Sunday, February 05, 2006

PROFILE : Richard Bismarck


I'm afraid I first met Richard Bismarck in the mid eighties. I cannot remember the exact date. A thrusting young radio presenter,carving out his own niche in student radio in Loughborough; the studio mixing desk was never the same afterwards. He made his mark on Thursday evening's "Nightshift". I was suprised when he told me that he had never actually been a student at Loughborough University.
" I was never a student at Loughborough University" he said. LCR (Loughborough Campus Radio) turned out to be a fertile place for other future Album Zone presenters. Such favorites as Colin W Mueslibar and James Barclay also hailed from these exciting times.
After out-staying his welcome in Loughborough, the young Mr Bismarck needed a new challenge. Mr Mueslibar had left for the high seas (on Radio Caroline) and James Barclay had started his collection of pre-war valve radios. Richard asked my advice. It was then that he related a previous, colourful radio history pre-dating his campus radio days: he and James Barclay had grown-up together in South Nottinghamshire. They spent most of their formative years trying to get an AM signal to travel the 300 metres between their respective parental homes. The two were often spied slowly walking around their village with a transister radio playng white noise. They paused only at telegraph poles to see if a signal had been induced along the wire. They reached the conclusion that only dogs could fit their listener profile (if carrying a radio) as they spent more time hanging aroung telegraph poles.
Inevitably, one day, came the breakthrough, through the static came the unmistakable voice of Richard Bismark " On 94.2, this is Radio Tapir, the station with the long flexible proboscis"
After hearing the tale I advised him not to give up the day job.
Several years later, and after a very costly court case, Messrs Bismarck & Barclay found themselves on board a small boat heading for the floating Radio Caroline. Richard took up the prime 2.00-4.00 am slot which he made his own when everyone else was asleep, when he was able to get time off work, and when the transmitter engineer wasn't fiddling with the aerial system. Although no longer at sea and broadcasting a local service, he later told me he had fulfilled a lifetime ambition (and I believe him).
An embryo of the group that later became the "Album Zone" was forming on board the ship with Johnny Reece the catalyst. Bismarck joined them on several tours to France (Radio 6), the Netherlands (Radio Stad Harlingen) and borrrowing the same short-wave transmitters used for the BBC World Service. With very little sleep and living on chicken & baguettes (from the Radio 6 fridge) and eggybreads at RSH (imported from S.E. England) he played his music and went to bed. And stayed there. This brings us up to the present day. Richard Bismarck is apparently still alive and producing programmes for the Album Zone. After such an exciting life he tells me he still has further ambitions. The tiling in the kitchen is still not done plus his library books are in fact, overdue.
I cannot help but wonder what else he could possibly get up to in the coming years. Watch this space. Or don't.