Alan Keen
Radio London
Programme Director
Died April 2019

A personal tribute by Mary Payne

Alan Keen was recruited by Radlon MD Philip Birch as his first salesman, and guaranteed him a minimum of three months' employment. At first, Alan had the unenviable task of trying to sell airtime for a radio station that was not yet broadcasting, so its audience reach could not be proved; worse, it did not even have a name! However, with no government-sanctioned commercial stations on the air, companies soon became eager to spend their advertising budgets on promoting themselves via offshore radio. All Alan had to do was convince them that the new American arrival was going to be bigger and better than the existing marine broadcasters.

Alan quickly proved his worth by selling a 52-week contract to the News of the World followed swiftly by Beecham pharmaceuticals, who made household remedies such as Veno's cough syrup and Germolene. By the time Radio London began broadcasting, Alan had sold £100,000 worth of advertising (£1,990,681 today).

In April 1966, Alan took over the role of Programme Director from Ben Toney and recruited Richard Swainson as his on-board administrator.

Alan's role in the story of Radio London cannot be underestimated. It was his home phone number that was given out during the infamous 1967 'Radio East Anglia' April Fool spoof, which nearly cost Keith Skues and Ed Stewart their jobs. Also in that month, Decca's Tony Hall asked Alan if he would ('as a favour') play 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' on Big L, launching an international mega-hit for Procol Harum.

Alan was also responsible for obtaining the Big L Sgt Pepper's exclusive and when the BBC banned 'A Day in the Life' from its airwaves, fearing the lyrics would encourage drug-abuse, Alan retaliated by placing the Beatles song, which had not been issued as a single, at #1 in the Fab Forty.

Alan's long career in radio continued, but I shall finish with the closedown of Radio London, when, as a parting gesture to the Beeb, he ensured that 'A Day in the Life' was the last track played when Big L was forced to close on August 14th 1967. Alan thought then that the station would be forgotten quickly, but admitted he was wrong about that.

This is Alan's response when I told him about the discovery of the Galaxy's bell:

"Many thanks for updating me with the story the Galaxy's bell. It's wonderful news - and 'what a happy ending!'.

I've been looking, once again, at your excellent website throughout the past hour, and have been recapturing so many happy memories.

You may be interested to know that on the afternoon of the 14th August '67, I was the last person to get on to the trawler alongside the Galaxy, having erased all of the commercials left in the studio. As we sailed for shore, for the very last time, I said to everyone, 'It's a sad day, but let's now look to the future. It's a new beginning for us all, and nobody's going to remember Big L, three months from now.' How wrong I proved to be!

Very best wishes to you and your team, Alan"

Tributes Received by Radio London

Richard Swainson

So sad to hear of the death of Alan Keen. I worked with him on both Radio London and Luxembourg. Happy days indeed.

Geoff Pearson, Traffic Controller, Radlon Advertising Department
So very sorry to hear about Alan Keen's passing. When I think of Big L my thoughts always go to Alan, as he was the man who first interviewed me before I joined the station. He was exactly what Radlon Sales needed, an out and out media salesman! Over the years I have met many such men and women, but I still class Alan as the best. Always helpful, Alan was generous with his advice and time – the epitome of the successful and likeable manager. I was very young and inexperienced when I joined Radio London in January '65, but Alan was always available to help and give advice. When Ben Toney left and Alan took over as Programme Director, it didn't take him long to establish himself in this new role. Typically of the man, he listened and learned before creating his own style and London continued under his creative management as "The Best of the Pirates". Rest in Peace Alan, old friend.
Gordon J Sheppard
Alan at BIG L was absolutely superb. I will never forget the hilarious lunches we had frequently with Kenny Everett; we used to laugh the whole time. I also have another good memory of when both Alan and I attended the Washington Hotel early in the morning to try and placate Paul Anka after we 'tried to kill him' when he opened the Radio London Fireworks Display at the Wimbledon Stadium.
Tony Prince
Today we lost Alan Keen, one of the greatest men in radio and my boss for almost two decades. Some of the best times in my life were associated with Alan. My deep sympathies to his family and friends and Rest in Peace.

Tony Prince interviewed Alan about his time on Big L for his 'History of DJ' documentary series.

Back to 'Radio London'