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volume 5
july 2002

Inside Radio Caroline

 





  Review of:
  • Tom Lodge, The Radio Caroline Story from the inside. USA: Umi Foundation, 2002 (118 pagina's).
by Hans Knot
Previous
  From March 1964 until mid 1967 Tom Lodge worked as a deejay for the offshore radio station Radio Caroline. His recent book, The Radio Caroline Story from the Inside, recollects his memories of those days. Hans Knot enjoyed reading Lodge's inside story and wrote us this review.
 
1 To buy this book click here.

Some weeks ago a 118 page book, titled The Radio Caroline story from the inside, found its way into my postbox. It was sent over from America by the author himself. I had met him once, in 1995, when we were doing a one-time show, one after the other, on the MV Ross Revenge, one of the ships used by Radio Caroline. At that time the ship was in the harbour of London. It was great to remember that day, during some e-mail contacts lately. But the author of the book, Tom Lodge, has a lot more memories of this radio station as he did work there in the very early days of Caroline's history, from 1964 up till 1967. He has written those memories down in the book he sent me. It's good to read, once again, a book which isn't written by a specialist from the outside but by one who can remember all those everyday things that can and will happen on an offshore station from the inside.

2 For Lodge the story of Radio Caroline started, when he was sitting in a posh bar at London's King's Road. He made some comments to the bar tender about the music that was being played. At that a young Irish guy started to talk to him and promised some good music for the near future. When Lodge asked him what he meant by that, the Irish guy told him about some serious plans to start a radio station from international waters. One thing led to another and Lodge who had lived for years in Canada — he was born in 1936 Forest Green, Surrey, but his family migrated to Canada in 1939 because of the war and returned to England in 1956 — joined Radio Caroline's team from the very first day.
3 After this introduction, Lodge treats the reader on some small facts about the station and that's where I learnt the first thing, that I had not read before in any other book on Radio Caroline. Before the famous 6 Chesterfield Gardens came in use by the organization, Radio Caroline kept office in Holborn. Also, when talking about the merger with competing Radio Atlanta, Lodge tells some nice inside stories. He mentions, for instance, the little fight he had with Simon Dee about a box with the top 40 songs. There were two ships but only one box — on the MV Fredericia, the ship that would become Radio Caroline North and there it stayed thanks to Lodge winning the fight. When the day came that both stations would use the same name and Radio Atlanta was a blast of the past, Simon Dee would take the box to the MV Mi Amigo. The fight ended with a win for Lodge.
4 In another excellent chapter Lodge tells us about the long trip with the MV Fredericia from the South-East coast of Britain to the North-West coast of the Isle of Mann. The whole crew was totally surprised by the enormous amount of people who where on the beaches during the trip, watching the ship go by. Of course they knew about the sailing of the ship, due to the fact that Jerry Super Leighton and Tom Lodge did live reports about the trip, assisted by captain Hangerfelt. Arriving off the coast of Manx the response, however, was none. That Lodge really enjoyed the fall of the walls of conservative and stuffy England, can be read in the chapter about him touring with the Rolling Stones. There he also tells the story of the very bad weather with Gale Force 12, as Lodge recalls, happening directly after the Stones concert.
5 Tom Lodge in his radio days with Caroline

Another nice story tells how Lodge started the career of the Who by rescuing their first single, "I Can't Explain", from the regular sporting sessions onboard the MV Fredericia. At these occasions the deejays were using 45's and LP's for Frisbees — a fateful end for those records they judged too bad too play on the station. However, Lodge rescued the Who single and it reached number 8 in the charts — giving the group a good start. Many other chapters made me enjoy reading the book, including the one in which Lodge describes how he became the man to reorganize the Caroline South station, which had lost audience to the then new radio station, Wonderful Radio London. He succeeded in getting permission from Ronan O'Rahilly, who had bought co-owner Crawford out, to get most of the presenters off the ship, to be replaced by a younger fun team. But also on the Caroline South ship Lodge and his mates did experience the sea to be a very rough element. Even the MV Mi Amigo was beached in 1966, which brought some very scary moments. At the end the ship was taken to Zaandam harbour for a complete overhaul.

