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Saturday, March 22, 2008

How they took the good news from Mexico to Montreal

Driving round the M25 this morning I caught the first part of Nick Barraclough's "Border Radio" programme on Radio Four. This concerns the inimitable but frequently imitated Wolfman Jack who broadcast in the 50s and 60s on America's equivalent of the pirate stations, the so-called "border blasters" that sent powerful signals into the United States from transmitters just over the Mexican border. Some nights when the ionosphere was right the signals would "bounce" from the upper atmosphere and back to earth, so that they could be heard as clear as day as far away as New York and Canada. That's how the young Robbie Robertson and Bob Dylan got to hear strange sounds coming out of the south, records they would have no chance of hearing on their restricted local stations. I'd always feared that this was just the kind of myth that appeals to people like me. It turns out to be true.