Unbelievable Dream in 1977: Our Radio A 45 Years Old Start-up

Radio International City Sound FM 102.300 and the year 1977. The year of the snake, for the Chinese calendar (maybe the designer of our sticker got inspired by this), the year of Silver Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth, the year in which Elvis Presley died and the time when hair were much longer and most males were “showing-off” beards or moustaches!

Where All Begun

In the winter between 1976 and 1977, a wonderful idea was blowing in Carletto’s head and he couldn’t refrain from sharing it with all his close friends! Monza, a fast growing city and economic centre nearby Milano in Italy, was missing an FM radio station. The whole bunch of friends, crazy and visionary young teenagers, immediately picked up the idea and, straight away, started planning what would have become, after few months and many sleepless nights, Radio International City Sound FM 102.3.

Little trivia: we had to find the money. We realised that passion and enthusiasm were not enough to kick off our dream, we needed money and not small one!

Founding Pitches for Our Radio, 45 Years Ahead of Time!

All of us, 19 crazy friends, start spending time around looking for funding within all the “poor” network we all had at the time. Few “funding pitches” every day! Carletto spent plenty of hours in the records’ store on Via Buonarroti 1 in Monza owned by Emilia Grisconi telling her about this wacky radio idea.

The 70s had seen the advent of free radios all around the world and we, kids of that ‘best youth’, were fascinated by the possibility of starring in that new world. In front of a microphone to speak out our mind, our dreams and challenges, our ideas and comments while, maybe, even getting paid.

Unbelievable Dream In 1977: Our Radio A 45 Years Old Start-Up

Emilia used to sell vinyls and stereo cassettes and always listened to Carletto with a certain interest, not without opening a constructive contradiction that allowed him, and us all behind him, to reason on criticism.

Slowly Emilia was onboard together with a bodybuilder’s brother, owner of a Monzese car body shop, I think the “Piave Carbody Workshop”. Meanwhile, Carletto was working on the hips and raising funds from his side through Giancarlo Marini and Ettore Erba, the owner of a home appliance shop in San Maurizio al Lambro, came closer, we all were moving around spreading the news about RICS and raising funds mostly in the 3F manner (Family, Friends and Fools)!

In short, within a few weeks we gave life to a lively ‘chain of Sant’Antonio’ that led to the harvesting of something like 60 million old liras (at the time a middle class blue-collar brought home 200,000 liras per months and an office employee no more than 400,000 Liras just to set the size of the challenge we were facing. Recalculated to today’s value and in Malaysia Ringgit it would be equal to almost RM1.8 million).

Unbelievable Dream In 1977: Our Radio A 45 Years Old Start-Up

A not bad final result for those times when fundraising or crowdfunding were totally not existing! Even more challenging, we all were, at the time, young guaglionis (young man in Italian dialect) a little over 18 years old.

Setting Up A Company

Excited we finally managed to register OUR company with six capital partners and four ‘shovelers’ boys 100% willing to work ‘for free’ and make that dream come true.

Unbelievable Dream In 1977: Our Radio A 45 Years Old Start-Up

There were Carletto Gaeta, the Acquati brothers, Carlone and Max (Belleri), Pino Frigerio (Jody), Antonio Santinello (Roby), Silvano Ronchi (il Biondo), Patrizia Ragni (la Pat), myself Daniele (il Barba “beard”) and many others.

One additional minor issue! Most of us had to face the final diploma exam on July 1977.

Day after day we all tried to follow our lessons and open textbooks, while our heads immersed in transmitters, antennas, microphones, turtles and vinyls were dreaming of FINALLY go live!

Working time at the “going-to-be-soon-radio” was late afternoon to very late at night. Assembling the broadcasting rooms and the director’s bench. We wasted a lot of time choosing the transmitter and the antenna but the biggest challenge was to find a place for our newly established RICS!

A Place To Call Radio International City Sound Head Quarter

At those times, landlords were not so keen to rent a place to a bunch of enthusiastic teenagers and afraid of the consequences in doing so! Finally, in an old farmhouse right behind the Monza bus terminal, in the suburban areas, we found an enthusiastic supporter of the ongoing radio-station-wave and got few rooms where to set up the radio station!

During a weekend, free from school commitments but very close to the final exam day, we had the brilliant idea of installing the antenna on the roof with our bare hands. Tight by our cash-short finance we didn’t rent any skylift or special equipment for the job, even though the supporting pole, in thick and heavy aluminium, was more than twenty meters high and damn heavy! Antenna and diodes installed, we had to secure it with steel cables against storms, wind and snow.

We went up on the roof, easily 100 years old, with no protections or safety measures! It was only for pure miracle that we managed to end the challenging operation without dead or injured and among the applause of the present public.

Radio International City Sound Sticker, The Fm102.300 Snake

Shortly after the ovation and upon transmission test, though, the same crowd came back and start complaining loudly at us. When we turned on the transmitter, I think 300 W, in the radio and TVs of the Cascina (farmhouse), and even in some houses in the nearby township of San Rocco, they felt our voices and music, and …. very little else!

It wasn’t easy to find the right frequency for FM broadcasts and, in the end, we picked up FM 102.3, not without some conflict with the remote radio.

The transmission’s technical tests were finally over and, the same day and time our final graduation exams started, once done with it, we ran to the radio to go on air with the first programs.

The Day Finally Came: July 10th, 1977 Radio International City Sound On-Air

It was the afternoon of July 10th, 1977 and our dream became true!

Radio International City Sound First On-Air

We made it, but we weren’t the first one in town because Radio Monza 1 burned us on the final, the bastards were not having final diploma exams. The exams and some technical problems had slowed us down a bit but the important thing was to participate in the great era of free radio and, there we were, young, handsome and rampant.

When our phone line was activated, it was a real delirium of happiness. It was up-roaring call time from morning to late night. The audience followed us, we got into their hearts and we had a good success! It only lasted too little. We were lacking of a proper business strategy and a marketing plan with a manager. We were too fascinated by the microphone so we didn’t think well about how to monetise our talents. Soon we realised that, beside the fun of being “on-air” rental and electricity were to be paid together with a long outstanding balance for the purchase of all the new records (at the time there were few everyday)!

Others were more skilled than us. RICS was, one year later and after many struggling months, absorbed into Radio Luna and disappeared within three years. We all were moving forward towards our own lives destinations, plans and dreams. 

The Beginning of A Long Entrepreneurial Life

What a great and motivating memory it is! Being there during those revolutionary years with a great positive rebellion drive inside us to show how we wanted the world to be turned to!

Since then we all, RICS founders, have taken very diverse walk of life, Carletto has become a well-known and reputed journalist, Max Aquati I believe is in either US or Canada, Patrizia Ragni has been doing great in Monza and Canary Islands and, unfortunately, we all lost track of Silvano. Myself, I’m in South East Asia since 1998 and happily carrying on my business in property here while mentoring and hopefully motivating young future entrepreneurs. CREDIT: this article is inspired by a recent post in Facebook, in Italian, by my old friend Carletto Gaeta. I hope I’ve been able to translate and adding in few more details! Looking forward to see you in future Carletto!!

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