Although we now have sadly learned that Liz passed away in 2002, it still comes as a shock to all of us who knew her back in the heady days of 1985, onboard the M.V. Communicator.
Liz didn’t play the rock n’ roll part; she lived it. Even when we would occasionally run out of food, or fuel or water, rock chick Liz remained ever so rock chic; a rocker with a heart of gold.
On air, she was a true professional. If you’ve ever heard her Fourth of July parade broadcast you know what I mean, pure class, a one of a kind jock.
Shortly after coming onboard, I made her music director, a role she was born to. She did a great job and when eventually we would hit land, Liz absolutely loved hitting the record companies who wined and dined us, and she could smooze with the best. The nightclubs, the studios, mixing with pop celebs, it was all happening in the mid ‘80s in the west end, a world made for Liz.
And then there were the trips. Liz and I made it out to the Arabian Sands resort in Morocco. Party we did, and I still remember one surreal late night after-hours tour of the Caves of Hercules with the cave keeper’s radio cranked up to the max. It was David Lee Stone coming in loud and clear all the way from Luxy. Yes, a small world indeed and no, you couldn’t make it up.
But of course time would move on. Laser would eventually go. And although we all went our separate ways, the memories of 1985 remain as fresh as ever -- the life and times on the North Sea and the magic Liz brought.
Liz was there. She wore the t-shirt. She lived life to the full. We miss you Liz. Rock on Liz, rock on.

Tommy Rivers
Laser 558
Program Director


Liz West was one of three female deejays who joined Laser 558 in February 1985. Journalist and photographer Dave Chappell visited the MV Communicator and asked Liz how she started in radio…
My first job legitimately was as an RCA record buyer for a record chain in the States. I was 17, and it was great because I pestered these people into hiring me, and I think they got so tired of me coming in every day and drawing "Yes" logos on their employment applications they figured they would give me a job, and two months later they upped me to RCA label buyer and managed the rock department. I seem to be destined to be in this business. I enjoy music so much I could hardly see myself as a Certified Public Accountant. I have had men tell me that they could never picture me baking or carrying a brief case! I think that's a sort of compliment in a sense, so I'm an ex-debutante turned rock and roll animal think.

Liz at 4 Liz at 13 Liz at 20 with Dad, Brothers Geoff & Westy and sister
    photo's courtesy of Geoff West

Where did you work before you came here?
I did a brief stint in California because I was out there when my mother was ill, but it was really nothing. Primarily where I worked last it was a radio station in Orlando called WDIZ Rock 100. Before that was Tampa 98 Rock. That was an interesting situation. I had gone there to work on a radio station owned by a company called "Taft'', they are huge in the States, and their logo was a pirate station, skull and crossbones, that type of thing, it was really weird. It was the number one station on the market. 98 Rock called me up one afternoon and offered me $7000 or more to do an afternoon drive show so I kissed everybody goodbye and left. At the time, I was one of maybe 20-25 women in the whole country that was doing an afternoon drive show so it was good. Then I went to California. I had worked in Miami, Orlando, all over you know. I had truck drivers call me up and say they used to hear me on 98 Rock and then they heard me on WCID and then they heard me on.... and so on. I was big with prisoners too, I found. I was really popular with hardened criminals -like the Arcadia Correctional Institute outside Tampa used to call me and want me to MC talent contests.

Well, you are a million miles from that now. What made you decide to come here?
A multitude of things really. I have always been one for challenges. I am an adventure seeker and, like most people, I have always to go to Europe. With this job, I get 13 weeks a year holiday - 13 weeks to see Europe has got to be a perk. Also although my record in the States in terms of ratings and radio stations etc. is very good and could be considered impressive in some circles, it is very difficult for a woman to get the right kind of job without being reduced to really ridiculous kinds of politics, not just sexual politics but other politics as well. Let's face it, it's a very political thing you are dealing with, a women, when she is hired is sometimes pigeonholed and is not allowed to really expand. This here is an ideal situation because we live at our radio station, it's an ideal situation to be creative and stand out, not that I couldn't handle competition in the States, but to be able to come over here and reach an audience of up to 12 million people it's an awesome kind of experience.

Why do you think Laser is so successful - what is it that makes it work?
It's the music, not to be overly judgmental of the media here; there is a very small media pool here. It's a large area with a very small media pool to draw from. People do not have a lot of choice and because of the needle laws over here a person will only get on an average, from a government regulated station, a very small amount of music per hour, the rest being meaningful chatter! You could find yourself tuning to a radio station and hearing a Brian Adams record followed by a 45 minute discussion on the joys of asparagus! People can tune into Laser, get a minimal amount of chatter -when we do open our mouths we have something to say. It's usually something exciting hopefully, without the hype. We are Americans so there is a dash of novelty there and we play all the hits -we play proven charted hits all day.

