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Ross Revenge, Radio Caroline and "The Boat That Rocked" - Page 2.

Radio Caroline and the crew of the Ross Revenge are proud to have been involved with the production of the Universal Pictures movie, The Boat That Rocked. Released in cinemas across the UK on 1st April 2009, The Boat That Rocked is a fictional comedy set on a 1960's pirate radio ship, Radio Rock. On this page are some pictures of the Radio Caroline broadcast equipment from the MV Ross Revenge undergoing installation on the set of "The Boat That Rocked" in Shepperton Studios. For the full background story of the co-operation between Radio Caroline and the movie company, please see PAGE 1.
We spent two weekends with the set designers and prop people on the Ross Revenge, identifying and marking up all the items they thought would be useful in the movie. As well as the obvious broadcast equipment we also supplied light and electrical fittings, telephone handets, binoculars, swivel chairs, old fire extinguishers, bathroom cabinets, even a beat-up rusted waste paper bucket! Anything that could look authentic on a pirate ship and we were happy to supply it! All items were collected in the ships messroom, where they were labelled, catalogued, and prepared to be transported to Shepperton Studios.
The Gates "Yard" console, dating from approximately 1958, formerly used for the Overdrive and Overnight Alternative services from the Ross Revenge in the 1986-1989 era. Looking rather rusty and elderly here, the console was stripped, cleaned up and rebuilt by the set department, and became the main console used for the on-air studio in the movie. Underneath the console are an old Tektronix and Cossor oscilloscope, at least one of which makes a cameo appearance in the movie.
A pair of 1960's Spotmaster tape cartridge players, along with two boxes of cartridges, some loudspeakers, and a pair of Gates record/control modules, one with missing meter. Tape cartridges were a revelation in broadcasting for jingles and commercial "spots" with a short continuous loop of tape in a plastic cartridge. The tape length could be from 10 seconds to around 6 minutes, and once played, would automatically re-cue back to the beginning ready for re-use. Before the advent of "carts" all jingles and adverts would have to be played out from individually cued reel-to-reel tapes. The domestic 8-track cartridges, popular for a while in the early 70's were a cut-down domesticated version of these original broadcast systems.
A box of various electrical items and old sockets/switches. Watch the movie and see if you can spot any of these in the background.
A well used Racal RA17 communications receiver. This was used on the Ross Revenge for monitoring international shortwave broadcasts for compiling the stations news broadcasts. In the movie it features in a similar role on Radio Rocks newsdesk.
The back of a Luton van, filled with the ships gear. Note the old messroom swivel chairs at the front of the picture, and the Tektronix 'scope peering like Cyclops out of the blankets and wrapping.
When the Ross Revenge crew arrived at Shepperton Studios a few weeks after the equipment had been shipped, we were greeted by the set crew who were putting the finishing touches to a plywood mock-up of a pirate ship. The whole ship structure sits about 10 feet of the ground, on a massive frame of steel girders. The whole lot then pivots about the centre line, where it can be rocked by two hydraulic rams to simulate the rocking of a ship on the ocean. The "ship" was fitted with two studios, the left hand one "green" being used for the main on-air studio, and the right hand "blue" one as a master-control cum production studio.
A close up view underneath the set showing the steel framework. The hydraulic rams are towards the rear of the set. When not requred to move, additional struts are bolted onto the sides with scaffold clamps to give extra rigidity and security.
The Gates Dualux mixing desk, lid open, awaiting installation in the "blue" production studio. This mixing desk was the cornerstone of all Caroline's programmes from the Ross Revenge from 1983 to 1989, at which time it was unceremoniously removed from the ship during "the raid". Returned in the early 90's it was promptly re-installed and was the cornerstone of all the ships overseas shortwave and RSL transmissions upto and including the 1999 broadcasts from Southend Pier. By 2004 the advent of computer playout systems meant it was easier and more appropriate to interface into a more modern mixing desk, which was built into the second studio on the Ross Revenge. This desk is now preserved in the "legacy" (558) studio on the ship, which will be preserved as close as possible to how it would have been in the 1980's. This mixer is no stranger to being pressed into service however, as it was used to broadcast the "Pirate BBC Essex" programmes from the Ross Revenge over the Easter weekend of 2005.
