PART FIVE: The Rolling Stones.
This page contains an extract from Tom Lodge's book about Radio Caroline. It is completely revised and expanded from the earlier versions, is in a hard cover and contains more photos from Tom's
time with the station, with more tales of life aboard, more insights into the music and more stories of the musicians who made the sixties such a special era. The new book is entitled The Ship that Rocked the
World: How Radio Caroline Defied the Establishment, Launched the British Invasion and Made the Planet Safe for Rock and Roll and is available from Amazon and good book shops.
My first impression of the Stones was as a group of young fellows that were not yet swept up in all the hoopla, the glamour, and the craziness.
Brian was levelheaded. Mick was definitely the businessman of the group. He was probably grounded from his time at the London School of Economics. They were not yet the Stones that most remember. They all looked so
young. Even Keith Richards had a baby-face and no wrinkles. Mick, Keith, Brian and Charlie Watts were only around twenty years old, with Bill Wyman being the old man of the group at twenty-seven. Part of my growing
attraction to the Stones was that they were the opposite of the Beatles. No mop tops, their hair was long and scruffy. They were not wearing matching suits like the Beatles, but different colored shirts and pants.
Keith had his shirt tail hanging out, something that was totally contrary to the British etiquette and Mick's shirt was open down to his navel. In fact, they were outrageous, not exactly the role models the mothers
and fathers of the United Kingdom wished for their children.
Mick put out his hand, “So you're Tom Lodge, Ronan speaks very highly of you.”
“Well, that's great.” I said. “When did you last see Ronan?”
“While we were performing in London, last week.”
“Where was that?”
“At the Richmond Athletic Ground.”
“Did you shake the wickets out of the ground?”
“Yes,” Brian interrupted. “We shook their very foundation.”
“And so you will tonight.” I added.
“You know something.” Mick put his face close to mine looking straight into my eyes and speaking softly. “We intend to sink this island with rock.”
“Knock out!” I agreed, patting him on the back.
“And,” Charlie said, coming over and putting his hand on my shoulder, “This is going to be our finest concert.”
“How is that?”
Charlie laughed, “Because it is the one we're doing.”
Bill added from behind, holding up his hands, “The one we're doing is always our finest concert.”
“Yes!” we all agreed.
Keith came over and broke the mood. “Hey, there's something wrong with the equipment. I guess we're going to be late going on stage.”
“Oh hell.” Brian said.
Mick looked a little nervous “What's happening? How long will it take?”
“We're still working on it,” answered one of the roadies.
“But how long will it take?” asked Bill.
“Half an hour, I think.”
I could hear clapping from the audience. “We want the Stones! We want the Stones!”
Brian smiled and said calmly, “The audience is getting rather impatient.”
Mick turned to one of the roadies, “Hey guys, get it fixed fast!”
I peeped out through the stage curtain. The audience looked restless, the shouting and clapping was getting louder and more insistent.
Keith said, “Hey, we got to do something quick!”
I decided to help. “Okay,” I said. “I'll try and calm them down.”
Charlie shook his head and laughed, “I wouldn't go out there if I were you. They'll tear you apart!”
“Don't worry,” I said “I'm a pirate!” Now, everyone laughed.
I picked up a bunch of incense that was lying on a table backstage. I waved the incense back and forth like a sword, looked back at the group and shouted behind me, “I'll take my chances”. I then lit the whole bunch of incense sticks held them high like a torch and walked onstage. Within a few seconds the audience settled into a silence of anticipation. Watching the audience, I waved the torch until the flame was blown out leaving a column of smoke rising from the incense. The audience waited. I slowly walked around the stage and then to hold their attention I passed out the sticks of incense one by one to those closest to the stage. The mood had changed. The audience was calm. We were connecting.
I went to the microphone. “Is Anthony Wedgewood-Benn in the audience? Because if you are, come up here, Anthony! So we can all pelt you with some good fresh tomatoes!” The audience roared with laughter. Wedgewood-Benn was our nemesis, the government official trying to get Radio Caroline off the air. Thankfully, I didn't have to keep it up much longer. From the corner of my eye, I could see Bill Wyman signaling me that it was okay to start.
“Okay!” I boomed across the hall. “At last you can all go wild! But first hold your breath! Wait for it! Here they are, the one and only, the greatest group of all time, The Rolling Stones!”
The Rolling Stones burst on stage. Bombarding the audience with their new hit, It's All Over Now. The girls were screaming. The guys were jumping up and down. The beat kept moving, and then without a pause straight into their next song which was one of the first that Mick and Keith had written, Tell Me (You're Coming Back). The music was solid, powerful, beating deep into our bodies. I danced and watched them from the side of the stage behind the curtain.
Here was a kernel of freedom. Mick's voice opened up the hearts, minds and bodies of a new generation, and gave them permission to let out all their repressed feelings and shatter England's rigid conventions. At the same time, we were out at sea, on the airwaves, broadcasting fun across the land. We were working hand in hand with the bands that were in the concert halls, together beating down the barricades of repression. The walls erected by the conservative and stuffy English Establishment were tumbling down.
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