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All Night Long

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Mandarin, London, 1993
(price: 4.99, 374 pages)
dedication: For Emmylou & Si-Fi

The blurb on the back:

Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN': Cue Stuart, Oxford drop-out and business whizzkid, with ambitions to launch London's hottest pirate radio station.
TICKET TO RIDE: Cue Emma, his young and deliciously ruthless PA, with designs - and methods - of her own.
I CAN'T GET NO SATISFACTION: And cue the most laid-back, stretched-out, trashed-up bunch of DJs ever to hit the airwaves, hungry for all the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll they can find and not caring how they get it...
Radio F.R.E.E. - the sound of the sixties.

You know Dave Cash, of course? Yeah, you do - used to be a DJ in the 1960s and '70s. Mind you, by the time he wrote this, he'd been reduced to Capital Gold, which is the broadcasting equivalent of Shady Pines: old men playing Chicago's 'If You Leave Me Now' from dawn 'til dusk.

Anyway, he came off the pirate radio ships of the '60s and he's never forgotten the excitement of the times. As he points out in the Prologue:

pirate radio changed the face of the British media and influenced a generation. It was a time of rapid change, milestone music and natural radio. For the first time in England DJs talked to people, not at them.

Now clearly I'm not the best person to evaluate this. I didn't start listening to pop radio until 1974, a full pop generation after the death of the pirates and the birth of Radio One. So I never heard Tony Blackburn in his swashbuckling Radio London days, only in his profoundly irritating Arnold-the-dog phase, and I'm not about to forget just how appalling he was. He was supposed to be one of the top pirate DJs, but my experience of him cannot even be improved with the aid of kitsch nostalgia - he was simply dreadful. He certainly didn't 'talk to people', he just talked for the sake of it.

Dave CashBlackburn makes a cameo appearance in this novel, alongside other 'real' people like Johnny Walker ('the natural leader') and Simon Dee - he 'didn't say much, but when he did it was usually very funny; he mostly stood there in his tallness, looking quietly confident.' Mostly, though, this is fiction, set aboard a typical pirate ship on the North Sea and its management offices in London. And mostly it's okay. Cash can write without embarrassing himself, and if the characters are not exactly fully fleshed-out human beings, well what do you expect - these are DJs and media people.

It all toddles along quite happily in a wannabe-blockbuster kind of way. And in a neat bit of cross-marketing, this is one of the few novels to have an accompanying soundtrack album.

The Original Soundtrack