Kenny Everett (b Maurice Cole)
25th December 1944 – 4th April 1995

"I Couldn't Reply Because I'd Fainted" – Kenny tours with the Fabs

Richard Porter is a professional Beatles and rock tour guide in London and author of the 'Guide to the Beatles' London'. In an interview, conducted in 1992 on behalf of the London Beatles Fan Club, Kenny talked to him about representing Radio London on the Beatles' 1966 USA tour. Richard has very generously agreed for the interview to be reproduced on the Radio London website.

Ron O'Quinn, who represented Radio England on the tour, kindly allowed us to reproduce these photos from his personal collection. Sadly, Ron has no pictures from the tour featuring Everett of England.

Q: How did you get on Radio London?
Well, it was pure luck actually, they had just thought of the idea of broadcasting into England from a boat; it had never been tried before. And I was getting fed up of living in Liverpool, and I tried for a job at the BBC but they said, ' No, no we've already got two D.J.'s – we don't need any more'. Those were the days when they didn't play many records.

So I went up to London anyway to see what was going on, and the pirates had just sailed in, about a week before, and they were pleading for disc jockeys, so I just happened to be there when they were pleading, and I said, 'Oh, will this do?' and I gave them a tape of me doing daft bits and pieces, chatting away into a microphone, and they said, ' Oh perfect, come aboard!' and that was it really, I was on board the next day. So how's that for luck!

Q: I believe one of the assignments you did for Radio London was to be sent over to America for one of the Beatles tours....

The greatest day of my life. I had a phone call from the boss... I was sitting in my flat...we used to spend two weeks on the pirates and then one week off...and I was sitting around twiddling my thumbs, and the phone rang, and it was Alan Keen, who was the Programme Director of Radio London, and he said to me 'How would you like to go to America?' And I'd never been before, and I nearly died of happiness. And he said 'We want you to go to over there and do loads of shows,' and I thought, Oh fabulous, America - New York, Chicago, L.A... 'What's the purpose of it?' He said, we'd like you to follow the Beatles around, 32 cities in 40 days. And I couldn't reply because I'd fainted! It was just the best thing. A trip to the States, free, total luxury in fab hotels, and mingling with my idols! So it was just the best phone call ever possible.

Q: Wasn't it sponsored by Bassetts...?
...the jelly baby people, yes; you know the reason for that do you? Well someone threw one at Ringo at one of their gigs, and he leaned over and picked it up and he ate it, and the next gig they did there was millions of jelly babies flying over the footlights, and Mr. Bassett heard about this and he thought, 'Hey, that's a good idea!' So he sponsored my trip to America, God bless him! I guess it was lucky they didn't throw something else at them.... a condom! That might have been awkward .

Q: Was this the '66 tour?
Yes it was. That was the tour with all the problems with all the 'Beatles are bigger than Jesus Christ' stuff. Oh was it? We didn't have any problems on the tour, apart from trying to get eaten by a million fans in every town, and they kept rushing the bus and bashing on the side of the van, and running across the fields to the guitars. But apart from that it as very well behaved. Everyone just screamed and that was it.

Q: What were the Fabs' reaction to you? Presumably you'd met them a number of times
No, we'd never met before, I remember getting on the plane to go to America, and I heard Paul McCartney's voice saying, 'Which one's Kenny Everett?' and we introduced ourselves and that was it.

Q: I believe you also edited their Christmas records
Yes, that's right, I was very honoured.

(Webmaster's note: Kenny's editing skills were utilised on the two final Beatles Fan Club Christmas flexidiscs, #6 in 1968 and #7 in 1969. On #6 (top right) 'Kenny Foreverett had a nice time mucking about with the tapes and deserves to be called producer though this is an unpaid position'.)

Q: How did that come about?
I was on the BBC by now, and I think I was the only DJ that really spent a lot of time in the studio messing around with tapes. I was quite friendly with the people that managed them, and one of them said one day 'we'll give you a lot of tapes of them messing around and we'd just like you to edit them and present them in to a jolly floppy disc.' That was such an honour, I mean, it wasn't given to me as an honour, it was just 'Here, can you make something of these?' But I considered it to be a great honour as they could have chosen anybody. So that was fun to do. I have all the out-takes at home....

