Kenny the kidder 

3 September 2015 tbs.pm/6876

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In his later years, Kenny Everett (1944-1995) would be known for his pranks, surreal humour and potential danger when left alone with a live microphone.

As such, producers would learn to scrutinise his output, listening attentively and looking out for him overstepping the mark – as they saw it at least, the public generally loving him even more when he was at his most outrageous.

Still, you can’t be 100% vigilant 100% of the time, so the devil would creep in and Kenny Everett would let him loose on the air. His first job was on Wonderful Radio London in 1964. He lasted barely a year before he started answering back to the (ludicrous but lucrative) The World Tomorrow that most offshore stations played out. His dry, not to say disparaging, remarks over the stentorian and doom-laden script of Garner Ted Armstrong saw him swiftly put ashore.

He returned to Radio London six months later, apparently a reformed character. From there he went to the newly launched BBC Radio 1, only to find himself sacked in 1970, ostensibly for suggesting that the wife of a minister for transport had passed her driving test with help from her husband – the real reason probably having more to do with his outspoken criticism on the Musicians’ Union’s closed shop and their backbreaking terms imposed on licensed radio.

The BBC took him back – pre-recorded and supposedly chastened – on local radio, before moving him back to Radio 1, from where he promptly jumped ship to the Capital Radio in 1973 – and even Capital, while using his great talents to the full, never really trusted him to be left alone.

From the following clips, one can see why producers and management had to be careful about Kenny. This is a promo for Wonderful Radio London called Programme Parade, a general listing of what was on air that day. Pre-recorded, it features many of Kenny’s amazing (even now, with electronics to hand, they’re hard to beat) editing feats, little tricks and effects that make the entire promo sing.


 

The promo features an old, well-worn joke: pretending to tell a “Chinese proverb” and using nonsense sounds to represent the (complicated to Western ears) sounds of the language.

Here Kenny comes close to overstepping the mark mentioned earlier. The offshore stations not only competed with the BBC’s limited popular music output of the day, they also rigorously competed with each other – as unregulated commercial organisations, they lived and died by advertising sales alone and were pitted directly against each other for that lucrative but finite pot.

Kenny’s home, Wonderful Radio London, was in competition most of all with Radio Caroline. The two Caroline stations and London both had the most powerful transmitters and were both the most listened-to stations (although these figures are unaudited and subject to much debate even today). Although they were not openly hostile to each other, London and Caroline were in fierce competition for advertisers, listeners and exclusives.

For that reason, Radio London management probably didn’t want to know what happens if you play the “Chinese proverb” nonsense sounds backwards.


 

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