Do you think being American is part of the success
Absolutely. With the other pirate Caroline, the thing they have going for them is just basically they are a legend. They are not consistent though. In other words the Jocks there do whatever they want to do -there is no format - so you will find that at some point during the day you will be hearing a lot of hits and then at other times you will be hearing very avant-garde ethereal kind of stuff that the masses are not familiar with and cannot relate to. People basically want consistency, they want to be entertained.

Having three girl DJ's in a row during the day is not common is it?
No-one else is doing that, it is unheard of. Men love it though. Sometimes male DJ's depending on their delivery, have a tendency to sound as though they are shoving something down your throat, whereas a woman’s delivery makes it seem like a suggestion or an option. When a woman talks, 9 times out of 10 somebody's ears will perk up and listen to what she has to say.

Was this a deliberate policy from a programming standpoint?
Well, yes and no. The rules that apply in the States or anywhere do not necessarily apply here. Nobody in the States would put three women back to back. I am not sure if that is just a preconceived social kind of notion or whether people are afraid to try. The audience here is more forgiving because we play music; we give them what they want and we entertain them. We play on average 59 minutes of music each hour. If we say something we say it over the beginning of a record. We keep it short and to the point, the audience has their music and they can count on that. We have a very loyal audience, if we go off air for whatever reason, people will grumble but they will come back. There is no audience sharing here, we know that when people tune into Laser they are going to tune in for hours at a time. They don't punch around to see what the BBC is doing.

Obviously this is not a place where people can easily get to visit but I have heard you get the odd boat load of fans out here. Is that right?
People do get on boats and spend money and six hours traveling to come here and see us and maybe take our picture. That to me is awe inspiring. I mentioned this to one of the people that came to see us as I had not realised exactly what it entailed for them to make the journey and I said "My God, you spend money and travel for six hours in a boat to see us" and the guy was most indignant and said "you people spend two to three months out here at a time. What we do is nothing, what you do is important ". I was humbled by that. I had never thought about it that way.

How do you know what to put on air?
There are so many variables, you have to concern yourself as to whether or not a record is accessible to your audience. The charts over here are so weird. For instance you can have a record that came out in 1981 which doesn't chart until 1984 it's very strange. I spend approximately 3 hours a day on the computer researching charts, even old charts. With a CHR station you are going to have a quick turnover of music. In the States the reason for that is because there is a high tune out factor, in other words people punch out because they have so many options but with Laser because people stay with us so long you have to be careful. We play say, 1500 records. You may think that is a lot of records for a CHR station but because the time spent listening by a person is much higher than with any other station you have to be very conscious of freshening up your music or maybe resting things so that they can be brought back and still be viable to your format. Maintaining that consistency is very important.

There seems to be a new enthusiasm in the station.
This is a new generation of Laser. This is the whole attitude in New York as well. OK the station is not a fledgling any more, there has to be growing pains but because we have fresh blood here now there is a higher level of enthusiasm and morale and this could be due to the fact that there are now women on board, and women who have basically very positive attitudes to radio, Women who say this is not a job but their life. We eat radio, we breathe it and we care. I am in heaven musically here. When I sat in that control room and had a look at the music in our library I was in heaven. It's a lot of fun as a disc jockey. I like to turn my monitors up and just rock and roll and dance to the music, that has a lot to do with the level of enthusiasm when we go out on the radio. If we believe in a product we are going to sell it 110% and have fun doing it.

Would you say you had more commitment than the guys?
Yes I do, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are new but most importantly I think it is because you feel that maybe we have something to prove, that's the preconditioning we have from being in the business so long, no matter how talented you are it seems that for some of the time you have to bite and scratch to prove how good you are. Here we do not have to bite and scratch so the level of enthusiasm is higher because we can basically be happy to do what we want on the radio although, as with everybody, we have certain boundaries, but these boundaries are not constricting at all. If I do something on the radio that I consider really funny, as I don't have phones and I can't get an initial feedback from the audience, I'll run and tell Chrissy or Erin and get their opinion or maybe they will be in the studio and will, just by their presence, inspire the programme to be better or conjour up some extra little thing inside me. There may also be a little bit of competition but it's very friendly competition and I think that obviously when you get three women together there are going to be tiny brawls at times but we are close enough and we are good friends so it's very healthy. We revel in each others successes. Nobody tries to outshine one another, which is rare.

Other people have left Laser for stations on land -what will you do?
This is my immediate goal -granted I am sure that if I go back to the States something will result from Laser being on my resume, but I think most importantly I am going to benefit as a person because I am learning how to live with such a wild mixture of people, how to work with them, how to channel my energies, it's a soul searching kind of life, it is just us, God and the sea.

See Also