Kenny everett

Kenny Everett

Kenny Everett (25 December 1944 - 04 April 1995) was the most original of the disc jockeys who made their debuts on the offshore pirate radio stations of the mid-1960s. Many of the leading DJs on the pirate ships had worked in North American or Australian commercial radio, or for British Forces broadcasting, but Everett had no previous radio experience when he joined the new Radio London in late 1964. He soon won a following for his unique style, which mixed Liverpudlian verbal wit and surreal, Goon Show-style humour, especially in his collaboration with Dave Cash, "The Kenny and Cash Show". Unlike most DJs he had the tape skills to record and edit his own jingles as well. He was the first "star" to be produced by pirate radio (apart from Radio Caroline's Simon Dee, whose brief career as a BBC TV chat-show host ended in failure) and gained additional respect due to his association with the Beatles, whom he accompanied on behalf of Radio London on their 1966 US tour.

A natural rebel, he did not always follow the guidelines set down by the station's management and was fired for six months after mocking the sponsored American religious shows which were a regular part of Radio London's schedule. This unwillingness to toe the line was to be a recurring pattern in his radio career at the BBC and Capital Radio, and then in his subsequent TV work. Like many pirate radio DJs (and listeners) he resented the Labour Party's opposition to what was then called "free radio" and encouraged his listeners to support the Conservatives, who had promised to introduce commercial radio if elected. (The Tories' surprise victory in the 1970 general election was seen by some as due to the number of young first-time voters who had been won over by the campaign for free radio.) His taste for the outrageous was also shown in his speech at a Conservative Party rally in the 1983 election campaign (cited, prophetically, in TV reports at the time as a turning point in British electioneering towards much more American-style tactics), in which he suggested that Russia should be bombed and that Labour leader Michael Foot should be robbed of his walking stick and knocked over.

Links to Peel

Like Peel, Everett benefited from his Liverpool background, which enabled him to become Radio London's "Beatle expert". He got to know the group and interviewed them for both Radio London and Radio One, his skill with tape recorders doubtless being an asset at a time when the Beatles were experimenting with new sounds in the recording studio. This led to his not only attending their recording sesions, but also producing their Christmas fan club records of the late 1960s. He was a strong supporter of the group during this period, featuring Beatles tracks of all kinds on his shows, but he was particularly taken with the band's "psychedelic" phase - the Revolver and Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LPs and the Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever single. His playlists also reflected a more general interest in new and novel sounds - what in the mid-60s music press was called "progressive pop", although he also featured pure novelty records, including those that were performed by himself and plenty of chart pop.

John Peel joined Radio London in March 1967, just before Everett left the station to work for Radio Luxembourg and the BBC. On his Radio London daytime shows, Peel displayed a similarly scatty sense of humour, hinting that he may well have been influenced by his fellow Merseysider's broadcasting style. Indeed, Peel rated Everett highly in 1967 and 1968, at one point telling his listeners on the Perfumed Garden that "Kenny knows" - as Rob Chapman remarked in his study of pirate radio, Selling the Sixties (p.128), " it was never exactly revealed what Kenny knew", although at the time Everett was a pot smoker, one reason why Peel saw him as a kindred spirit. Everett had even admitted the fact on air while working for Radio Luxembourg in 1966, which led to him being sacked by the station. By contrast Peel, having experienced police harassment during his time in California, would never have taken such a risk and only referred indirectly to soft drugs on his shows.

Peel also revered the Beatles at this time, despite denying the fact in later years, and Everett's closeness to them further increased his credibility with the Perfumed Garden's "hip" audience. In addition, Peel credited Everett for alerting him to Love's "The Castle", which became a Peel favourite (appearing, decades later, in the 1967 Peelenium) and eventually even a TV theme, for BBC1's "Holiday" programme. It scarcely resembled a conventional pop single but Everett played it regularly as an album track on his daytime shows, before Peel began to feature it and other tracks from the LP Da Capo on London After Midnight and the Perfumed Garden.

Kenny Everett made one appearance as a studio guest on Peel's Night Ride, and Peel voted for him in the 1968 Melody Maker Top DJ poll (which JP won), but after 1968 their careers took different paths. While Peel became identified with the Underground, Everett, despite his eccentricities and his liking for new music, remained within the pop-showbiz mainstream. He never developed a taste for the earthier forms of music - blues, country, folk, hard rock and early rock'n'roll - which together made up a large percentage of Peel's playlists. In addition, Peel's cautious, self-effacing and shy nature was in sharp contrast with Everett's taste for provocation and publicity. Peel retained an admiration for Everett's radio work but had little time for his TV career; by the time Everett died in 1995, the connection between the two former Radio London DJs seemed to be minimal, not least because Everett - apart from some pre-recorded shows in 1973 - had never returned to Radio 1 after his well-documented sacking in 1970, and apart from a brief, unlikely stint on Radio 2 in the early 1980s spent most of his later career in the commercial sector at Capital Radio (and eventually Capital Gold). In 1989, Peel proclaimed:

"Zany is one of those key words, isn't it? Whenever I see in the television pages of the papers and things, if somebody's described as 'zany', I always think, right, I'm not having that swine in my house. Kenny Everett was always described as zany, and I hated him! Hated him!" (Peel 102 (BFBS)).

However, a connection was to be found in the appearances of Sid Snot on Everett's Thames TV series (1978-1981), where the character was usually heralded by the intro of Duane Eddy's Peter Gunn, one of Peel's favourite records of all time (and an inevitable inclusion in the 1959 Peelenium).

Shows Played

Kenny Everett - It's Been So Long - 1968 45rpm

Kenny Everett - It's Been So Long - 1968 45rpm

  • 15 March 1967 (Radio London): (JP: 'I know that you will rejoice with me to learn that I have just recently been voted one of the hundred best DJs called John Peel in the whole world...Kenny Everett...I played his record for him a while ago, with considerable pain and tribulation to myself, I might add, was not listening. So there. I'm never going to do it again, never in a thousand years.')
  • 09 June 1968: (JP: 'I realise that the idea of a DJ under 40 who sings in tune is a fairly revolutionary concept, but there is one, and it's Kenny Everett. He's already done the pop star thing of disavowing this record, and doesn't want to know anything about it.') It's Been So Long (single) MGM 1421

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