London's very first soul station, 1969 - 1984.
The first sporadic broadcasts from Radio Invicta began in 1969. Peter St Crispian had acquired an old VHF transmitter used by a taxi office and with his friend Tony Johns (Tony Irons), who had a bigger music collection, they began putting out late-night shows from Tony’s bedroom in Mitcham. Soon they were joined by Roger Tate (Bob Tomalski) who built a new FM transmitter that enabled ordinary radios to pick up the station.
Gradually the station expanded. A studio was built in Bob's house where programmes were recorded and he was a regular presenter (under his on-air name of Roger Tate), along with Tony Johns, Richard Jackson, Dave Sinclair, Steve Marshall, Steve Chandler and Nigel Grant. Broadcasts were now taking place from the tops of tower blocks – the first station to do this – giving them much better coverage and providing the mains power needed for their hefty valve transmitters.
From 1978 the station began operating every Sunday for three hours from midday. Soon the big club DJs were seeing the impact of the station and as hours expanded the DJ roster was augmented by several members of the ‘Soul Mafia’: Chris Hill, Froggy, Pete Tong and Steve Walsh. In 1981 live broadcasts were introduced, using a UHF link from a new studio to the transmitter site. The station also saw its first real competition, from the newly-launched JFM and Horizon Radio. Tony Johns had always seen Invicta primarily as a way of sharing the soul music he loved so much rather than as a serious business and it only carried a few ads. These new stations were different and with longer broadcasting hours and wider coverage – as well as heavily-promoted station gigs and adverts bringing in significant amounts of money – began to take listeners and the occasional DJ from Invicta.
Invicta also began to be hit harder in raids and didn't always have the financial resources to be able to make a speedy return to the airwaves. When JFM and Horizon went 24 hours in 1984 the writing seemed to be on the wall for Radio Invicta. Having been off the air for three months they began time-sharing with Skyline Radio, operating after midnight via the same transmitter. However, this arrangement broke down after a few months and Radio Invicta never made it back on the air.
While among ordinary listeners it may be less well remembered than the big 24-hour stations that followed, Radio Invicta was the one that got there first. It was the first soul station in Europe, one of the first pirates to make the jump to VHF, one of the first to introduce stereo and live broadcasting from a separate studio location, and the first to give a home on the dial to the top club DJs of its day. Invicta set the blueprint for all the dance music stations that followed.
Tony Johns died in 1999, Bob Tomalski in 2001.
Elsewhere on AM/FM
Read more about Radio Invicta in the new book London's Pirate Pioneers.
- Alice's Restaurant
- Radio AMY
- Centreforce Radio
- DBC: The Dread Broadcasting Corporation
- Horizon Radio
- Radio Invicta
- Radio Jackie
- London Greek Radio
- Phoenix Radio
- Radio Free London
- Sina Radio
- Skyline Radio
- Solar Radio
- Radio Sovereign
- Thameside Radio
- Radio Zodiac