NEW YORK -- This is Ivan Jeffries on RNI {Radio New York International}, and we're gonna go back to 1967 for Every Mother's Son and 'Come on Down to My Boat, Ba-By' . . . . "

In darkened Studio 2B at 30 Rockefeller Center, a handful of scruffy-looking, longhaired young men has taken over a New York radio station to broadcast an eclectic mix of rock and roll. This time, at least, it is all perfectly legal.

Two weeks ago, these ragtag radio "pirates" became the city's latest media darlings when they began broadcasting from a rusty ship four miles off the coast of Long Island, only to be shut down by the Federal Communications Commission in a dramatic predawn raid.

The Coast Guard boarded the 200-foot former refrigeration vessel and arrested Allan Weiner, 34, of Maine and Ivan Rothstein (aka Ivan Jeffries), 25, of Brooklyn. The two were handcuffed and shackled on the hot deck for 7 1/2 hours while federal officials armed with hacksaws and wirecutters dismantled their radio equipment.

Now Weiner and Rothstein, if convicted, could face five years in prison and $250,000 in fines on felony charges of attempting to defraud the FCC. But -- what's this? -- they seem to be having the time of their lives. After making the media rounds, including an appearance on MTV, they were invited Monday afternoon to take over WNBC, one of New York's largest AM stations, to do on land what the FCC had aborted at sea.

Minutes before air time, eight of the pirates are eating sandwiches and recounting their relentless battle to get on the air.

"Look at this table," said Weiner, a renegade engineer and the gang's spiritual leader. "There's no shirts and ties here. There's no conglomerates. Some of these guys are outrageously talented, and they've got something they want to say. But I don't have $50 million to buy a radio station."

Their alleged crime was not using the "seven dirty words" or even blocking another station's signal but simply broadcasting without government permission. That is a violation of international treaties and federal law.

"The FCC is the only body in the U.S. empowered to grant licenses to broadcast stations," said commission spokesman John Kamp in Washington. The raid on the pirate ship, he said, "doesn't have anything to do with their programming. There's just no way to put another station in New York City.

"If someone's operating a ship in violation of the law and they refuse to stop," Kamp asked, "what other recourse does the FCC have?"

There are said to be more than a dozen radio pirates in the New York area, operating with makeshift equipment out of basements and closets. They play what they want to play in the order they want to play it, and they are protesting what they see as the bland, homogenized state of commercial rock radio.

These are radio nerds, the kind of guys who spent most of high school tinkering with cathode ray tubes. Weiner, a native of Yonkers, has been trying to get an FCC license for 16 years. He has snuck onto the air by exploiting gaps in the frequencies, as he did in 1984 with a 100-watt Yonkers station that lasted three weeks.

Today's commercial radio "is all formatted by the station or by a syndicated service they buy," Weiner said. "You can go coast to coast and think you're listening to the same station."

"A disc jockey can have a mind," said pirate Pete Sayek, sporting a DC101 T-shirt promoting a Washington radio station. "He doesn't have to just give you the weather and the time and the next 20 records in a row."

By the pirates' account, they scraped together $50,000 to buy the ship, christened the Sarah, and retooled another $20,000 worth of radio equipment. For four summer nights, RNI broadcast on 1620 AM and 103.1 FM, as well as short wave, and its signal was picked up as far away as Michigan and Oregon.

They registered the ship under the flag of Honduras, which proved to be their undoing, since the Honduran government gave the Coast Guard permission to seize the vessel. "Next time, Nicaragua!" said pirate Randi Steele.

The pirates aren't mad at the Coast Guard officers, even if all the beer disappeared while the ship was in custody. But they are disgusted with the FCC.

"What's great about these guys is that they'll do anything to get on the radio," said WNBC host Alan Colmes, who regularly fielded prank calls from the pirates on late-night call-in shows.

Between cuts from the Four Seasons and the Beatles, the pirates' show often degenerates into adolescent chaos. They laugh, shout and argue as WNBC scrambles to air its commercials and traffic reports on time.

Once seated before the microphones, they cannot resist attacking Alexander Zimny, head of the FCC's New York office, who they believe is on a personal crusade to deny them a license. Steele suggests calling Zimny on the air, but cooler heads prevail.

Next they are in a shouting match with a New Jersey amateur broadcaster who complained that RNI's signal interfered with his station. When the man tries to talk, they shout, "Liar! Liar!"

Weiner, lanky and laid-back, tries to calm things down and return the discussion to RNI's theme of "peace, love and understanding." But soon a cacophony of voices again fills the airwaves.

For all the frivolity, Rothstein and Weiner still face the possibility of indictment before their Aug. 27 date in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. "We really, strongly believe that we broke no laws," Weiner said. "All we want to do is just bring free-form rock and roll to New York."

"You haven't heard the last of us," Steele warns.