In The News

Former pirate radio DJ Tom Lodge passes away

Former pirate radio DJ Tom Lodge passes away

THE death has taken place of the former pirate radio DJ Tom Lodge who is regarded as being one of the most influential people in bringing about a revolutionary change in music broadcasting in Britain. He was 75.

Mr. Lodge became one of the first DJs on Radio Caroline, which began broadcasting on Easter Day 1964 from a former Danish passenger ferry anchored three miles off the coast of Felixstowe (it was later to move to a location near the Isle of Man).

The vessel’s location was just beyond British territorial waters in order to exploit a loophole in the legislation covering the licensing of radio stations.

Mr. Lodge’s involvement in pirate radio came about as the result of a chance meeting with promoter Ronan O’Rahilly, the Irishman who had the idea for establishing Caroline in a bid to challenge what was then a very staid national broadcasting system,

Weeks before Radio Caroline was launched, Mr. Lodge had walked into a pub in London’s Chelsea area. After complaining to the barman about the music being played on a radio, a voice behind him announced: “That will soon change”. This turned out to be Ronan O’Rahilly and the pair hit it off immediately.

Tom Lodge had already lived a colourful lilfe before entering pirate radio.

Born in England, he had been taken to the United States to live until the end of World War II. After completing his eduction in England, he lived for a time in Canada working in a number of jobs which included being a cowboy in Calgary, selling used cars in Edmonton, ice fishing in the Northwest Territories and then gold mining in Yellowknife. 

He then worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as an announcer before becoming a radio station manager.

On Radio Caroline he presented the breakfast show as well as filling-in for colleagues when they were struck down with seasickness. 

By late 1965 he was programme director for the station encouraging his DJs (who included at various times Johnnie Walker, Simon Dee, Emperor Rosko and Dave Lee Travis) to adopt a very relaxed approach to music programming.

He gave air time to cutting-edge bands such as The Rolling Stones. The Animals and Jimi Hendrix. The station proved to be a hit with listeners across the United Kingdom with 23 million of them tuning in by 1966.

But the establishment was outraged and remained determined to close down the pirates. In 1967 the Government of the day brought into law the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act which banned the off-shore radio stations.

But by that stage the pirates had ensured that music broadcasting in the U.K. would never be the same again. The BBC was forced to establish Radio 1 to cater for the millions of listeners who had been shown a whole new world by the pirates.

Mr. Lodge even worked for Radio 1 for a time before becoming fed up with the more rigid working regime imposed by the BBC. He returned to Canada where he worked in radio for several years before ending-up in California where he began practising Zen Buddhism. 

In 2010 his book, The Ship that Rocked the World: How Radio Caroline Defied the Establishment, was published.

To view an interview Mr. Lodge gave at the time his book came out, click here.


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