Q: I was going to ask you about that... is there much of interest?
Actually, there's not much that I didn't use, because it was so good I used it all you see. It was just them messing around with a guitar. ...There's a couple of tunes that they did on the Christmas tapes that could have been made into records... 'Christmas Time is Here Again'. That could have been made into a Christmas record.
I was once in Abbey Road Studios when they were recording I am the Walrus and I was sitting down listening to John rasping away...because you know they were very tired, it was coming to the end of the day, about 11 o'clock at night...and he was singing away about 'standing in the English rain' and he pressed the switch and said ' Oh doesn't this remind you of that time we walked around the golf course' - because I went to his house once and we walked around in the rain, and I said 'Oh, just shut up and start singing again!' And the producer George Martin said ' No we can't go on, your voice will collapse,' If you listen to the record it really is on the edge of collapse , but they were so prolific, they wanted to get as much stuff done as possible. They couldn't just stop producing music. They wouldn't even stop for a sandwich hardly. 'No let's do it now!' It was all pouring out. It was well after midnight and they never went to bed. But it was a great occasion, it's not often that you get to sit at John Lennon's feet when he is creating a number one.

Kenny's credit on the final Christmas disc #7, 1969, (sleeve above) reads, 'soldered into a collective disc by the iron wrist of Maurice Cole'.

Q: Did you go the clubs with the Beatles in the 60's?
Well, I'd see them around. Those were the days when you'd sort of bump into them. I think they were the last pop people who actually had a good time, go places, and stay out all night and be silly. Nowadays it's a huge business and there are rotweillers between the group and the audience. That was the last time that rock stars used to go down into clubs, just to dance the night away. The sixties were a fun time when everything came together, the fashion thing, that all suddenly happened, and London was fab – it really was then, it wasn't all dirty and disgusting with people living in boxes, it was really jumping. And there were the Beatles and the pirates and all that, a general loosening up. Of course the war had gone by then and rationing had finished so people started throwing their legs in the air and having a good time. It was a good place to be, around London, in the sixties.

Q: Did you get to be really friendly with John in that period?
Not really, no. Because we were both always so busy during that period. I went to his house once. We were leaving a club in Margaret Street, The Speakeasy. Those were in the days when Traffic would play, just get up out of the audience and do a set. John was there and we went outside after we'd finished clubbing, and he said, 'Do you want a lift?' and I said 'Yeah, I live in Lower Sloane Street' And he said "Oh great, we'll drop you off." So I jumped into the back of this gigantic thing... and it was Terry Doran driving , with one arm out the window and one finger on the wheel, he was a maniac! When we got to Lower Sloane Street he went straight past my house and I thought 'Oh, well, I'd rather be in this car than in my house.' So I just kept quiet in the back and before we knew it we were in Weybridge at his house and I stayed for a couple of days. It was rather fun. It was a gigantic place, it's not the sort he'd want now if he were still alive, it was a stockbrokery sort of place, mock Tudor monster and yards of lawn. There was an occasion in the house when there was a girl spotted at the door. She'd somehow climbed over the wall. And someone said, 'Oh John, there's a fan at the door' and he walked all the way down the path and chatted to her for a while and then just gently led her out and said goodbye. And I thought that was very pleasant, he could have had her shot or unleashed the odd dog. But he went out to speak to her, that was rather sweet.

Q: I believe you met Brian Epstein a few times?
Oh yes, I knew Brian before he was famous. He used to own a couple of shops in Liverpool, one called NEMS and one called Epstein's. I used to work in an advertising agency and Iused to take copy to him to approve. Then he suddenly discovered these four wandering geniuses and said 'Hey, let's get famous!' and the next thing I know is this person I'd been taking advertising copy to was riding around in a 10 mile long car. It was so funny how it came together because after knowing him in the advertising world there I was 15 years later, standing in his house in Chapel Street with the Beatles all dressed in bows and beads at the Sergeant Pepper launch. It was a fabulous party, every single person in the universe was there. I remember them standing up against the fireplace, bonkers, they couldn't string two words together.

Q: Yes, I'd heard John was a little bit...
...A little bit! He was on Mars! Those were the days, if you took a little something it was fun. Then a lot of people went too far and started throwing themselves off buildings so all the fun has been taken out of it.

