John Walker's Electronic House

RIP Kevin Greening

by on Dec.31, 2007, under The Rest

I’ve just heard that Kevin Greening has died.

Greening was a DJ at Radio 1 for most of the 90s, having slipped a bit more into obscurity over the last few years, his biggest moment of fame being when he co-hosted the Radio 1 breakfast show with Zoe Ball. Which was, sadly, the worst work he ever did. Before that he worked all over the schedule, spending a deal of time in the obscurity of the 4am show, and then having an extensive stint on the 4-7pm drive time (or as he called it,”drivel time”) slot. He also described himself as Radio 1’s “supply DJ”, generally with a strong tone of disgust, filling in all over the place for other presenters on holiday.

Back in 1997 I somehow ended up writing gags for his Drivel Time show. This was mostly from afar, emailing them to Greening, which led to our corresponding for a while. It’s quite peculiar now, but I remember lending him a single by MC 900FT Jesus, (that, randomly, Mark Radcliffe had posted to me when I was a teenager after I wrote to him asking from where I could get hold of it – the lovely man just posted me a copy), and eventually my being invited to come in to be part of the team for a week while he filled in on the breakfast show. However, sadly, I never did. I had created a really stupid quiz idea which Kevin liked – it was called Call The Toss, designed as a spoof of sports quizzes. Each morning they would heavily promote a sports quiz, each morning for a different sport, get callers who believed themselves to be expert to call in, and then every day the question would be, “In the 1984 Ashes Test, in the opening game, who won the toss?” Or, “In the 1978 Wimbledon Women’s final, who won the toss?” I don’t even understand it now, but he liked it, and apparently jingles were made up for it, all ready to go, with me as part of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show Posse. And then Princess Diana died the Sunday before.

The whole week of shows were cancelled, replaced with the pathetic dross every station pumped out that week, aimlessly linking miserable songs and pretending like the whole nation was in some sort of fucking mourning, rather than just bored and annoyed as 99% were. And that’s the story of how I never became a super famous Radio 1 DJ.

Greening offered me a chance to come in for a Drivel Time show later on, which was a really wonderful day. Radio 1, at least back then, was housed in a secret building quite a way from the rest of the BBC. The idea was, when they had some boy band in, the hoardes of screaming lunatics would gather at Broadcasting House, while the band was safely hidden a few roads down in an unmarked, and very unlikely narrow terrace building. There was a dank office upstairs, and two studios downstairs, and an anonymous reception between the two. It wasn’t the glamour you might imagine.

I spent the day working with the regular team, writing gags for the show, and then coming up with material during broadcast in response to the current news. That was superb fun, and the satisfaction of getting a joke on air was huge. Greening was a bit distant that day, having been quite horribly beaten up the night before. The attack was never publically reported, but it seemed he’d had the shit kicked out of him outside a club. Which was weird.

But he was still friendly, and completely without the ego of the majority working in radio. He had always been embarrassed by being famous, and I respected his quiet, background role very much. Throughout his time on the early morning show, and the slightly less so in the rest of his Radio 1 slots, he would write and produce these extraordinary sketches that would be played in without comment. These were either very strange, often surreal adverts, or the most peculiarly sedate and gentle sketches featuring regular characters. As an antithesis to the vile shit that Steve Wright would broadcast, they were hypnotically serene, often morose, and unlike anything else you’d hear on the radio. And this seemed to capture his own personality. So very gentle and calm.

(While I was there, I also walked past the hateful Nicky Campbell, and gloriously had a very brief conversation with John Peel – he was sat on my stuff, and I had to ask him to move – quite the chat).

Sadly, the last contact I had with him was our falling out. That afternoon at Radio 1 he said to me, “In my career I hope to lay a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the statue of Chris Morris.” Later, he made some decisions that did not match up to that, including agreeing to co-present the breakfast show with Zoe Ball, and lending his voice to television commercials. I expressed my disappointment in him, and he told me to fuck off, and that was pretty much it.

However, I think he achieved that goal. His subversive approach to any job he did was like a joyful secret joke for all who understood. His constant undermining of Radio 1, its playlist, and embarrassing attempts to yoof itself up every couple of months, were sharp and bitter, while presented as warm and calm. He was a very smart and funny man, and his work rewarded those who paid close attention.

It’s sad that his career ended in relative obscurity at Smooth FM, when he should clearly have been on the vastly improved Radio 2. He was very kind to me, far more so than someone in his position needed to be. It’s rubbish that he’s died so young. RIP.

3 Comments for this entry

  • Tony Roome

    This comment’s a bit late – I only found the blog after the Private Eye article mentioned elsewhere.
    I don’t think I ever really listened to Kevin Greening on Radio 1 – for me he has remained the voice of the most interesting breakfast show ever broadcast – on GLR (as it was then and before the bizarre restricted music on local radio ruling). I remember Kevin and his partner on the show (Nicholas his surname was – can’t remember his first name …. sorry) being good for music, completely irreverent to ministers and the like who they interviewed, and genuinely funny. The tradition carried on with Fi Glover and Gideon Coe.
    When you look at the mess the current incarnation of GLR is – with constant phone ins etc – then he’s a great loss to broadcasting. RIP indeed.

  • DAT500

    He clearly should have taken drgs. More importantly, what was the MC 900FT Jesus record?

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