Elsewhere in the picture you can see two of the ships turntables already cut into the desk, whilst sitting on the bench is an ITC tape cartridge player, on top of which is a MOSFET power amp, and on the floor a relatively modern Tektronix scope. These latter items have nothing to do with 1960's authenticity - they are simply there as test equipment to help set everything up! The tape deck in the foreground is an ex-BBC Studer which was obtained separately by the the prop department.
Meanwhile, thorugh the glass in the green studio, the Gates Yard desk is undergoing installation. Compare the shiney and clean appearnce here with how it looked when leaving the Ross in the top picture a few weeks earlier. The vintage Quad 50D amplifier on the ledge, next to the spotmaster cart player was used for powering the local monitors - as it is of 1970's vintage it was carefully hidden out of sight when filming was under way!
A view from Radio Rock's record library area into the two studios. The green on-air studio is on the left, and the blue production studio on the right. The glass fitted to the windows is special non-reflective type frequently used in movie shoots to avoid embarrassing unintended reflections. As it is so clear, and difficult to detect, strips of masking tape have been run across it to prevent any accidents. On the wall are a telephone intercom, lever switch and loudspeaker cabinet, all loaned from the Ross Revenge.
The blue production studio with Dualux console, woodwork finished and varnished, formica worktops in place, and background props roughly arranged. Within a day or two of this picture filmimg was fully underway on the plywood pirate ship.
The green on-air studio, almost complete save for a bit of tidying up of the wiring under the desk. The small room behind the console through the non-reflective glass is to be used as a newsroom.
Another view of the same studio, at about the same time - note the pack of chocolate biscuits on the left!
Another view of the plywood pirate ship, the two studios are on the right hand wall, with the bare studwork and dual portholes. The two "ladder racks" in the foreground are lighting gantries which will eventually be hoisted aloft.
A view of the area where Radio Rocks newsdesk will be located. Although real, the staircase simply takes you into the open air on the plywood roof of the plywood ship. The skill and craft of the set designers and builders is amazing - this scene looks so realistic - even in real life. Without going up and touching everything you would never know it is all built from wood, plastic and cardboard. The weld seams are made from silicone sealent.
A view of the library area cum messroom. Again, this is all made from wood and cardboard, though the vinyl albums are real. The attention to detail is incredible, from the rust stains running down from the leaking porthole in this picture, to the dust and dirt marks around the ventilator grills in the previous picture. Even the general grime and cobwebs behind the pipework looks real - let's be honest, how many DJ's would ever pick up a duster and clean behind the pipes?
A Gates Studioette console, as used on the original Caroline ship, Mi Amigo, during the 1960's and 70's. This one was loaned from a private collector to Radio Caroline, for use in the movie. As the production progressed the set designers approached us again, asking if we could source a second, totally different set of authentic vintage studio equipment. Always ready to accept a challenge, phone calls were made, and equipment was tracked down and lent to the movie company. However, as the movie company have not divulged the plot, we cannot tell you how and where this second set of gear was used! You'll have to watch the movie to find out for yourself.

Despite what less informed media may wish to tell you, Radio Caroline continues to this day. The government did not close it down in 1967, and even a ship sunk at the bottom of the North Sea in 1980 did not bring about the stations demise. For more information on the Ross Revenge, see the home page or the F.A.Q.'s page. For more information on Radio Caroline including a full history section please see Radio Caroline website. All bona-fide media enquiries about Radio Caroline or the involvement with "The Boat That Rocked" should be made to Radio Caroline head office on 0208 340 3831.