Q: Weren't you the first DJ to play Sergeant Pepper?
Well I was the first DJ to play Strawberry Fields Forever. I first heard Sergeant Pepper in George's house. He had a low slung white goes-on-forever house in Esher. And a bunch of us including Tony Hall from Deram records were invited to George's place to hear this new album. He had an acetate of it. He put it on the gramophone, and we all sat around and this thing started and blew us away, we were completely gone and on another planet, it was a quantum leap, and we thought, 'music can stop right here, nobody is ever going to produce anything better than this, so all musicians can go back to bed now'. It was the best thing we'd ever heard! And George said 'It's quite good isn't it?' The night before they'd all had a party, and they'd decided to get spray cans of coloured paint and spray 'God is Love' and other things all over the walls of the house, this wonderful million dollar house, and they sprayed flowers, and words all over it in a stoned orgy the night before. He'd woken up the next morning to get the milk in and had horror written all over his face at what they'd done.

Q: I believe you were involved in John and Yoko's message to the world in about 1978?
Yes, I'd forgotten about that. I got a call from Yoko. She said, 'An angel's been speaking to John, would you like to tell the world?' It was highly embarrassing, because I knew as soon as rang the newspapers and told them 'An angel has been hovering over John's shoulder and here's what she said' that there would be a giggle and a guffaw. But they printed it of course. Well, they printed bits of it.

Interview, copyright Richard Porter, Beatle tour photos, copyright Ron O'Quinn, all used with permission

Webmaster's notes:

It was probably because he was a young, an innovative broadcaster and came from Liverpool that Alan Keen chose Kenny to travel with the Beatles on the 1966 US tour on behalf of Radio London. Jerry Leighton landed the enviable job of representing Caroline, while Ron O'Quinn was Radio England's reporter. The Fab Four had once made the mistake of telling their fans they loved jelly baby sweets and had been regularly bombarded with the things on stage ever since. It was, therefore, appropriate for the nightly Everett Beatle tour reports reports to be sponsored by Bassetts jelly babies.

The way in which the reports were received in the UK for broadcast on Big L, was about as low-tech as anything could get- especially as there was no method of phoning the ship! Kenny would ring Paul Kaye, who had to come ashore from the Galaxy in order to be standing by a phone in Harwich at the appropriate time. Kenny would play his report down the line from the States by holding the speaker of his tape machine against the phone mouthpiece. The already-poor-quality material thus crossed the Atlantic to emerge from the earpiece of the phone in Harwich, and be recorded a second time by Paul. He would then rush back on the tender to the Galaxy to splice the recording together with a few records and a handful of Bassetts commercials, turning the whole thing into a sponsored programme. By the time anyone heard the result of Paul's efforts via 266 metres on the mediumwave band from the tiny (and tinny!) speaker of their trannie, it is surprising that anyone could decipher a word of what Kenny (or indeed the Fab Four) was saying. However, a clip posted on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame shows that the quality was not as bad as might have been expected.

The whole concept was very exciting for Big L listeners! Our favourite DJ from our favourite radio station had been chosen to accompany our favourite group on a tour of the US!

Radio London did, of course, obtain an 8-day UK exclusive on the 'Sgt Pepper' album by rather unusual means, airing it on Friday, May 12th, 1967, but Kenny had already left the station, on March 21st of that year.

Brian Epstein's personal assistant, and Kenny's one-time partner, Peter Brown, is quoted in David Lister's biography 'In the Best Possible Taste – the Crazy Life of Kenny Everett' as saying that although Kenny loved the Beatles, the talented DJ never realised how much the Beatles admired him. John Lennon is reported to have told Kenny that the line in 'I Am The Walrus' about getting a tan from the English rain was sparked by an LSD trip the pair took on a soggy golf course in Weybridge. 'Strawberry Fields Forever' remained Kenny's lifetime favourite Fab Four track and he specifically asked for it to be played at his funeral service.

Richard Porter's website Beatles in London, contains a wealth of Fab Four info and is updated regularly. Richard organises Beatles walking tours around London; he used an extract from this interview in his book 'Guide to the Beatles London', which is available via his website.
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