Naraht (emily_shore) wrote,

Kenny Everett and the Beatles

Having been going through a bit of a Beatles phase recently, I realized that I'd never posted much on Kenny Everett. Most British people will remember him as a television comedian, or perhaps as a pirate radio DJ, but as you'll see the Beatles also loomed large in his legend.

Like the Beatles, Kenny grew up in Liverpool. After a stint in a Catholic seminary (he was expelled for getting into the Communion wine, apparently), he did worked in an advertising agency and would bring ads around to Brian Epstein's record store. They didn't really get to know each other properly till later, though.

After Kenny had moved to London and become a pirate radio disc jockey, he was invited to come along on the Beatles' 1966 American tour. Here's the account from the biography by David Lister:

The trip had an inauspicious start. The plane carrying Everett, the Beatles and lesser chart stars the Ronettes and Bobby Hebb... began its takeoff in awful weather, and one of the engines gave out with a loud bang on the runway. The Ronettes decided it was all too much and disembarked. The rest stayed put, in various shades of green. Everett was still infected with euphoria. He later recalled that his only thought was: I'm going to die with the Beatles.

Indeed he would have been right alongside them. At the start of the trip Paul McCartney came back from the VIP seats and said: "which one's Kenny Everett?" When the DJ identified himself, Paul said: "Come up the front with us. Paul was protective of him during the whole tour, and it was a kindness Everett never forgot. Even though he and John Lennon were to become close, Everett never really appreciated John's acerbic wit. But he would never brook any criticism of McCartney, because of that early gesture of friendship.

The plane finally made it to America. But a rather worse problem awaited... Everett, though a zany and spontaneous DJ, was no great shakes as an investigative journalist. Uninspired opening gambits like "How's it going then, John?" received the inevitable riposte: "You're not a very good interviewer, are you, Ken?"

...In the first few days of the tour Everett just retreated into his all too familiar shell in fits of despair and embarrassment that he wasn't up to this interviewing lark. Paul spied him in one of these black moods and made another remarkably generous gesture. Taking the DJ into the bathroom of the hotel, he said: "Why don't you just ask me one question and I'll rabbit on for ages? Then you'll have enough material for ages." He rabbited on for an hour, and with careful rationing this filled most of the broadcasts back to England for the duration of the tour.

More about the tour and the Beatles' relationship with Kenny generally

Also from the biography, this is less specifically about the Beatles, but still related. Interesting that Peter Brown's assumption is that the Beatles were completely accepting of gay relationships in their circle of friends.

Back in Britain, as 1966 turned into 1967, his relationship with the group took a predictably psychedelic turn. And his relationship with one of the most important members of the Beatles entourage took an unpredictably romantic turn...

In 1967 [Peter] Brown was sharing a flat with [Brian] Epstein off Belgrave Square, close to Everett's Chelsea flat. The two of them met, probably at a Beatles gathering, shortly after Everett left Radio London in February 1967.

Brown was four years older than Everett [really???] and infinitely more worldly-wise. He took Everett under his wing, and took him to stay with him in the country, where the Beatles would sometimes join them... Rapidly it became a physical relationship, Everett's first--and also the last with a man for a very long time. They were together for six months, Everett often staying with Brown at the Epstein home. They saw each other all the time. Yet, despite the fact that Peter Brown was not closeted about his gayness, Everett never spoke about the relationship afterwards. It has never been referred to in any of the hundreds of newspaper articles on him. Even his future wife, who knew he had once had a crush on Brown, never knew it was a physical, serious relationship. Certainly it seemed to leave Everett as confused and uncertain about his sexuality as he was before he met Brown.

Peter Brown remembers a full, intense and completely physical relationship on both sides: "I was the first relationship Kenny had with a man," he says now. "It was 1967 and very promiscuous times. We quickly got together and had a sexual relationship. It was full-blown right from the early stages. The physical relationship was one I was sort of in control of. He was totally adorable and vulnerable. The first time for anyone is very physical, very affectionate. And if you've reached twenty-two, as Kenny had, you are very needy." Brown never noticed any of the insecurity or guilt feelings that Everett was to experience over his sexuality in years to come.

