TRIBUTE TO SYLVAIN TACK
1934 - 2006
Sylvain Tack was born in 1934 in
Huizingen, Belgium, in a family of bakers. He followed the family business in
1959, when he opened his own bakery and started making waffles. Suzy waffles,
named after Tacks then wife, quickly became the top selling waffle, overtaking
another popular brand – Jennies in 1966.
A few years later Sylvain entered
showbusiness, becoming the manager of Paul Severs and launching his own record
In 1973, he invested millions in
starting the pop music magazine Joepie. The same year, Tack made the next
obvious move and launched his own radio station – Radio Mi Amigo, to promote his
various products. At first he hired airtime from Radio Caroline, but later
purchased his own radio ship.
After numerous problems with the
Dutch & Belgian authorities, Tack moved his home and the Mi Amigo operation to
Playa de Aro in Spain. It soon became another success story, with Mi Amigo
listeners and tourists visiting Playa de Aro on their holidays.
However after continuing problems,
technical with the ship, and with the authorities, Mi Amigo closed in 1978. By
then Tack had sold his shares in Suzy waffles and was managing some bars and
restaurants in Spain and in Haiti. His luck changed in 1981, when he was
arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris with three kilograms of cocaine.
He was jailed for five years. On his release he returned to Belgium and became
involved in alternative medicine. This was not a great success, and in recent
years Tack had lived an increasingly lonely life. Police found the body of
Sylvain Tack, at his home in Oudenburg Belgium on Saturday 4th
February, and suspected a possible suicide.
Without any doubt, the financial
input from Sylvain Tack helped Radio Caroline continue through the mid-1970’s,
as well as making Radio Mi Amigo hugely popular way beyond it’s Flemish speaking
target audience. Who can forget the catchy jingles and adverts…. Suzy Waffles…
& RADIO MI AMIGO
Sylvain Tack was born in Belgium to
a family of bakers, and his first business venture was with the highly
successful Suzy Waffles. He later entered showbusiness, managing Paul Severs and
other popular Flemish artists, started his own record company and launched the
pop music magazine Joepie.
A logical move to promote his waffles, and music interests, was to own a radio
Sylvain recalled the Mi Amigo days….
It was at the beginning
of the 70’s, in my recording studio in Buizingen that I heard for the first time
of Van Landschoot’s pirate radio. It is an idea that appealed to me. What he
could do, I was also able to as well. Van Landschoot asked me for too much money
to play my music on Atlantis and therefore I wanted my own radio. With that I
could promote my own material. I gave my colleague Bart Van de Laar, the task of
trying to find out how Van Landschoot did it, and from this I learnt that he
rented half of Radio Caroline's boat, that was anchored somewhere in the north
In a British hotel I fixed an appointment with the owner O'Rahilly. I asked him
how much he wanted for his boat. It is not for sale, answered O'Rahilly.
Rubbish, I told him, everything is for sale. He gave me a sum thinking that I
couldn't pay it: 40 million BF. I said to him, it is sold. O'Rahilly panicked
because he was losing his boat. Yet he wanted a deposit of 2 million BF within
two days. It was arranged with my accountant. I owned the boat.
With the anti -pirate law of
1974, was it not risky to start a free radio station?
The authorities could
never punish severely and I was always someone that wanted to act. With Mi
Amigo, from the beginning, we had foreseen that if Belgium became too difficult,
I would move to Spain with my recording studio. What was annoying for me was the
harassment from the journalists. First of all there was this Marijsse of
Hitorama and then the BRT and also the NOS that had started a campaign against
me. They knew that I was the head of Mi Amigo. I didn't want to ever give
interviews or comments because I already had enough problems with the BOB
(Belgian police department, equivalent to the DTI).
You also played a cat and mouse
game with the police.
When I was in the
Netherlands with Pierre Kartner (Vader Abraham) to negotiate for Paul Severs, I
had a phone call from my accountant. All my accounts had been blocked as well as
my deposit box, at the bank in Nagelmackers. The director who was a good friend
helped me to open the box. We removed all the compromising material relating to
Mi Amigo and I filled the box with old newspapers. Some time later, in my
presence, the BOB opened the box. It is those things that gave me lot of the
But in the end the situation became impossable, there were
complaints from the RTT, the Sabam (Performing Rights Soceiety), and the BRT.
In the first months of
Mi Amigo, recordings were partially made in Buizingen and partially in Brakel.
From there the tapes were sent to the ship. On the eve of our move to Spain, the
bus with the material was ready, there were searches at my home and at several
other places. They didn't touch me. It is only the following day that the judge
of Marechal waited for me, but of course by this time the bird had flown. Some
colleagues were jailed for one month. I had enough discs - jockeys from Belgium
and the Netherlands to make recordings in Playa de Aro, and the remainder were
live from the boat. From Spain I called the judge of Marechal. I proposed to
come back to Belgium, on the condition that I was not jailed. After all, I was
not a murderer. Marechal was not able to promise me anything and therefore I
remained in Spain. In Spain they were not able to do anything to me.
Unfortunately some advertisers took advantage of our voluntary exile in Spain,
not to pay their bills. One tried to pull this stroke, but not two.
We arrived in Playa in January ‘75. From the first week we began recording,
there was a pilgrimage of tourists and other people interested parties. At the
time if I had asked for an entry charge to the Mas Nou, I would have been a
Radio Mi Amigo had six millions listeners in Flanders and
in the Netherlands. How do you explain this popularity?
There was first of all
this mysterious side, and this magic side around Mi Amigo. Radio pirates! Can
you imagine! This sound, that comes from nowhere. What is illegal attracts
people. In addition we played music all day long. The BRT was only bla bla bla,
and there was little Flemish music on BRT.
Mi Amigo had big advertisers
like Levi jeans and Coca Cola. Did you make a lot of money with the radio?
In the beginning very
very well. Until the time when the BOB tried another tactic. They began to
threaten advertisers. They should not make an advertisement anymore on Mi Amigo
otherwise their boutique would be closed. At that moment a lot of advertisers,
in particular Flemish ones, quit. It was a hard stroke because the good
advertisers easily brought in 100,000 BF per month.
The radio also had other sources of incomes. It appears
records companies could have their music played in return for a payment.
It is true. For one
month they paid 100,000 BF.
Could this happen like that?
(He raises shoulders)
One day a man called Breys came to see me. He had duplicated an album of Elvis
Presley and he wanted to plug it on Mi Amigo. At first I refused this pirate
record. But Breys offered me 250,000 BF, it was well above the normal price. He
went up to 500,000 BF. Hey, at that moment one thinks especially about the
continuity of the radio station. At that time the advertising income was already
Radio Mi Amigo presented itself like a free bird, a rebel.
You trust it or did this picture rather embarrass you?
I wonder where people
are going to look for all that. In short when one sees everything that I
achieved, this picture is true in a certain way. In the first place, I want to
help people. If I can give pleasure to someone, I’ll do it, I function like
that. If people are in need I lend them money and as you know, there is no
better means to make yourselves enemies than to lend money. Boys from the Paul
Severs orchestra always asked for money and, I am too good for people. But on
another side I am also a rebel, I can only obey the rules with difficulties. For
example I don't manage to respect the speed limit, and that, at my age. Indeed
I make my possible to respect these rules, but that doesn't work.
The end of Mid Amigo in 1978
was provoked by technical problems. Was that the end of a dream?
(He shakes his head).
The radio, I had enough. In Spain it was the same as in Belgium. People rambled
on; there were collaborators who didn't do what one asked them to do, discs -
jockeys who think that they were stars, they have a big head, and that being a
rebel, I don't tolerate it. They would have better to remain realists.