the UK over the last 40 years. Household names such as Trevor Nelson and Tim Westwood were on pirate stations long before they ended up on the BBC, and even Idris Elba had a stint before Hollywood came calling.

Pirates come about because of music not being represented on the legal stations, and also as a platform for aspiring DJs to get heard and make a name for themselves. As far as jungle goes, Kool FM is obviously the most well known and established station, and rightly so, with most of the big names having played on there at one time or another in their careers. There were also the likes of Touchdown, Don FM, Weekend Rush, Flex FM, Eruption, Rude and many more. Some only lasted a few months, others weathered various storms and can still be found streaming online today.

“Really it was the pirate stations that made us; we were lucky we got a lot of love there as they were very important in getting the music out to the people. Back in the day, you could tune across the FM dial and with every turn you’d find another station. There must have been 20 to 30 pirate stations and they’d all be playing our stuff” – PJ from Shut Up & Dance (taken from Who Say Reload)

For those of us outside London, the FM dial was not quite as crowded in the 90s. If you were lucky you might pick up a signal for one or two pirates from the nearest city, or maybe some enterprising locals would set up their own station. Living in Surrey, the main one I could pick up clearly was Dream FM, which was transmitting from south west London. It was mainly a happy hardcore station, with a fair bit of what was already being called “old skool” hardcore thrown in despite the tunes only being three or four years old, although the sound and tempo had already changed considerably. They did have a few DJs playing jungle though, and one Sunday afternoon I managed to get a blank tape in the deck and hit play and record for the set I posted below.

I think I’d initially reached for the tape to record Jaco’s Wicked Everytime (not heard anyone play it since but did manage to get a copy not long after, and I’ve never seen it anywhere since then either!). DJs on pirates would often approach the selection of tunes from a different angle to that of the DJs playing at raves and in clubs. They would often be sourcing the majority of their records from whatever was available in the shops rather than being part of the privileged crowd that had access to dubplates and so would often be more inclined to play a less-heralded b-side, a different remix or something on a smaller label that might not have caught the attention of the A-listers. They would also be more inclined to keep tracks in rotation for longer, due to paying for their music rather than being bombarded with a stack of new promos every week.

“look mate, if you don’t know what tune you want, don’t call up the station asking for proper jungle, cos we’re rinsing proper jungle, yes man! so mind your space, and hold tight!” – MC Lipton

I’m glad I kept recording this show as Viper’s mixing is decent and the shout outs and chat from the MCs give it some character and really time stamp it, and it was all done for the love of the music. This isn’t something that could’ve been recreated after the fact, so it’s a great example of how things were in the spring of 1995 when jungle was blowing up and was very much the soundtrack for that summer in London.