"We were a couple," he explains now. "I suppose he thought it was all right because the Beatles approved of it. There wasn't a stigma attached to being gay in our circle. I lived very comfortably and very securely in that kind of world. We were together less than a year but it was a very unique period. We did a lot of going down to the country and doing acid at Brian's Sussex home. Brian was very fond of Kenny. Brian didn't have relationships that lasted longer than five minutes. He was subjected to having to deal with a string of boyfriends. So he liked the fact that Kenny and I were a couple."

The relationship ended... the day that Brian Epstein took a drug overdose and died. Brown was completely shattered by his best friend's death. Reporters had been outside his flat all day. In the evening another friend, the late Tommy Nutter, the designer, who had a tailor's shop in Savile Row, phoned to ask him if he was coping OK. "No, I'm awful," Brown said. Nutter went round to comfort him and they were together for four years. He replaced Everett.

Brown remembers: "I don't think I confronted the situation terribly well. Kenny was a shy and most adorable person. I do feel some guilt over my handling of the relationship. I was the more mature person and the more experienced. But I can't underestimate the effect of Brian's death. I had lost my best friend and there was the question of what was going to happen to the Beatles. It was a very traumatic and very difficult time for me. Kenny always used to say that I dumped him for Tommy. Although one relationship followed the other I didn't consciously do it. But Kenny gave me a bit of a guilt trip about our split. He gave me something else too. It was a large wooden spoon. He gave it to me because he thought I was a mixer. On the bowl of the spoon he had written "Love, Kenny." I still have it hanging in my kitchen."

Whatever effect that relationship had on Everett, he kept it to himself. It is one of the most curious aspects of Everett's story that after he and Brown drifted apart, it was as if that six-month relationship had never happened.

Indeed he was soon to start a relationship with Lee Middleton, former girlfriend of Billy Fury, whom he was eventually to marry. Predictably he met her at a party at Chapel Street, with the Beatles also in attendance. On which more here.

During this period Kenny also seems to have ended up a few times at Kenwood, John Lennon's country home. Read his account of an acid trip on the golf course at Weybridge.

More from the biography:

Everett was rapidly becoming the Beatles' favourite disc jockey. Indeed, so favoured was he that Lennon and McCartney took a break from recording at Abbey Road to record a jingle for his Radio 1 show. If there were a competition for DJ oneupsmanship, which of course there is most days, then having the Beatles do your jingles is a pretty good start. Prophetically the jingle was a joke song about Everett getting the sack.

I haven't managed to track down that jingle but there's another one that Kenny apparently did in partnership with Paul McCartney. I say "apparently" because there's a big debate about which part is Paul and which one is Kenny. Apparently snippets of other Everett jingles still pop up from time to time as purported Beatles bootlegs. He wasn't such a bad singer.

And finally a little bit about the Apple Corps years:

...Everett was a regular visitor to Apple Corps... For Derek Taylor, the Beatles' press officer, surrounded by unwanted tapes, unwanted freeloaders, and occasionally unwanted hell's angels, the sight of Everett would always cheer him up.

"He used to come around to Apple and hang out on the sofa by my desk," says Taylor. "We smoked. He could rarely remember why he came. We would just prattle on. In that stressful an atmosphere it was a great relief. Anyone was welcome for a drink and a smoke, provided they didn't insist on a recording contract. Kenny was particularly easy to get along with because he was unthreatening and he was a Beatlemaniac. A genuine unreconstructed Beatlemaniac."

The Beatles played a greater part in Everett's story than he realized. Not only had they taken him to America and given his fledgling career an almighty boost; they had granted him access to the Abbey Road studios and given him interviews and first plays of new releases to make his colleagues green with envy. A freshly minted copy of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" was sent by Brian Epstein to the Radio London ship and Everett was the first DJ in the world to play it.

So there you have it!

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: beatles

  • Philip Norman, "Mick Jagger"

    Just picked this up from the library, since I enjoyed (for a given value of "enjoy") his biography of John Lennon. Naturally I immediately flipped…

  • What? Really, what?? Really???

    Please excuse the allcaps but I feel they're necessary... BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH TO STAR IN BEATLES MANAGER BIOPIC So he's going from Sherlock…

  • Got those pop music manager blues...

    One of the occupational hazards of managing a band is getting name-checked in one of your group's songs when their frustration with your business…

Comments for this post were disabled by the author