John Kettley

 

In the beginning


In the beginning, 'the bloody Kettley record' as we like to refer to it,  had only two verses and was written by us simply as another song for the 'Fruitbats' album.


Philip came up with the very first initial idea and lyrics.  So the root of the song comes from him.  I wrote all the music for the Toff songs so that bloody chorus is down to me I'm afraid.  I suppose I'm proud of it really.  If I'm to be totally honest. So there it was lying around being one minute long and wondering what to do with itself, when a friend of mine, Paul Roberts or Bob to be precise, noticed it's potential and suggested we add some more verses and make something of it.  We did and that was the end of it until the marketing team at Monocle Productions (me) had a thought.

The BBC

Andy Crane was on Children's BBC in the broom cupboard and John Kettley was, as he continues to be 10 years on, a regular weather presenter.  I sent a cassette of the song to CBBC to see what they made of it.  Initially it was just for a laugh, but I was intrigued to hear from them.  I sent about four songs in all, including 'Oh No (Wobble Doh Jam Jelly Woh)'.

It must have been divine intervention , but for the whole of 1988 I had been keeping a diary.  On the 6th June, about half way down the page, I wrote 'YYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGG
GGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH'  Why? Because I got a phone call from  Paul Smith.   Paul was the producer of BBC Children's TV show 'But First This', which was to run for the whole summer in the mornings.  He and the rest of the office had heard our little song and loved it.  They wanted us to come down to the big smoke and record the song properly and make a video, which they would show on 'But First This'.  You can't imagine the excitement.......or maybe you can, I don't know.  But it was amazing.

We recorded the song first of course, and that took place in July at the BBC Maidavale Studios in studio 5.  Here it is here on that very very day.

We also recorded 'Oh No (Wobble Doh Jam Jelly Woh)' and thoughts of using it as the B-side to a single were already beginning to form.  It was our first time in any kind of proper recording studio and although we were incredibly excited, we were also shitting our pants.  It took about five attempts to record the actual version that we would eventually use.  We mis-counted the number of verses and the final version had to be edited down coz there were about three too many.  It took us from about 2pm to 10 or 11 at night to do both songs, which with hindsight, is really good going.
That night the BBC put us up in The Kensington Hilton Hotel near Shepherds Bush.   Wow, a five star hotel for us to play in.  We couldn't believe it or even believe it.

Making the video

Our next trip to London was in August to record
the video.  We did most of it in a big warehouse across the road from TV Centre.  Paul told us the last person to do any filming there had been Steven Speilberg a few weeks before, during the filming of 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'.  At that time none of us had heard of the film and it sounded like a joke title.

The other bit of filming took place inside TV Centre itself, with the man himself, John Kettley.  We were to jump through a weather map and kidnap JK as he did his broadcast.  A still of us doing this, made it into the 'Today' newspaper across a whole page, in colour!  I can conclusively state that John is a thoroughly nice bloke and went along with everything in good spirits, with a smile upon his face.   Bless.  We only talked to him once more after that, on a radio show in Birmingham, via phone.

That was it for our summer excitement.  Well, apart from the
actual showing on TV which was a thrill, but not as exciting as I thought it would be.  Oh, and we also went on 'Look North' local TV the night before the video was broadcast and were interviewed about the whole experience.

A record deal

Paul Smith, the producer who was responsible for all this, tried in vain to get us a record deal.  He said he'd had lunch with a couple of friends at major labels, but none had gone with the idea.  So, I decided to try myself.  I can't really remember who I approached.  The only company I remember contacting was Neat Records, and it took me until October to do that, so I don't know what I'd been doing between the summer and then.

Anyway, I gave Dave Wood (the boss of Neat) all the gossip on the Toffs.  Told him we had the song ready recorded and the video ready made and we'd already had lots of TV and newspaper coverage and he went for it.  No expense on his part save for pressing the records, he was bound to say yes.

We signed the deal on October 31st for an advance of £250 each.  We were only young, so we knew nothing about negotiation.  We had no say in the design of the sleeve and knew nothing about promotion.  The Radio One playlist meant nothing to us.

I remember sitting in the bath one morning listening to Simon Bates morning show and hearing him talk about a new record that he'd just got hold of.  I couldn't believe it when it was us he started to play.  He liked it so much he played it twice, and I was so excited, I phoned up Radio One to thank him.  How naive.  I was passed over to Simon when I said who I was, but for a moment he didn't believe me.  I eventually went on air and was interviewed about the whole thing and that was the start of it.  We got on the main Radio One A playlist, which meant we were played twice, sometimes three times a day for about 4 weeks.

Wogan

As if that wasn't enough, I had really got the bug in me now and I phoned the
'Wogan' show up, to see if they would have us on.  They had already been considering us and later that afternoon, Dave the boss phoned to say, could we do 'Wogan' the following night? Amazing.  I don't really think my phone call played a big part in swaying the decision, but it seemed like it at the time.

We had major trouble getting Andy to do it.  Not because he didn't want to, but because he was at a Bible Study College and was not supposed to leave campus grounds during study nights in the week.  Numerous people had long debates with the college principle and he was eventually allowed to go.  It was such a brilliant experience to have at that age and I'm really quite amazed it all actually happened.  But it did, and the record was released on December 8th 1988.

I was in my mate John Ryan's house on the day we went into the Top 40, at 39 and we had a big hug.........but no sex.  The following week we were the highest climbers on the UK Christmas 1988 chart, compiled by Gallup, at 21.  Unfortunately, Christmas then was the only week when there wasn't a Top Of The Pops.  We would have been on it otherwise.  Instead we were due to be on the week after, but we went down to number 26.  Bugger.

We did do one other TV after that, up at Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham.  It was the lunchtime show, which at that time was called 'Daytime Live' and was presented by Alan Titchmarsh.  That was good fun, but of course we were old hands by then.

And that's the story of the John Kettley song.  It was way up there as one of the best experiences of my life.  It would have been nice to have a bit of a career out of it but that hasn't happened......yet.