Tuning Waves

A lot of my metaphors show my age. I use “tuning,” but nobody tunes shit any more.  My kid’s 20 and never turned on a radio once.

2LO – London’s first radio station, launched in May 1922 from a building that was previously a hotel with a restaurant and a ballroom. The walls still rang with dinner parties and dancing as the new metal sang, imposing ghostly new maps and borders on the city.


When I was young, living down the road in Essex, where radio was born (in a Marconi hut outside Chelmsford), radio came out of wooden boxes. Switches and dials. I liked the way my old radios imposed architecture on a world of invisible waves. A red needle, numbers, a speedometer for signals. Physical switching between Medium Wave, FM and Long Wave. Ramps and streets and windows. To me, it gave radio a structure like the false topology of the Tube map.

Pirate radio had been and gone by then. That was an Essex thing. Sometimes on boats, sometimes on the old Sea Forts dotted around the coast and in the estuary, empty houses standing on stilts in the waves. But our radio had moved out of Essex, like anyone else with an ounce of common sense, and floated back up the Thames to London.