6 Good reading stuff also is the story about Lodge's and O'Rahilly's dangerous visit to Rough Tower. It is, however, a pity that the photograph placed to this chapter has nothing to do with Rough Sands, as it presents one of the other former towers, which were built during World War II. As many other people in the past, Lodge also misspells the name the name of the Radio Caroline North ship as "Frederica" instead of "Fredericia", as the ship was officially named until is was scrapped in the early eighties in Ouwerkerk aan de IJssel in Holland. Also the female owner of Radio Syd, who lent her radio ship temporarily to the Caroline organization, had nothing to do with classical music. Lodge talks about Brit Wagner instead of Brit Wadner.
7 As I wrote earlier, it's nice to read these inside stories as written down by a radio deejay. Sometimes, however, after all these years Lodge's memory seems to fail him. In chapter 17, for instance, he describes how he and his fellow deejay Dave Lee Travis get in action with the British Navy, who try to get hold of the radio ship. He tells how they were talking on air to the lads on the navy ships and how they played them songs like "19th Nervous Breakdown" by the Rolling Stones and "Sunny Afternoon" by the Kinks. To this he goes on to say that the next day the ship's registration by the Panamanian Parliament was withdrawn. However, the Royal Navy came in on April 4th 1964 and the registration was officially withdrawn two days later. The year 1964 also means no "19th Nervous Breakdown" by the Rolling Stones, nor "Sunny Afternoon" by the Kinks, and neither Dave Lee Travis who joined Caroline later on. Of course it's nice to write "easy to read" stories, but if you want to tell The Radio Caroline Story from the inside, try to be as accurate as possible.
8 Tom Lodge in the studio of the MV Ross Revenge in 1995 (photo: Stichting Media Communicatie)

Interesting information too is, that some years ago Lodge was asked by someone who is a close friend for years to visit a guy in Canada who in the sixties worked for MI-5. The man told Lodge that MI-5 gave him the order to take action, with the SAS, to board the radio ship. Lucky enough, at that time, it didn't happen and millions still could enjoy the programming of Radio Caroline for many years. Talking about MI-5: in one of the last chapters Lodge gives us the story of "The rise and fall of Radio Caroline". There he tells us that in 1969 O'Rahilly wanted to replace the deejays by "veejays", deejays using video. Well, at that time video recorders had only just arrived on the market. The round-up of this chapter — the planes O'Rahilly planned to use, were blown up by people of the MI-5 — is also nonsense. The idea of "Caroline TV" was only something O'Rahilly was toying with in his mind and he only spread it around to get free publicity in the European Press. Nevertheless as Lodge brings in many personal memories which were not brought before, the true anorak and radio lover has to buy this book. It can be ordered by way of the website of the Umi Foundation, where one can also order Lodge's Beatles interview of March 25, 1966, on CD. All the books bought on the web site, by-the-way, will be autographed to the buyer.

