What Was The Perfumed Garden?
If you wanted to listen to pop music forty years ago, you'd turn on your new high-tech transistor radio and, chances are you tuned to one of the so-called "pirate" stations.
These were based on ships or marine structures on the high seas, just outside the British territorial limit in international waters and, therefore, outside the reach of the British broadcasting restrictions.
The first, and most famous, of these offshore broadcasters was Radio Caroline but it was not the most successful. That honour goes to the American-owned Radio London. "Big L", as it was known, was the first Top 40 format station to be heard in the UK , the first to use sung jingles, the first to have rapid-fire news bulletins - in fact it provided the template for much of what we now take for granted from pop radio.
Although the pirates were immensely popular with the listening public, the government of the day was less impressed and legislation was drawn up. By the time John Peel joined the station the end was already in sight. John had worked on American radio and that experience was enough to get him a job on Radio London without even having to do an audition! He also got a new name. Born John Ravenscroft, he had dropped the S to be John Ravencroft on US radio. At the suggestion of a secretary in the Radio London office, he took the identity that he would use for the rest of his life - John Peel.
John joined Radio London in March 1967. The DJs worked on the ship for two weeks out of three and his job, as the new boy, was to cover for whichever broadcaster was on shore-leave and to present the late night "London after Midnight" slot.
Radio London was a very tightly formatted Top 40 station but this one show was slightly more relaxed. It tended to reflect the taste of whichever DJ was hosting it.
John quickly realised that neither his colleagues nor his bosses were paying much attention to what he was playing. So, John decided to create The Perfumed Garden. Every night he would devote two hours to the best of the new music to emerge from America and the UK, some vintage blues, some current pop hits and whatever tickled his fancy.
John told the story that the first the Radio London management knew of this new programme was when Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, congratulated them on having the foresight to launch it! Brian was not the only fan. The mail flooded in. Listeners to The Perfumed Garden felt like they were part of a community. Listening to John made you feel you were part of something. It was the time of the "counter culture", the hippies. It was "the summer of love" and John was providing its soundtrack.
But it wasn't to last. The government's legislation to outlaw offshore radio, the Marine Offences Act, was due to come into effect on 15th August 1967. Radio London announced it would close at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, nine hours before the deadline. So at midnight on 14th August, John started his last ever Perfumed Garden. Instead of the station closing at 2am, as it usually did, for this night only the show continued right through until the Breakfast Show started at 5.30.
The four extracts being broadcast on 6 Music all come from this final marathon programme, as John said goodbye to his loyal listeners. Radio One was due to launch at the end of September and, at the time of this show, John did not know if he would be part of the new station. He could have been saying goodbye forever. In fact, as we know with the benefit of hindsight, not only was John part of the Radio One launch team but he remained an integral member of it for the rest of his life. Many of us grew up listening to him on Radio One but this is where it all began.