   
Previous
  Shortly after this review had been written, Tom Lodge sent us the next reply, telling more about Ronan O'Rahilly's plans for "Caroline TV":
  Dear Hans,
  Looking at your comments in detail, I have come up with the following comments.
  1) In paragraph 6 you write, "It is, however, a pity that the photograph placed to this chapter has nothing to do with Rough Sands, as it presents one of the other former towers, which were built during World War II."
  But this photograph came from an article from the 1960s and was labeled "The Rough Tower" and it looks exactly the same as the tower which Ronan and I went to investigate.
  2) In the same paragraph you write, "As many other people in the past, Lodge also misspells the name the name of the Radio Caroline North ship as "Frederica" instead of "Fredericia", as the ship was officially named."
  Here, of course, you are correct. In fact at the time we always called it M.V. Frederica, never Fredericia. That was the colloquial expression of the name of the ship. And in fact later Ronan had the name changed to M.V. Caroline.
  3) Again in paragraph 6 you write, "Also the female owner of Radio Syd, who lent her radio ship temporarily to the Caroline organization, Lodge talks about Brit Wagner instead of Brit Wadner."
  Again, you are correct. This typo has been corrected in future printings.
  4) In paragraph 7 you write, "Tom describes how he and his fellow deejay Dave Lee Travis get in action with the British Navy, who try to get hold of the radio ship. He tells how they were talking on air to the lads on the navy ships and how they played them songs like "19th Nervous Breakdown" by the Rolling Stones and "Sunny Afternoon" by the Kinks. To this he goes on to say that the next day the ship's registration by the Panamanian Parliament was withdrawn. However, the Royal Navy came in on April 4th 1964 and the registration was officially withdrawn two days later. The year 1964 also means no "19th Nervous Breakdown" by the Rolling Stones, nor "Sunny Afternoon" by the Kinks."
  Tom Lodge surrounded by fans after getting off the tender in Harwich (1966)

This is very interesting, because I distinctly remember this happening in 1966. Maybe the Navy had been there in 1964 as well and I was on shore leave. It is interesting that you have such specific details. You must have been very young at the time. But if the recorded facts show that my memory is faulty here, then I bow to the facts. Here is one of the difficulties though. My personal records show that we played "19 Nervous Breakdown" as a snub to the Navy, when they came close. So how could that have been possible in 1964, when the song came out in 1966? So to me this is all a mystery.

  5) In paragraph 8 you write, "Talking about MI-5: in one of the last chapters Lodge gives us the story of "The rise and fall of Radio Caroline". There he tells us that in 1969 O'Rahilly wanted to replace the deejays by "veejays", deejays using video. Well, at that time video recorders had only just arrived on the market."
  This was not 1969. The date is not mentioned in the book. But it was in the 1970s. This is exactly what happened. We had 2" reel to reel videos and Ronan told me that he had a system developed, so these videos could be played and run by the person on camera, live on the air. He used the word veejays as a joke because we were always being called deejays.
  6) Again in paragraph 8 you write, "The planes O'Rahilly planned to use, were blown up by people of the MI-5 — is also nonsense. The idea of "Caroline TV" was only something O'Rahilly was toying with in his mind and he only spread it around to get free publicity in the European Press."
  Now you are totally missing the point because this is directly from my own experience. This is the information I received. I am not saying that this is what happened, but this is what I was told by Ronan. And that is how it is written in the book. Here is what happened. I was teaching in Canada and I had a number of phone calls with Ronan, including him telling me that he was planning to have two DC-3 planes fly circles over the North Sea and broadcast television. He told me that he had a computer programmed to work with two reel-to-reel video recorders to allow for the time it took for those machines to get up to speed so that the program would flow from one machine to the other and allow enough time for the veejay to speak in between without there being gaps, so that the show would run smoothly. He also told me that he had been in touch with the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson to see if they would buy adds on the TV programs and they said, "Yes, your planes are like a very tall tower."
  Ronan also said that he had received confirmation from John Lennon and Marshall McLuhan that they would supply short videos, no more that five minutes, for the broadcast. Ronan also told me he was having difficulty keeping the broadcast picture steady from the airplane. I told him that maybe I could help in this matter. I contacted Purdue University in the States, who had been flying educational TV programs over the Appalachians in order to get these programs into areas that did not receive the TV signals from land based TV stations. I contacted them and asked if they could help me in a college program, re: the technical solution to broadcasting TV from a plane. They sent me the blue prints which I forwarded on to Ronan. These are all facts, both from what Ronan told me and what I did. I have no idea how the information appeared in the press in Europe, but from my experience the press often gets the story wrong. There was certainly more to this story than "The idea of Caroline TV was only something O'Rahilly was toying with in his mind." He also told me that his planes had been destroyed. When I asked, "By whom?" He said he did not know, but he suspected the British government.
  Thanks and best wishes,
Tom Lodge
   
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